Industry News

NAHU: Emergency Extension of COBRA Election Timeframes

This article is adapted from this NAHU update.

Earlier this week, the DOL and IRS released an emergency final regulation regarding the COBRA election period while the COVID-19 pandemic is a national emergency. The emergency rule is effective from March 1, 2020 until the end of the COVID-19 national emergency. It allows more flexibility for:

  • Initial COBRA election period
  • Deadline for premium payments
  • Timeline for employers to provide COBRA election notices

The DOL released FAQs and guidance on model notices, which can be found here.

Election Period

The rule allows a person who has an election period ending between March 1 and the end of the national emergency an additional 60 days after the end of the national emergency to elect COBRA. Traditionally, enrollees have 60 days to elect COBRA.

Deadline for Premium Payments

The rule allows for flexibility of the COBRA payment deadline. A carrier or employer cannot terminate coverage for a late or delinquent payment during the COVID-19 national emergency. This change applies to both those newly eligible for COBRA and those who may have elected COBRA before March 1 and have not yet made their March payment. Any COBRA beneficiaries who have been terminated because they missed their March payment must be reinstated.

Those beneficiaries who missed payments during the national emergency will have 30 days to make all outstanding payments once the Administration declares that the national emergency is over. If beneficiaries cannot make all of the back-due payments within the 30 day timeframe, their coverage may be retroactively limited to the months they were able to pay for.

Election Notices

The emergency regulation allows employers an extension until after the end of the national emergency to deliver COBRA election notices.

Other Timeframe Extensions

In addition to the COBRA deadlines, the regulation extends the regular timeframes for group health plan participants to:

  • Request a special enrollment period under ERISA
  • Notify the plan about a qualifying event or determination of a disability
  • File a benefit claim
  • File an appeal of an adverse claim determination
  • File or amend an external review

The standard timeframes for these actions will not start until after the Administration declares the end of the national emergency, or another date that may be announced by the Administration in the future.

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