The Department of Labor (DOL) issued Notice 2021-01 to announce the end of COVID-19 relief provided under Notice 2020-01. As a reminder, Notice 2020-01 and a final rule gave individuals additional time during the Outbreak Period to:

  • request a HIPAA special enrollment
  • make a COBRA election
  • pay COBRA premiums
  • notify the plan of a COBRA qualifying event or determination of disability
  • file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedures
  • file an appeal of an adverse benefit determination under the plan’s claims procedure
  • file a request for an external review after receiving an adverse benefit determination or final internal adverse benefit determination
  • file a corrected request for external review upon a finding that the request was not complete

The “Outbreak Period” started on March 1, 2020 and is set to end 60 days after the end of the National Emergency (which has not ended).

However, the recently released Notice 2021-01 caps the additional time at 1 year and clarifies that the length of the relief period is calculated on an individual basis. Specifically, the relief ends the earlier of:

  • 1 year from the date the individual was first eligible for relief, or
  • 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency (the end of the Outbreak Period).

Examples:

  • An individual required to make a COBRA election by March 1, 2020 (under standard COBRA procedure) has an extension until February 28, 2021, which is the earlier of 1 year from March 1, 2020 or the end of the Outbreak Period (which remains ongoing).
  • An individual required to make a COBRA election by March 1, 2021 (under standard COBRA procedure) has an extension until the earlier of 1 year from that date (i.e., March 1, 2022) or the end of the Outbreak Period.

Employers should work with their COBRA administrator and other third parties to:

  • Send a notice to affected individuals regarding the end of the relief period.
  • Reissue or amend prior notices or other disclosures to provide accurate information regarding the time in which individuals were required to take action, e.g., COBRA election notices and claims procedure notices.
  • Consider ways to ensure that individuals who are losing coverage under their group health plans are made aware of other coverage options that may be available to them, including through the Health Insurance Marketplace in their state.

Per the notice, the DOL will emphasize compliance assistance and include grace periods and other relief for fiduciaries acting in good faith and with reasonable diligence under the circumstances. See bulletins below for details on the extensions permitted under Notice 2020-01 and Notice 2021-01

EBSA Disaster Relief Bulletin – Notice 2020-01

Extension Timeframes Bulletin – Notice 2021-01

 

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.