COVID-19 FAQ for Employees

Return to Campus Information

See below for answers to Frequently Asked Questions from employees on the Institute response to COVID-19. 

Benefits

How have COVID-19 regulations impacted MIT’s Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)?

  1. Employees’ entire balance of unused FSA funds will be carried over from 2020 to 2021, and from 2021 to 2022. This carryover flexibility applies to both health and dependent care FSAs. Previously, employees could only carry over up to $550 from one plan year to the next and this only applied to Health Care FSAs. Full carryover balances from the 2020 plan year will be available in your WageWorks|HealthEquity account after May 15, 2021.
  2. The reimbursement window for 2019 Health Care and Dependent Care FSA claims was extended to 60 days after the end of the President’s declaration of a national pandemic or another time period as designated by the IRS. As of now, no end date for the national pandemic has been declared. The 2020 plan year reimbursement window ends on April 30, 2021. Currently, there is no extension for the 2020 plan year reimbursement window.
  3. Dependent Care FSA participants whose qualifying child turned age 13 during the 2020 plan year can continue to receive reimbursements for their child’s dependent care expenses for the remainder of the 2020 plan year (even though the child turned age 13). To the extent a balance remains at the end of the 2020 plan year, Dependent Care FSA participants may continue to use the unused balance in plan year 2021 until the child turns age 14.

    Enrollment in the Dependent Care FSA during the January 1, 2020 plan year is required to qualify for the changes outlined above.
     
  4. The CARES Act of March 2020 extended the list of Health Care FSA qualified expenses to include additional over-the-counter medications and menstrual care products.

    Additionally, on March 26, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released IRS Announcement 2021-7, which states that personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes that are purchased “for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19” (COVID-19 PPE) are qualified medical expenses under § 213(d) of the Code. Therefore, COVID-19 PPE expenses, incurred for any period beginning on or after January 1, 2020, may be reimbursed from an employee’s Health Care FSA or Health Savings Account (HSA).

Can I reduce or cancel my Health Care and/or Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account contribution in 2021 (previously allowed in the 2020 plan year) without a qualifying event?

Recent regulations temporarily allow employees to revoke an election, make a new election, or decrease or increase an existing Health Care or Dependent Care FSA election on a prospective basis only for the 2021 plan year without a qualifying event. Employees cannot reduce their election to less than what has already been contributed and/or has been reimbursed. For example, during open enrollment, you made an annual Health Care FSA election of $2,000. As of June 1, 2021 you have contributed $900 and have been reimbursed $1,300. You cannot reduce your health FSA election to less than $1,300.

To reduce or cancel your Health Care or Dependent Care FSA, you will need to complete the FSA Change Form and submit it to MIT Benefits at benefits@mit.edu.

Learn more about FSAs.

How is BlueCross responding to the pandemic?

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBS) continues to monitor and respond to the serious challenges posed by COVID-19. BCBS will continue to ensure uninterrupted access to care for its health plan members.

BCBS has a dedicated Coronavirus Helpline (1-888-372-1970) available for members to answer any questions about benefits, providers, and share other resources related to COVID-19. They also have a regularly updated Resource Center that includes coverage information and more.

How do I access telehealth benefits?

Benefits eligible employees enrolled in one of the MIT medical plans have access to licensed doctors and providers for minor medical and behavioral health care services with $0 copays, using live video visits on your favorite device.

Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Well Connection telehealth video visits are secure. Board-certified physicians and licensed clinicians are required to provide patients with private, secure, HIPAA-compliant, and confidential online visits. Visit Well Connection to see if your physician is a telehealth provider.

You and your family members can visit doctors and providers anytime, anywhere in the United States, at home, work, or on vacation—weekends and holidays included. All you need is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a webcam. Please visit our Well Connection page for more information.

Note for High Deductible Health Plans: The CARES Act amends the rules applicable to HDHPs for plan years beginning on or before December 31, 2021 to allow HDHPs to cover telehealth and other remote care services before the applicable deductible is met. Out of network telehealth and other remote care services will be subject to the standard cost share per plan guidelines.

Are out of network telehealth visits covered?

I am enrolled in the MIT Traditional or MIT Choice Health Plan. I was previously seeing an out-of-network behavioral health provider via office visits. My provider has switched to telehealth virtual visits during the pandemic. Will the MIT Traditional and MIT Choice Health Plans still cover the visits if they are now out-of-network telehealth visits?

The MIT Traditional and Choice Plans will temporarily cover behavioral health out-of-network virtual visits, regardless of how the visit is conducted (telephonic or telehealth). The temporary coverage is outlined below:

  • The MIT Traditional Plan will reimburse up to $60 per visit (the remaining cost is the responsibility of the member). This aligns with how out of network office visits are paid on the Traditional Plan currently. If the out of network telehealth visits are for COVID related treatment, the cost-share will be waived.
  • The MIT Choice Plan will reimburse the cost per visit after the member’s deductible ($500 individual/$1000 family) has been met and the 25% coinsurance has been paid for the visit. If the out-of-network telehealth visits are for COVID related treatment, the cost-share will be waived.

The MIT Health Plans continue to cover behavioral health office visits (both in and out-of-network) as outlined in the current plan documents

My in-network provider has switched from office visits to telehealth visits (not part of the BCBS Well Connection telehealth benefit). Will these visits be covered by my MIT Health Plan?

Blue Cross now allows all members access to telehealth services. All members are covered for visits with in-network providers via telehealth temporarily with a $0 copay. This includes office visits offered over the telephone. 

The easiest way to ensure that your telehealth visit is covered is by calling BCBS Member Services at 1-800-882-1093. The member services team can look up providers and determine if they are in the BCBS network based upon you’re the plan you are enrolled in.  

Does BCBS offer a 24/7 Nurse Care line?

Members can reach a registered nurse 24/7 by calling 1-888-247-Blue (2583). This service is free to all members and offers a safe and convenient clinical resource.

Will there be a change to the calendar year maximum reimbursement amount of $5,250 under the Tuition Assistance Plan?

The $5,250 calendar year maximum reimbursement amount under the Tuition Assistance Plan remains the same. Please continue to submit your tuition reimbursement requests as you normally do. Keep in mind that the reimbursement submission deadline is 90 days from the end date of a course. More about the Tuition Assistance Plan.

How do I access a loan or hardship withdrawal from my 401(k) plan?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) introduces temporary relief provisions related to retirement plans. MIT 401(k) Plan participants have more freedom to access funds during the current economic crisis without tax penalties. See details.

Health and Wellness

What are the requirements for face coverings?

See MIT Now for up to date guidance on Covid-related requirements.

What are the Covid-19 testing requirements? What happens if there's a positive test result for myself, a member of my staff, or a colleague?

See MIT Now's health and testing information for guidance.

I had a Covid-19 test at MIT Medical. Where can I find my test results?

Results will appear in the Covid Pass app/website in the Medical Test section.

What fitness and wellness options are available for employees?

MIT Community Wellness has developed wellness videos and virtual classes, most at no cost, to support mind and body wellness and to help the community manage stress, develop routine, and create connection. View their offerings to support body, family, and mind.

MIT Recreation offers a variety of ways for MIT employees to play, swim, run, dance, stretch, and move. Virtual options include free live and on-demand group exercise classes and fee-based personal training by appointment. In-person DAPER memberships are available to MIT faculty and staff in Covid Pass. Let's get moving!

Remote Work

Who should be working from home? 

Faculty and staff who worked on campus before the pandemic, and who have not yet returned to campus, have been told to plan for resuming in-person work by September 7, 2021. The Work Succeeding effort provides guidelines and policies to support working together more flexibly and effectively. 

Are there resources to help me manage my team remotely?

Yes. See our tips and resources for managing employees and teams when the members are working remotely.

My child’s classroom or daycare center has closed temporarily because of Covid exposure. I cannot work my full schedule (or in some cases, at all) remotely because I'm caring for them. Do I have to use vacation for this time?

MIT has announced special pandemic pay policies (MIT Touchstone login required) for both salaried and hourly employees. Sick-Covid19 pay may be available for all or a portion of this time. There are backup child care and backup adult care resources available.

What is the policy for an MIT-owned laptop or other equipment when it’s off campus? What happens if it’s stolen or damaged?

MIT’s Property Insurance Program provides coverage for MIT-owned equipment (e.g., desktops, laptops, printers) that is stolen or damaged when temporarily located at your home. Personal laptops and other personal equipment are not covered by MIT.  

For further information on insurance coverage of MIT-owned equipment, see:

How long will free on-campus parking be available for returning staff?

Find up to date parking information on the MIT Facilities Parking page.

Support Resources

How can I support MIT colleagues who may be struggling financially?

You can donate to the MIT Staff Emergency Hardship Fund, which provides financial assistance to MIT staff and postdoctoral scholars (associates and fellows) who are experiencing an immediate, severe, and temporary financial hardship due to a sudden or non-recurring emergency (e.g., serious illness or injury, family crisis, natural disaster). 

I’m really anxious about COVID-19 – what resources are available to support me during this time?

Many of us can relate to feelings of anxiety and fears about what the future might hold. MyLife Services – MIT’s employee support program – has created a COVID-19 Response Page with specific information and resources for managing work, caregiving responsibilities, as well as one’s own mental health and well-being, during this unique time. Employees are encouraged to contact MyLife Services for individualized support – counseling and stress management sessions can be conducted via phone, video conference or text message.

Employees can also visit MyStress Tools, which offers free access to an online suite of webinars, podcasts, audio, and articles, focused on stress-management.

How can I support my child’s learning while schools and child care are closed or operating remotely?

Preschool: Visit Bright Horizons Health and Safety Resource for Families for a list of vetted resources and indoor-friendly activities that promote in-home learning.

School-Age:

  • Connect with an expert educational advisor (a “Navigator”) through EdNavigator. Navigators are former teachers, principals, and experienced guidance counselors, who can provide individualized guidance around how to manage your child’s education and learning from home. 
  • Camp Kinda is a free virtual summer experience designed to keep children in grades K-8 engaged, curious, and having fun. 

Teens: Encourage your teen to use the time away from school to get a leg-up on the college application process. Connect with an expert college advisor through College Coach. College Coach experts are former college admissions and finance professional, who can provide individualized guidance around planning and paying for college.

Plus Parent Coaching: Parents of infants through teens can sign up for a one-on-one consultation with a Peace at Home Parenting coach to discuss any parenting questions or concerns.

Other

What do I do if someone applied for unemployment benefits in my name?

Criminal enterprises using stolen personal information from earlier national data breaches have been attempting to file fraudulent unemployment claims through the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance system. This is part of a national unemployment fraud scheme. If you believe someone has applied for unemployment benefits using your personal information, here's what to do.

What are the tax implications if I temporarily or permanently relocate outside of Massachusetts?

MIT employees who are residing temporarily or permanently in a state other than Massachusetts can see guidelines and use this form to change their state of residency or indicate an income tax withholding election..

How do I get permission to be on campus?

Covid Pass is the application used to complete requirements for accessing campus. 

What do we do about new hires while campus is closed to most employees?

New hires can, with few exceptions, be onboarded virtually in order to maintain their start date. Human Resources is able to continue the usual new employee onboarding steps as well, such as activation of benefits. See more detailed information about virtually onboarding new hires and our best practices for managers during this time of remote work.

Have a Question?

If you have a question that wasn't answered here, you can email covid-hr@mit.edu.