Group Health Plan Deadlines Extended
April 30, 2020
By: Jill E. Hall
On April 29, the Departments of Labor and the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a new final rule with respect to extensions of time for various deadlines related to employee benefit plans. The new rule extends timeframes with respect to HIPAA, COBRA and ERISA claims for benefits by disregarding the “Outbreak Period,” defined as the period from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency period (or a later date announced in subsequent guidance). The rule uses April 30 as the assumed end-date of the National Emergency period in all examples, but instructs this date was used just to make the examples clear and understandable. The assumed April 30 end-date results in an Outbreak Period running from March 1, 2020 through June 29, 2020. The rule requires the Outbreak Period be disregarded in determining deadlines as detailed below.
- The 30-day and 60-day special enrollment periods under HIPAA are extended by disregarding the Outbreak Period. An employee would have 30 or 60 days from the end of the Outbreak Period to exercise special enrollment rights that arise during the Outbreak Period.
- The 60-day COBRA election period is extended by disregarding the Outbreak Period. An employee would have 60 days from the end of the Outbreak Period to elect COBRA.
- The 45-day initial premium payment and 30-day grace period for subsequent premium payment timeframes under COBRA are extended by disregarding the Outbreak Period. Coverage must continue during this time even though some or all premium payments may not be submitted.
- The 60-day COBRA notice requirement imposed on employees for certain qualifying events (divorce, legal separation, child turns 26) and a disability determination is extended by disregarding the Outbreak Period. Employees experiencing one of these qualifying events will have 60 days after the end of the Outbreak Period to notify the plan to preserve COBRA rights.
- Deadlines related to filing a claim for benefits under a plan’s claims procedures are extended by disregarding the Outbreak Period. This includes: a claimant’s deadline to file a benefits claim; a claimant’s deadline to file an appeal of a plan’s adverse benefit determination; a claimant’s deadline to file an external review request; and, the period to submit additional information related to the external review request.
- The rule extends the 44-day deadline for a plan to provide a COBRA election notice to a qualified beneficiary by disregarding the Outbreak Period. A plan has 44 days from the end of the Outbreak Period to provide a COBRA election notice.