Group Health Plans Must Cover OTC COVID-19 Test Kits

Group Health Plans Must Cover OTC COVID-19 Test Kits

The Biden Administration announced that effective January 15, 2022, insurance companies and group health plans will be required to provide expanded coverage of at-home/over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests. The announcement is designed to increase access to free testing.

The legal authority for the announcement comes from joint guidance issued by the Departments of Labor, HHS, and the Treasury (the “Departments”) on the implementation of statutory requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, and the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) itself (as an ACA “preventive care” benefit). Since March 2020, the FFCRA has required group health plans to provide “first-dollar” coverage of certain COVID-19 related testing for the duration of the “public health emergency” (which has been continuously extended by HHS in 90-day periods). Section 6001(c) of the FFCRA authorizes the Departments to implement the requirements of section 6001 through sub-regulatory guidance, program, instruction, or otherwise.

The announcement from the White House was accompanied by the FAQs (sub-regulatory guidance) issued by the Departments.

Note that group health plans were already required by the FFCRA to cover at-home COVID testing when ordered by a physician, so this guidance simply removes the requirement that the test be ordered by a physician. However, as described in the FAQs, group health plans are permitted to limit coverage to no more than eight tests per individual per month and limit reimbursement to no more than $12 per test.

Fraternally,
Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager and Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 1900

IBEW Local 1900 Brothers & Sisters - Take Action: Protect Voting Rights

IBEW Local 1900 Brothers & Sisters,

Subject: Take Action: Protect Voting Rights

American democracy is under threat today. To save it, we need democracy in the U.S. Senate.

That means passing the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.​

It shouldn’t be this hard to pass laws that help people. It should be a simple 50-vote majority, but an outdated procedure in the U.S. Senate called the filibuster is stopping us.

The choice is clear: Sideline the filibuster, not the hopes, aspirations and representation of America’s people.

Use the form to sign the pledge to say you’ll protect voting rights.

Can you join me and take action? Click here: https://act.aflcio.org/forms/sideline-the-filibuster?source=email&

In Solidarity,

Jerry R. Williford Jr.
IBEW Local 1900
President/Business Manager/Financial Secretary

Reminder - 2022 Pepco Contract Negotiation Employee Survey

To All IBEW Local 1900 Pepco Members:

Our 2022 Pepco contract negotiations are fast approaching.

The 2022 Pepco Contract Negotiation Employee Survey were mailed to your home in December.

Please take the time to tell IBEW Local 1900 what is important to you with the upcoming contract negotiations.

If you have any questions, contact IBEW Local 1900 at 301-322-6030.

Fraternally,
Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager and Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 1900

US Supreme Court Blocks OSHA's Vaccine Mandate for Large Employers

Good morning:

You are aware of the US Supreme Court decisions rendered yesterday blocking OSHA's mandate pertaining to employers with 100 or more employees and allowing the mandate for health care workers. Below is an in-depth review of both cases from an article in the New York Times.

Wishing you a delightful weekend as you enjoy your activities and relax.

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers, dealing a blow to a key element of the White House’s plan to address the pandemic as coronavirus cases resulting from the Omicron variant are on the rise.

But in a modest victory for President Biden, the court allowed a more limited mandate requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated.

The vote in the employer mandate case was 6 to 3, with the liberal justices in dissent. The vote in the health care case was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh joining the liberal justices to form a majority.

The employer decision undercut one of President Biden’s most significant attempts to tame the virus and left the country with a patchwork of state laws and policies, largely leaving companies and businesses on their own.

The president welcomed the ruling in his favor, saying in a statement that it would save the lives of health care workers and patients. But he said he was disappointed that the court had overturned the employer mandate, which he said was “grounded squarely in both science and the law.” In both the employer and health worker cases, the justices explored whether Congress had authorized the executive branch to take sweeping actions to address the health care crisis.

The unsigned majority opinion in the employer case said a statute on workplace hazards did not justify a mandate that would have required more than 80 million workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or to wear masks and be tested weekly. It also stressed the novelty and sweep of the mandate issued by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, saying Congress had not authorized the agency to act and describing its response as “a blunt instrument.”

The mandate “draws no distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to Covid-19,” the majority opinion said, adding that it was “a significant encroachment into the lives — and health — of a vast number of employees.” But the opinion said more tailored regulations may be lawful given that “most lifeguards and linemen face the same regulations as do medics and meatpackers.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan expressed incredulity at the court’s willingness to frustrate “the federal government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that Covid-19 poses to our nation’s workers.”

Regulating safety in the workplace, the three dissenting justices wrote, is precisely what OSHA is commanded to do. They agreed that the key issue in the case was that of institutional competence to address the health care crisis.

“Underlying everything else in this dispute,” they wrote, “is a single, simple question: Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from Covid-19? An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the president authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?”

In an unsigned opinion in the case, Biden v. Missouri, No. 21A240, the majority wrote that the health care mandate issued by the secretary of health and human services “falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him.”

The governing statute gives the secretary the general power to issue regulations to ensure the “efficient administration” of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and parts of the statute concerning various kinds of facilities generally also authorize the secretary to impose requirements to protect the health and safety of patients.

The majority wrote that the mandate “fits neatly within the language of the statute. "The majority added that facilities that receive money from the Medicare and Medicaid programs must comply with many federal health and safety requirements.

“All this is perhaps why health care workers and public health organizations overwhelmingly support the secretary’s rule,” the majority wrote. “Indeed, their support suggests that a vaccination requirement under these circumstances is a straightforward and predictable example of the ‘health and safety’ regulations that Congress has authorized the secretary to impose.”

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, wrote that “scattered provisions” in the statute did not justify the mandate.

Without “exceedingly clear” congressional authorization, Justice Thomas wrote, the federal government should not be allowed to force health care workers “to choose between losing their livelihoods and acquiescing to a vaccine they have rejected for months.”

“These cases are not about the efficacy or importance of Covid-19 vaccines,” he wrote. “They are only about whether” the agency “has the statutory authority to force health care workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld state vaccine mandates in a variety of settings against constitutional challenges. The two cases decided on Thursday concerned a different question, that of whether Congress has authorized the executive branch to institute the requirements.

The majority opinion in the case on health care workers seemed to try to harmonize the two rulings.

“The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it,” the opinion said. “At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have.”

Supreme Court to Consider Arguments on the OSHA COVID-19 ETS

Supreme Court to Consider Arguments on the OSHA COVID-19 ETS

The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled expedited arguments on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s decision to lift the Fifth Circuit’s stay of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).

The ETS mandated COVID-19 vaccination or voluntary vaccinations with testing and masking for unvaccinated employees for employers with at least 100 employees. The Court will hear oral arguments from petitioners and OSHA on January 7, 2022, three days before OSHA will begin enforcement efforts.

Judge Jane B. Stanch authored the Sixth Circuit decision to lift the stay. She asserted that OSHA “must be able to respond to dangers as they evolve” such as a spreading virus with emerging variants. OSHA followed the Sixth Circuit decision with an announcement that it will not issue citations for noncompliance with the ETS before January 10, 2022. The agency also stated it will exercise its discretion and not issue citations for noncompliance with testing requirements under the ETS before February 9, 2022, provided an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard. The agency has also given OSHA State Plans until January 7, 2022, to announce their intentions on adoption of the ETS and move forward with adoption by January 24, 2022.

Multiple parties, including 27 states, filed emergency motions with the Supreme Court to block enforcement efforts following the Sixth Circuit decision. They emphasized the irreparable harm they will suffer in having to implement the ETS, citing labor shortages, the unavailability of tests, and the unintended consequence of having to lay off vaccinated workers to absorb the costs of compliance. In addition to the challengers’ concerns about economic viability of their businesses, they argued their likelihood of success in enjoining the standard on the merits and balance of equities weigh in favor of a stay. These petitioners also have asked the Supreme Court for a rare grant of their requested alternative relief: granting review before judgment by the lower court and deciding the legality of the OSHA ETS on the merits. They claim this is appropriate and necessary, given the importance of the issues, for the high court to weigh in on questions about the structure of government and OSHA’s authority over the economy. They argue that the Supreme Court must act now because, given the six-month life of an ETS, the case could become moot by the time the Court has the opportunity to review the issues if the case progresses normally.

Friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed by the Washington Legal Foundation and three former OSHA assistant secretaries of labor on both sides of the issue. The Washington Legal Foundation, a non-profit public interest law firm and policy center, argues the ETS will have dire effects on the economy, which already is suffering from supply chain issues and labor shortages, as well as OSHA’s failure to follow proper notice and comment rulemaking for 21 months. The former OSHA officials weighing in are Gerard Scannell (under George W. Bush), Charles Feddress (under Bill Clinton), and Dr. David Michaels (under Barack Obama). They argue the Court should deny the stay of the OSHA ETS and that OSHA is well within its authority to issue the ETS.

The emergency appeals were assigned initially to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who directed OSHA to provide briefs in support of its argument by December 30, 2021. Justice Kavanaugh then referred the matter to the full Court for review. In addition, the Court will hear oral arguments on a stay of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Vaccine Mandate for covered providers who participate in the Medicare and Medicaid government programs and others covered by the CMS Vaccine Mandate.

The Sixth Circuit has yet to hear, let alone to decide, the case on the merits, and has not considered the arguments of the petitioners, including arguments over whether the ETS overrides state or local laws due to federal preemption. Meanwhile, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia have enacted measures that would restrict or impact vaccination requirements.

2022 Pepco Contract Negotiation Employee Survey

To All IBEW Local 1900 Pepco Members:

Our 2022 Pepco contract negotiations are fast approaching.

The 2022 Pepco Contract Negotiation Employee Survey is being mailed to your homes.

Please take the time to tell IBEW Local 1900 what is important to you with the upcoming contract negotiations.

If you have any questions, contact IBEW Local 1900 at 301-322-6030.

Fraternally,
Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager and Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 1900

IBEW Local 1900's January Membership Meetings

IBEW Local 1900's January Membership Meetings

Please take the time and attend one of your Local 1900 Membership Meetings.

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Central Membership Meeting

Monday January 3, 2022

Time: 5:00 PM

Location:

Residence Inn by Marriott Largo Capital Beltway
1330 Caraway Court
Largo, MD 20774

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North Membership Meeting

Wednesday January 5, 2022

Time: 5:00 PM

Location:

Hampton Inn
5311 Buckeystown Pike
Frederick, MD 21704

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South Membership Meeting

Thursday January 6, 2022

Time: 4:00 PM

Hughesville American Legion
6265 Brandywine Road
Hughesville, MD 20637

2021 Reflections

IBEW Local 1900 Brothers and Sisters,

I wanted to share some thoughts about my IBEW Local 1900 Brothers and Sisters.

This past year we experienced downsizing at GenOn resulting in layoffs for many of our members, contract negotiations with WGL-Frederick, and at Pepco we continue to work with the company to create training and progression programs that will make our members the best trained in the industry.

Dealing with COVID-19 has been extremely challenging for all of us. Please continue to work safe.

We spend a tremendous amount of time with our co-workers, sometimes working long hours for many days at a time. Local 1900 Brothers and Sisters always answer the call whether due to system emergencies, storm restoration, mutual assistance, often spending many hours away from our families.

Our Brothers and Sisters touch each other’s lives every day. We work together, laugh together, complain to one another, experience successes and failures together.

I would like to respectfully ask that you keep our Local 1900 Brothers and their families that we lost this year in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

* Stephen W. Alexander Jr. – Pepco
* Getu E. Habetemichael - Pepco
* Manuel Pardo – Pepco
* Michael Spindler – GenOn
* John P. Steele - Pepco
* Kevin J. Tarbrake - Pepco

Thank you all for what you do for each other and the companies that we represent.

Happy Holidays!!!

Fraternally,
Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager and Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 1900

Observed New Year's Holiday for GenOn, Pepco and WGL (Frederick)

Observed New Year's Holiday for GenOn, Pepco and WGL (Frederick)

All three companies that IBEW Local 1900 represents will observe Friday December 31, 2021 as their New Year's observed company holiday.

If you have any questions regarding the New Year's holiday, please refer to your Collective Bargaining Agreement or feel free to contact one of our Union stewards or IBEW Local 1900 directly at (301) 322-6030.

IBEW Local 1900 office will be closed on Friday December 31, 2021.

Fraternally,

Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager and Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 1900

Observed Christmas Holiday(s) for GenOn, Pepco and WGL-Frederick Employees

Observed Christmas Holiday(s) for GenOn, Pepco and WGL-Frederick Employees

* GenOn employees will observe December 23rd and December 24th.

* Pepco employees will observe December 24th and December 27th.

* WGL-Frederick will observe December 24th.

If you have any questions regarding the Christmas holidays, please refer to your Collective Bargaining Agreement or feel free to contact one of our Union stewards or IBEW Local 1900 directly at (301) 322-6030.

IBEW Local 1900 office will be closed Friday December 24, 2021 and Monday December 27, 2021.

Fraternally,

Jerry R. Williford Jr.
President, Business Manager and Financial Secretary
IBEW Local 1900

OFFICERS AND STAFF

Jerry R. Williford, Jr.

President / Business Manager and Financial Secretary
(301) 456-6255

Richard "Ricky" Dawson
Vice President / Chairman of Exec. Board
(240) 723-1895

Richard Strong

Business Representative, Recording Secretary
(301) 256-1122

Carolyn Otts

Treasurer

Send email

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Local 1900
1400 Mercantile Lane, Suite 256
Largo MD, 20774

(O) 301-322-6030
(F) 301-322-6181