The federal government provided COVID-19-related relief for health and welfare plans through various guidance.

Most recently, the IRS issued Notice 2020-23 to extend the deadline for certain tax filings and payments. This accommodation applies to Form 5500s for health and welfare plans due to the Department of Labor (DOL) on or after April 1 and before July 15, 2020. Employers do not have to apply for this extension; it is automatic. Form 5500 filings for plan years that ended in September, October, or November 2019, and for those with previously filed extension requests within the April 1 to July 14 window will be due July 15, 2020. Employers with other plan year end dates (including calendar-year plans) can request a regular extension with Form 5558 if they need additional time.

Another notable extension was provided in FAQs issued on April 11, 2020. The FAQs addressed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act), and other health coverage issues related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). These laws and subsequent guidance mandate coverage of COVID-19 testing. As a result, employers must amend their plan and communicate changes to participants. Per Q9 and Q14, group health plans and insurers have additional time to formally amend coverage to add benefits for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 including telehealth care and must provide updated Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) or Summary of Material Modification (SMM) as soon as reasonably practicable. Nonenforcement only applies during the public health emergency period.

A few other highlights from the FAQs include the following:

  • Group health plans and insurers cannot limit other benefits to offset cost of the new required COVID-19 benefits.
  • Emphasis is on assisting group health plans, insurers and others that are working diligently and in good faith to understand and come into compliance with the new law, rather than imposing penalties.
  • FFCRA and CARES Act COVID-19 testing-related coverage mandate does not apply to Retiree-only group health plans.
  • Testing coverage required for items and services (as of March 18, 2020 for the duration of the Public health emergency related to COVID-19) is set to expire on June 16, 2020, but may be terminated earlier or extended.
  • Per Q5, the mandate requires coverage for other tests (e.g., flu test, blood test, etc.) in certain circumstances.
  • More guidance is expected to be issued about the FFCRA, the CARES Act, and other health coverage issues related to COVID-19.

See bulletins below for additional information about these and other forms of available benefit plan flexibility in response to this pandemic.

Updating Health Plans for Coronavirus Bulletin

IRS Extends Deadlines for Forms 5500 Bulletin

If you have questions or need help, please contact one of our benefit consultants.


Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center for more resources and information.