To Western Growers Assurance Trust members:
Western Growers Assurance Trust (“WGAT”) is responding to the challenges and obstacles posed by the COVID-19 crisis. We know you have, a lot on your plate, and many questions about how your health benefits and your businesses will be affected by this crisis. In this letter, you’ll learn what WGAT is doing to improve your access to care, how you may reach us if you have questions or want to learn more, and how WGAT’s sponsor, Western Growers Association (“WGA”), is fighting to get relief for Ag employers.
WGAT Improves Your Benefits
Some of the steps we have taken to improve your access to care include increasing your benefits by:
- Waiving cost sharing requirements for COVID-19 testing and screening and for the associated office visits. WGAT is waiving copays, deductibles, and coinsurance for these services.
- Waiving all copays regardless of diagnosis for doctor visits exclusively through our telehealth partner Doctor on Demand. This, of course, includes telehealth visits for COVID-19 screening. For more information about Doctor on Demand and to sign up, visit www.doctorondemand.com or call (800) 777-7898.
- Expanding telehealth services by making all telemedicine programs “in network.” If the claim pertains to COVID-19 screening, copays and deductibles are waived; if it is any other type of claim, they are subject to copays and deductibles.
- Suspending prescription fill/refill limitations and refill waiting periods to allow enrollees to order a 90-day supply.
- Waiving charges for prescription home delivery.
- Streamlining drug access processes such as step therapy and prior authorization.
We’re Available to Answer Your Questions
Like many of you, WGAT has transitioned most of its employees to work-from-home. Thanks to significant investments in technology over the years, our conversion was seamless. Please be reassured that our teams and departments are up and running and ready to answer your questions and address your concerns.
We understand the impact this crisis is having on several of our participating employers. WGAT has been asked by some affected employers to issue a contribution deferral. Unfortunately, this is prohibited by federal law. WGAT is an ERISA plan and multiple employer welfare arrangement. Allowing a contribution deferral is akin to extending credit or a loan to party-in-interest, which is a prohibited transaction under ERISA.
WGA is Fighting for You
WGAT is doing what it can to ease the burden caused by the crisis. In addition to the benefit improvements described above, WGAT and its sponsor, WGA, are on the forefront of the efforts to accelerate relief to the Agricultural industry. Over the last week, WGA’s leadership and team of on-staff advocates in Washington, DC and Sacramento have been pressing for help. We have pushed Congress, the Trump administration and regulators to:
- Open consulates in Mexico so our employers who need them can get access to guest workers;
- Ensure funds are available for the Department of Agriculture to provide emergency relief to producers. For example, WGA is pushing the USDA to provide relief to producers in the food service sector- a market that has evaporated overnight; and
- Secure funding for childcare for essential workers including agricultural workers.
Congress is now debating the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act. Both bills are multi-trillion-dollar relief packages, that include loans and other monetary relief to small businesses. While the legislation is evolving, WGA is continuing to advocate for its members. Within the CARES Act, we believe the small business provisions could be of significant benefit. The CARES Act provides businesses with fewer than 500 employees low interest loans to bridge this crisis. For those companies that use the funds to keep their employees employed, those loans could be converted to grants. The Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act provides zero interest loans to small businesses who keep their workers employed. WGA and WGAT will keep you informed about the legislation and provide guidance for Ag employers that are qualified to take advantage of the relief to keep their workers employed and covered by health benefits.
If you would like to learn more about COVID-19 and what it means for your business, WGA has created a COVID-19 Resources Page at (https://www.wga.com/covid-19-resources-page) as a one-stop shop for timely information and industry-specific guidance, tailored specifically to the needs of the grower and handler community.
If you have questions about your WGAT health benefits, please call our customer service team at (800) 777-7898 or visit WGAT’s COVID-19 Resources Page (http://www.wgat.com/news/important-coronavirus-update) to learn more about the changes we’ve made to your benefit plan that will improve your access to care. Be sure to bookmark these pages and check back frequently for the latest information.
When you visit our websites, you’ll also find the best resource of all: the contact information for our staff. For issues relating to human resources, legal, food safety, or insurance, WGA staff is available to you, any time, to answer your questions and field your concerns.
Executive Vice President, Western Growers Assurance Trust