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EBSA DISASTER RELIEF NOTICE 2021-01

(Updated November 17, 2022)
On February 26, 2021, the US Department of Labor (DOL) released Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 providing further guidance with respect to certain plan deadlines occurring during the COVID-19 National Emergency period.

In coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service, the DOL interprets the one-year maximum period is to be applied on a person-by-person basis. In short, the one-year period is calculated with respect to each member’s specific expiration date.
 


AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT UPDATE

(Updated November 16, 2022)
On April 7, 2021, the DOL released guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions regarding the COBRA subsidy, as well as model notices that can be used when administering ARPA’s COBRA subsidy requirements. The DOL’s guidance includes:

  • FAQs about COBRA premium assistance under the American Rescue Plan Act: PDF

  • Model General Notice and COBRA Continuation Coverage Election Notice: PDF

  • Model Notice in Connection with Extended Election Period: PDF

  • Model Alternative Notice: PDF

  • Model Notice of Expiration of Premium Assistance: PDF

  • Summary of COBRA Premium Assistance Provisions under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021:  PDF

View our full compliance alert here. And take time to review the resources above to stay informed about ARPA and the COBRA Subsidy.

HealthEquity will continue to stay abreast of this topic and – as additional guidance is available – we will advise accordingly.
 


DEPARTMENT OF LABOR (DOL) ISSUES GUIDANCE ON COVID-19 OUTBREAK PERIOD RELIEF DURATION

(Updated November 15, 2022)
On February 26, 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 to confirm the position of both the DOL and the Department of the Treasury (collectively, the “Agencies”) concerning the calculation of the COVID-19 Outbreak Period plan deadline suspensions with regard to participants’ ability to enroll mid-year in group health plan coverage, elect and pay for COBRA continuation coverage, submit benefit claims, and file appeals for benefit benefits determinations.

Notice 2021-01 affirms that the relief introduced in May 2020 continues for the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency period, but any period that is to be disregarded with respect to a certain plan deadline applying to a participant cannot extend beyond one year with respect to that participant. In other words, they have applied the one-year limitation to each impacted participant and event deadline. Therefore, the Agencies recommend that plans and issuers advise individuals not to seek reimbursement from a health FSA or HRA for the cost of OTC COVID-19 tests paid or reimbursed by the plan or issuer.

In Notice 2021-01, the DOL underscored President Biden’s determination and concurred the COVID-19 national emergency – and therefore the Outbreak Period – is still underway. While the ERISA and Code provisions expressly limit the maximum disregarded period for individual actions (whether those actions are “required or permitted”) to a period of one year from the date the individual action would otherwise have been required or permitted, this one-year period is applied on an individual-by-individual basis.

Get the latest from the CDC here.
 


COVID-19 OUTBREAK PERIOD DEADLINE RELIEF CONTINUES

(Updated November 14, 2022)
On February 18, 2022, President Biden again determined in a letter to Congress that it is necessary to further extend the national emergency period concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.1 This action follows Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra’s recent – but separate – declaration that the government would extend the public health emergency for COVID-19. While this extension continues the ongoing tolling period calculations, it bears repeating that the following deadlines – on an individual-by-individual basis - will be extended for the duration of the Outbreak Period relief:

  • the 14-day deadline for plan administrators to provide COBRA election notices to qualified beneficiaries;
  • the 30-day period (or 60-day period, in some cases) to exercise HIPAA special enrollment rights in a group health plan following birth, adoption, or placement for adoption of a child; marriage, loss of other health coverage; or eligibility for a state premium assistance subsidy;
  • the 60-day deadline by which a participant or qualified beneficiary must provide notice of divorce or legal separation, a dependent child that ceases to be an eligible dependent under the terms of the plan), or a Social Security disability determination used to extend COBRA coverage;
  • the 60-day deadline in which to elect COBRA coverage;
  • Individuals electing COBRA outside of the initial 60-day election period (as referenced above) generally have one year and 105 days after the election notice is provided to make the initial premium payment; and individuals electing COBRA within the generally applicable 60-day election period have one year and 45 days after the date of their election to make the initial payment;
  • the date by which monthly COBRA premium payments are due;
  • and the deadline under the plan by which participants may file a benefit claim (under the terms of the plan) and the deadlines for appealing an adverse benefit determination or requesting an external review.
     
  • Get the PDF for your review here.
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