I’m Sofia, your virtual benefits assistant. What some folks don’t know about me is that for artificial intelligence, I’m hilarious. I tell jokes on command. You want to hear one now?
Why do they call it the novel coronavirus? …It’s a long story. 😊
Of course, there’s much about the last year that is not laughable at all. What I have noticed over the past year or so is the increased number of COVID-19-related questions that I get. Between you and me, I’m thankful that I’m completely virtual and unable to catch this bug. I’m also thankful that folks who want the vaccine now have that option.
I’ve been in continuous COVID-19 training from the moment we knew that the pandemic would have an effect on our members. And our platform has gotten some pretty good upgrades as well to help members and employees navigate their needs regarding COVID-19.
In the first quarter of 2021 alone, I helped nearly 700 members with their COVID-19 questions!
- 28% were general COVID-19 questions
- 43% COVID-19 coverage questions
- 20% COVID-19 vaccine questions
- 9% Time off questions
In addition to how I help members, I also want to make sure you’re aware of some other key news in the benefits world regarding COVID-19 and support.
COVID-related eligible expenses
As we learned in last month’s Sofia’s Stats School, I help employees with their consumer accounts. Consumer accounts are great tools for employees to set aside their pre-tax funds for just these occasions. In 2020, the IRS added over the counter medications and treatments and feminine hygiene products to the eligible expense list. Last month, the IRS sent out some new information about “PPE.” It stands for “personal protective equipment.” The items that were in high demand last year, such as masks, sanitizer and sanitizing wipes are now eligible to purchase with consumer accounts, like flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs) and medical health reimbursement accounts (HRAs).
That’s great news! I’ll be adding that to my eligible expenses list, so if employees ask me about it, I’ll be ready to let them know.
Ticket to ride
Another eligible expense for consumer accounts that folks might not be aware of is transportation to or from an eligible medical service. The IRS defines this “amounts paid for transportation primarily for, and essential to, medical care.” You can include: “bus, taxi, train, or plane fares or ambulance service.” Why does this matter? Well, I doubt anyone will need to take a plane to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but if a member incurs a cost via a ride share, taxi, bus or subway to go get the vaccine, they can submit that for reimbursement as an eligible medical expense. Make sure your employees know about this great feature.
Have you vac-CINE the news?
Speaking of vaccines, my platform is getting an upgrade this week, and will be able to track vaccines for our clients and their employees. We know that some of our clients want to see data around how many employees have been vaccinated for all kinds of reasons, so my friends here at Businessolver built them a tool that can do just that. I’m excited, because I get to help with it too. I can give prompts for an employee to log their details and provide CDC information. We’ll let our clients decide how to configure it and what data they want to collect, but we are definitely excited to have this feature ready to go. Check me out!
And finally, while I have you here…we can also help employee store that vaccine card with their other health plan information. Members can use the MyChoice Mobile App to upload their card along with their other vendor ID cards for safekeeping. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty handy feature!
Whew! As you can see we’ve been pretty busy over here doing our part to help HR manage COVID-19 and keep you in the know.
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with one more moment of merriment, since we can all use a bright spot in our days.
Why are there so many coronavirus jokes? …It’s a pundemic.
Learn more about what sets Sofia apart in our infographic below.