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Blue Shield - New Virtual Blue Plans

The Virtual Blue plans give members (small and large groups) the choice of virtual or in-person care. Virtual care includes $0 unlimited visits to primary care, behavioral health and specialty care through a new partnership with AccoladeCare. In-person care is available through the Tandem PPO network in California and via BlueCard when outside of the state.

The two Virtual Blue small group plans available in PRISM are the Virtual Blue Gold Tandem PPO 1500/45 and Virtual Blue Bronze Tandem PPO 7500/75. These can be identified by ‘Virtual Blue’ in the plan name.

When using the PRISM filter options for Narrow or Broad networks, select ‘All’ networks instead of ‘Broad’ only networks to generate plans for Blue Shield’s Virtual Blue, Trio HMO, and Tandem PPO plans.

If you need assistance, please contact our Quotes team at or 800.696.4543.

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COVID-19: Section 139 Employer-Provided Tax-Free Disaster Relief Benefits

COVID-19: Section 139 Employer-Provided Tax-Free Disaster Relief Benefits

COVID-19: Section 139 Employer-Provided Tax-Free Disaster Relief Benefits

May 11, 2020, 2 Minute Read

An attractive option for employers looking to ensure their employees remain healthy and secure at this time, IRS Section 139 plans provide employers with a tax-advantaged way of paying employees for qualified emergency expenses during a disaster, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualified Disaster Relief Payments
Section 139 qualified payments to employees are for “reasonable and necessary personal, family, living or funeral expenses incurred as a result of a qualified disaster,” like the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s no official list of the specific expense items that are considered to be “reasonable and necessary,” but it’s generally accepted that the following items are included:

Payments that do not qualify include items such as lost income, non-essential items, luxury items, decorative items, and services like Netflix, or other items covered elsewhere, e.g. by insurance.

Qualified payments made through a Section 139 plan are tax-free to employees and fully deductible to employers. These payments are excluded from gross income and wages and compensation for purposes of employment taxes. They are not subject to federal tax withholding and do not need to be reported on Form W-2 of Form 1099. The exclusion may apply to state taxes and state tax withholding as well, but employers should consult with their tax advisor.

Other Advantages
Unlike other similar plans, there are no limits on the dollar amount or frequency of qualified payments. Also, employees are not required to provide receipts or other proof of expenses. (Tax experts recommend that employers implement the usual controls – see the next section.)

How to Set Up a Section 139 Plan

Section 139 plans are not subject to ERISA, so they don’t have the same documentation requirements as similar tax-advantaged accounts such as HRAs or HSAs. Tax experts, however, advise that employers implement a plan document that addresses the typical controls: the class of eligible employees, a listing of the type of expenses covered, expense limits or caps, payment procedures, etc.

Claremont HR partner TASC
TASC can help you implement a Section 139 account for your clients. Contact us to get started.

Helpful Resources

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