Return to Health Frequently Asked Questions

The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve quickly. We are making daily decisions as new information is available and are doing our best to provide you with the support and answers you need. We are in constant contact with our counterparts in the industry and with the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), as well as monitoring any changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and Legislated Leaves.

1. What measures does Cowan have in place to maintain services?

At Return to Health (RTH) we are business as usual. Our case managers have always worked remotely and have not been impacted by office closures. Our claim and call volumes are higher than normal at this time, due to the many questions surrounding COVID-19 and how it relates to short term disability benefits. As a result, employees may experience longer delays in receiving a call back regarding their inquiry. Please be assured that we continue to attempt to return calls within 24 hours, but due to the extraordinary circumstances we are all facing this may not be possible each day.

We are temporarily waiving the requirement for documented medical information from a licensed physician. Instead, your employee will be asked to fill out at least page one of the Attending Physician Statement and/or a Confirmation of Illness form. If you have not received this form please contact RTHclient.services@cowangroup.ca or your Group Senior Consultant and we will email it to you. Where possible, medical information (page two of the Attending Physician Statement) would be appreciated, however many doctors’ offices are limiting in-person visits at this time.

2. My employee has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and I want them to self-isolate, do they need to apply for disability?

At this time, we do not recommend approval of claims under the Short-term Disability (STD) or Medical Leave of Absence (MLOA) program for employees who are not ill. This applies to those who self-isolate voluntarily, at the direction of the employer or following any government or public health directive that recommends employees stay home as a precaution. They should consider applying for EI or seek other LOA options through their Human Resources team.

Please refer to our RTH COVID-19 Update communication for details on how we are currently managing claims.

3. What if an employee on layoff develops COVID-19 symptoms or other non-related conditions? Do they stay on EI or apply for STD?

If you are continuing to pay premiums for them during the layoff, employees will continue to be eligible for health benefits. For STD, they will be covered but would not be eligible for STD benefits until their expected recall date. Employees would continue on EI or whatever compensation strategies have been offered to them during this time. If they remain ill upon the recall date, they would apply for STD at that point. Most LTD carriers will consider the waiting period to start from the original date of disability, so the period on EI would count towards their LTD waiting period.

4. My employee travelled to another country and now is self-isolating for 14 days. Should they apply for STD?

At this time we are not recommending approval of STD claims unless the employee is ill and/or has tested positive for COVID-19. Please refer to our RTH COVID-19 Update Communication for more details.

5. My employee developed symptoms of COVID-19 while self-isolating for 14 days, what should they do?

The employee should call their physician or the local Public Health authority. They can complete the Continuation of Illness form and submit to rthclient.service@cowangroup.ca. We will process the claim as per the information provided in our RTH COVID-19 Update Communication.

6. Is it safe for me/my employees to travel to areas where COVID-19 is being reported?

No, it is not. You and your employees are advised to not travel unless absolutely necessary at this time. Please refer to the Government of Canada COVID-19 site for more information on travel.

7. Are the periods of self-isolation and quarantine deemed to be a medically supported absence under STD?

STD benefits are there to support your employees when they have an injury or illness that prevents them from doing the essential duties of their job. If you have an employee who becomes ill or has symptoms and/or tests positive for COVID-19, and they are unable to work from home, your employee would be supported as per the terms of your STD/MLOA policy.

If the employee is not ill, there is no disability claim. As a self-insured client you can request an exception to the process and request RTH to approve preventative claims. Please refer to our RTH COVID-19 Update Communication for more details on this process.

8. Are you waiving the waiting period for STD COVID-19 claims?

If the employee tests positive for COVID-19, we are waiving the illness waiting period. For employees exhibiting flu like symptoms or who have not tested positive for COVID-19, the normal illness waiting period from your policy will be applied.

9. Does RTH require medical evidence to support an absence due to COVID-19?

In order to reduce the burden on our healthcare system, we are temporarily waiving the requirement for the completed Attending Physician Statement. Instead, your employee will be asked to fill out the Confirmation of Illness Form created by CLHIA.

10. My employee has flu-like symptoms but does not have a positive COVID-19 test, what do we do?

Complete the Employer Absence Notification on COLO and send the employee the Confirmation of Illness form. Once we have received the completed form, we will conduct a functional phone interview with the employee as per our standard disability practice, assess the claim, and apply the normal illness waiting period stated in your STD policy.

11. Will RTH accept a telephone diagnosis of suspected COVID-19 from a physician?

The Confirmation of Illness form asks the employee to confirm the test date and result. If a physician wishes to email or sends a copy of the test result, we would welcome this medical support. Without the positive test, we will assess the claim based on the symptoms noted on the Confirmation of Illness form and apply the appropriate illness waiting period.

12. Can you tell me if any of my employees have COVID-19?

Like any other diagnosis, we respect the privacy and confidentiality of your employees, so we don’t share this information. Medical professionals are obligated to report the presence or suspected presence of COVID-19. You may be asked to help identify individuals who are potentially exposed. Where there are more than 10 claims, aggregate data may identify claims that fall under the Infectious Disease category.

Employee FAQs

1. My physiotherapy clinic has shut down so I can’t go. Does this impact my claim? Does this impact my return to work plan?

We acknowledge that this is a struggle for many who were receiving physiotherapy. You are encouraged to continue with your home program. If you haven’t received a home program, we encourage you to phone your provider for this support. There will not be an impact on your claim during the COVID-19 crisis. It is hoped that with continued compliance with a home program of daily stretching and strengthening, you will continue to improve. There may be a delay in your return to work as a result, however, we remain focused on that goal.

2. My doctor’s office is closed and I am having side effects from my medication, what should I do?

If you cannot reach your physician by phone, you can contact your pharmacist. They are very knowledgeable and have some scope to recommend alternate medications or talk you through your dose. Alternatively, call TeleHealth at 1-866-797-0000. If your side effects are resulting in an emergency, call 911 or go to the hospital.

3. I was supposed to start a gradual return to work program but my employer has closed, what do I do?

You are encouraged to continue with functional restoration at home, engaging in as many of your pre-injury/illness tasks around the house as you can, and slowly increase your tolerances to these activities. With the extra time off work, it is hoped that when your place of employment re-opens you may be fit and healthy to return to full hours and full duties. If you continue to have restrictions, a graduated or modified return to work will be considered with appropriate medical information and with collaboration between your RTH case manager, healthcare provider, and employer.

4. How is my blood pressure going to be monitored while my doctor’s office is closed?

Many drug stores remain open and have blood pressure stations near the pharmacy.

Alternately, you can order a digital blood pressure cuff online or purchase at most pharmacies for a cost of approximately $100.

5. How do I apply for LTD when I can’t see my doctor?

Please contact your LTD carrier for their current COVID-19 LTD application process.

6. My employer has closed, what happens with my STD payments?

As long as you continue to be disabled from your job, your STD benefits will continue. Your RTH case manager will conduct ongoing functional phone interviews with you to ensure you are following your healthcare provider’s recommended treatment plan. If your doctor’s office is closed and you are unable to obtain updated medical information, we will attempt to obtain the information directly through your doctor’s office via fax or email. At the point where you are medically fit to return to work, you will be required to apply for EI if your employer remains closed.