COVID-19 Relief Extends COBRA, HIPAA and Other Plan Deadlines

On April 28, 2020, the Departments of Labor (DOL) and the Treasury (Departments) issued deadline relief to help employee benefit plans, plan participants and plan service providers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Thereafter, on Feb. 26, 2021, DOL Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 clarified the duration of this relief.

The deadlines were initially extended by disregarding an Outbreak Period from March 1, 2020, until 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency (or such other date announced by the Departments). Under federal law, this period could not exceed one year, meaning that the relief was expected to expire on Feb. 28, 2021. However, the Notice allows the relief to extend beyond this date in some situations, while emphasizing that plan administrators should continue to make reasonable accommodations to prevent the loss of or delay in payment of benefits.

This Compliance Overview summarizes the continuation of relief guidance, including illustrative examples.

LINKS AND RESOURCES

Participant Extensions

Certain time frames are extended for health plan participants to:

  • Request special enrollment under HIPAA;
  • Elect COBRA continuation coverage, pay COBRA premiums and notify the plan of a COBRA qualifying event; and
  • File benefit claims and appeals and request external review of denied claims.

ERISA Notices & Disclosures

The relief extended the time for plan officials to furnish benefit statements and other notices and disclosures required under ERISA, if good faith efforts are made to provide the documents as soon as administratively practicable.

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