New COVID-19 relief has been provided in the form of an extension of certain ERISA and Internal Revenue Code deadlines related to employee benefit plans. Specifically, per EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01, the “Outbreak Period” is disregarded for purposes of determining the deadline for the following actions:

  • HIPAA Special Enrollment – 30/60-day period to request special enrollment
  • COBRA – 60-day election period, premium payments, notification to the plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability, and election notice
  • Claims Procedures – claims and appeals filing
  • External Review Process – request (and information) for an external review

The “Outbreak Period” applies from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 National Emergency. The end date is subject to change and may vary by geographical location based on the extent of the outbreak in certain areas of the country.

Here’s an example (Electing COBRA) from the final rules:

Facts. Individual A works for Employer X and participates in X’s group health plan. Due to the National Emergency, Individual A experiences a qualifying event for COBRA purposes as a result of a reduction of hours below the hours necessary to meet the group health plan’s eligibility requirements and has no other coverage. Individual A is provided a COBRA election notice on April 1, 2020. What is the deadline for A to elect COBRA? Assume that the National Emergency ends on April 30, 2020, with the Outbreak Period ending on June 29, 2020 (the 60th day after the end of the National Emergency).

Conclusion. Individual A is eligible to elect COBRA coverage under Employer X’s plan. The Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining Individual A’s COBRA election period. The last day of Individual A’s COBRA election period is 60 days after June 29, 2020, which is August 28, 2020.

See the final rules for additional information and examples.

On a separate note, the Department of Labor issued COVID-19 FAQs for health and retirement plan participants. Feel free to share them with your employees. Additionally, Congress is being asked to provide more health care coverage relief to employers and employees during this time. See the letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other associations and coalitions.

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.