Tarna Hunter

The 2019-2020 Regular Legislative Session ended on March 26, 2020. The Wisconsin State Senate was scheduled to hold its last meeting at the end of March; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate postponed the March floor period and instead is planning to hold an extraordinary session in the next few months to finish up its regular session work. No regular session bills affecting the Wisconsin Retirement System are expected to be taken up.

Additionally, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wisconsin Legislature held an extraordinary session in the middle of April and passed COVID-19 relief legislation. Governor Evers signed 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 on April 15, 2020.

2019 Act 185 includes the following provisions affecting benefit programs administered by the Department of Employee Trust Funds:

  • Allows a WRS annuitant who is hired for a critical position during the public health emergency starting on March 12, 2020, to return to work and elect to not suspend their annuity for the duration of the public health emergency. The employee may not have an agreement with any WRS employer to return to work or enter into a contract to provide employee services for the employer. Additionally, the bill reduces the break-in-service requirement from 75 days to 15 days for a WRS annuitant who is hired for a critical position during the public health emergency beginning on March 12, 2020.
  • Allows an employee who is on a leave of absence from an employer that participates in the state or local group health insurance program and who returns to work during the March 12, 2020 public health emergency to be immediately eligible for the employer contribution for the Group Health Insurance Program (GHIP), instead of having to be actively employed for 30 days.

Additionally, 2019 Act 185 includes the following provisions related to health insurance coverage:

  • Requires the State of Wisconsin Group Health Insurance Program to provide coverage of testing of COVID-19 without imposing any copayment or coinsurance before March 13, 2021. 
  • Prohibits the health insurance program from requiring prior authorization for early refills of a prescription drug, or otherwise restricting the period of time in which a prescription drug may be refilled, and from imposing a limit on the quantity of prescription drugs that may be obtained if the quantity is no more than a 90-day supply. These prohibitions do not apply if the prescription drug is a controlled substance.
  • Prohibits the health insurance program from doing any of the following based on a current or past diagnosis or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19: establishing rules for the eligibility of any individual, employer, or group to enroll or remain enrolled in a plan or for the renewal of coverage under the plan; cancelling coverage during a contract term; setting rates for coverage; or refusing to grant a grace period for payment of a premium that would generally be granted.
  • Prohibits plans participating in the program from requiring a member to pay more for a service, treatment, or supply provided by an out-of-network provider than the member would have to pay if the services were provided in-network. This prohibition applies to services received related to COVID-19 and applies if the member saw an out-of-network provider because a participating provider was not available.

Government Relations Web Page

The Department of Employee Trust Funds monitors legislation and works with legislators on bills that may affect the Wisconsin Retirement System and its retirement, insurance and other benefit programs. Follow along—visit our Government Relations web page for news, information and resources. In addition, sign up for ETF E-mail Updates to receive email notices from ETF about legislation affecting the WRS. Register now.

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