Publish Date: May 4, 2020
Author: Seubert
Tags: Blog - SeubertU

COVID-19 Relief Extends Certain Employee Benefit Plan Deadlines

On April 29, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) along with the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued a joint final rule extending specific deadlines affecting COBRA continuation coverage, special enrollment periods, claims for benefits, appeals of denied claims, and external review of certain claims.  Simultaneously, the DOL issued guidance in the form of Notice 2020-01 (the “Notice”) extending the deadline for issuing certain notices required under ERISA. 

All group health plans, disability plans, and other employee welfare benefit plans subject to ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 as amended) or the IRS Code must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until sixty (60) days after the announced end of the COVID-19 National Emergency (the “Outbreak Period”) for all plan participants, beneficiaries, qualified beneficiaries, or claimants wherever located in determining the following periods and dates:

  • The 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request special enrollment under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
  • The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage.
  • The date for making COBRA premium payments.
  • The date for individuals to notify the plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability for COBRA purposes.
  • The date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedure or request an external review.

In addition to the deadline relief above, the DOL has extended the time for plan officials to furnish benefits statements and other notices and disclosures.  An employee benefit plan will not be in violation of ERISA for a failure to timely furnish a notice, disclosure, or document as long as the plan acts in good faith.  This means the plan must furnish the documents as soon as administratively practicable under the the circumstances.  Good faith acts include communicating via email, text messages and continuous access websites if the plan sponsor reasonably believes plan participants have effective access to the information.

Additional information about the recent joint guidance can be found here.

On May 1, 2020, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued an updated COBRA  general notice (initial rights notice) and election notice.  The updated notices are intended to assist plan participants in better understanding COBRA’s implication with Medicare coverage.  

Please contact a member of your Seubert Service Team in you have any questions or concerns about the information presented above.