On April 28, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published a joint notice providing deadline relief to help employee benefit plans, plan participants and plan service providers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Under the final rule, employee benefit plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) or the Internal Revenue Code, must disregard the “Outbreak Period” for purposes of determining certain deadlines. The “Outbreak Period” runs from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the COVID-19 National Emergency ends (or such other date as the agencies announce).
Impacted deadlines include:
- The 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request special enrollment;
- The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage;
- The date for making COBRA premium payments;
- The date for individuals to notify the plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability;
- The date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedure; and
- The dates within which claimants may file an appeal of benefits determinations or external reviews
The notice offers seven examples to illustrate the time frame for extensions under varying scenarios. 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.
The agencies say they will continue to monitor the effects of the outbreak and may provide additional relief as warranted. Agency FAQS related to the guidance were also released and can be found here.