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Temporary Extension Of COBRA And Special Enrollment Periods
Guidance from the Department of Labor and the IRS extends certain COBRA and special enrollment periods due to the Coronavirus National Emergency. The extensions correspond to a coronavirus “Outbreak Period” from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the end of the Coronavirus National Emergency or such other date announced in future guidance.
Most notably, during the term of the Outbreak Period, the clock stops on the following key COBRA deadlines (among others) and then restarts after the Outbreak Period ends:
- The 44-day deadline after a qualifying event for the employer (if also the plan administrator) to provide a COBRA election notice;
- The subsequent 60-day period for a qualified beneficiary to elect COBRA continuation coverage;
- The 45-day deadline for making an initial COBRA premium payment following the initial election; and
- The 30-day deadline for making subsequent monthly COBRA premium payments, which follows the first day of the coverage period for which payment is being made; and
The guidance provides several examples, including the following:
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?
Answer: 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.
The Outbreak Period likewise extends special enrollment periods required under HIPPA, during which an eligible employee or dependent may enroll in the employer’s group health plan following a qualifying event (e.g., loss of other coverage). Generally, group health plans must allow such individuals to enroll if they are otherwise eligible and if enrollment is requested within 30 days of the qualifying event (or within 60 days in certain circumstances).
Employers should refer to the guidance for additional information and sample scenarios.