April 28, 2020 Expansion of COBRA and Health Plan Deadlines

Apr 28, 2020

A new IRS and DOL Notice entitled EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 provides temporary relief from COBRA and health plan deadlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the Outbreak Period?

The notice addresses the time period from the beginning of the pandemic to 60 days after the end of the pandemic. The beginning of the pandemic is regarded as March 1. The 60 days after the pandemic ends is defined as the “Outbreak Period.” The federal government determines the Outbreak Period.

What extensions does the DOL notice provide?

Extensions for Participants

  • How much time a participant has to enroll in coverage under a health plan
  • How much time a participant has to pay for COBRA continuation coverage and dispute denials of claims for benefits
  • The amount of time a participant has to submit claims for coverage, including the run-out period for FSA and HRA plans
  • Special health plan enrollment period extensions
  • How much time a participant has to notify a health plan of a qualifying event or disability

Extensions for Group Health Plan Sponsors or Administrators

  • How much time a group health plan sponsor or administrator has to provide a COBRA election notice

The Department of Labor FAQ is located here and included below in this link.


Specific Relief for Health Plans and Participants

Subject to the statutory duration limitation in ERISA section 518 and Code section 7508A,[7all 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 or such other date announced by the Agencies in a future notification (the “Outbreak Period”) [8for all plan participants, beneficiaries, qualified beneficiaries, or claimants wherever located in determining the following periods and dates—

A. Relief for Plan Participants

(1) The 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request special enrollment under ERISA section 701(f) and Code section 9801(f) Page 26354

(2) The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage under ERISA section 605 and Code section 4980B(f)(5),[9]

(3) 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]

(4) 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),

(5) The date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedure pursuant to 29 CFR 2560.503-1,

(6) 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),

(7) The date within which claimants may file a request for an external review after receipt of an adverse benefit determination or final internal adverse benefit determination pursuant to 29 CFR 2590.715-2719(d)(2)(i) and 26 CFR 54.9815-2719(d)(2)(i), and

(8) The date within which a claimant may file information to perfect a request for external review upon a finding that the request was not complete pursuant to 29 CFR 2590.715-2719(d)(2)(ii) and 26 CFR 54.9815-2719(d)(2)(ii).

B. Relief for Group Health Plans

With respect to group health plans, and their sponsors and administrators, the Outbreak Period shall be disregarded when determining the date for providing a COBRA election notice under ERISA section 606(c) and Code section 4980B(f)(6)(D).

Relief for Participants and plans is described here: federalregister.gov/documents/2020/05/04/2020-09399/extension-of-certain-timeframes-for-employee-benefit-plans-participants-and-beneficiaries-affected

Once the Outbreak Period ends, the actions above will resume as usual. BRI is awaiting further information and direction related to the DOL notice.

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