Departments of Labor Issues Final Rule Regarding
Extension for Benefit Plans
The Departments of Labor and Treasury has issued a final rule that creates an extension of timelines for employees. The final rule, in part, states the below:
All group health plans, disability, and other employee welfare benefit plans, and employee pension benefit plans subject to ERISA or the Code must disregard the period from March 1, 2020, until sixty (60) days after the announced end of the National Emergency (Outbreak Period) or such other date announced by the agencies in a future notice 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 a special enrollment under ERISA section 701(f) and Code section 9801(f)
The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage under ERISA section 605 and Code section 4980B(f)(5),9.
The date for making COBRA premium payments pursuant to ERISA section 602(2)(C) and (3) and Code section 4980B(f)(2)(B)(iii) and (C),10.
The date for individuals to notify the plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability under ERISA section 606(a)(3) and Code section 4980B(f)(6)(C).
The date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedure pursuant to 29 CFR 2560.503–1.
The date within which claimants may file an appeal of an adverse benefit determination under the plan’s claims procedure pursuant to 29 CFR 2560.503–1(h).
Examples Example One: Electing COBRA
Individual A works for Employer X and participates in X’s group health plan. Due to the National Emergency, Individual A experiences a qualifying event for COBRA purposes as a result of a reduction of hours below the hours necessary to meet the group health plan’s eligibility requirements and has no other coverage. Individual A is provided a COBRA election notice on April 1, 2020. What is the deadline for A to elect COBRA?
Answer - Individual A is eligible to elect COBRA coverage under Employer X’s plan. The Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining Individual A’s COBRA election period. The last day of Individual A’s COBRA election period is 60 days after June 29, 2020, which is August 28, 2020.
Example Two: Special Enrollment Period
Individual B is eligible for but previously declined participation in, her employer-sponsored group health plan. On March 31, 2020, Individual B gave birth and wants to enroll herself and the child into her employer’s plan. The open enrollment does not begin until November 15. When may Individual B exercise her special enrollment rights?
Answer - The Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining Individual B’s special enrollment period. Individual B and her child qualify for special enrollment into her employer’s plan as early as the date of the child’s birth. Individual B may exercise her special enrollment rights for herself and her child into her employer’s plan until 30 days after June 29, 2020, which is July 29, 2020, if she pays the premiums for any period of coverage.