News alert: Deadline relief for health benefit claims, COBRA elections and more

This Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Labor (DOL) issued a rule to extend several deadlines and enrollment periods for health plans, health benefit accounts and COBRA, based on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ruling states that previous deadlines will be disregarded, given the extenuating circumstances of the pandemic. The Employers Council on Flexible Compensation has outlined extended deadlines that will be particularly important to CDH administrators:

  • health FSA, HRA and HSA runout periods
  • appealing denied benefit plans and reviewing claim denials
  • when individuals must notify a health plan of a qualifying event or disability
  • the 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage
  • making COBRA premium payments
  • when health plans or administrators must provide a COBRA election notice

The new deadlines will be based on what is known as the Outbreak Period, or the 60 days after the federal government lifts the National Emergency. When that 60-day Outbreak Period ends, the special health plan enrollment periods will begin. Because neither of these has occurred, all special enrollment deadlines are effectively suspended.

Here’s a hypothetical situation to illustrate how this could look for an individual laid off during the pandemic and looking to enroll in COBRA insurance:

  • April 30, 2020: The federal government lifts the National Emergency
  • June 29, 2020: The end of the Outbreak Period (60 days after the National Emergency is lifted)
  • Aug. 28, 2020: The deadline to enroll in COBRA for those who have already received an election notice (60 days after the end of the Outbreak Period)

For more information on this new ruling, visit the DOL’s FAQ page on the topic.

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