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Employee Benefit Deadline Extensions Continue

Posted on July 20th, 2022

The COVID-19 national emergency was set to expire on July 15, 2022; however, a 90-day extension of the national emergency was issued, and the national emergency is now set to expire on October 13, 2022 (absent another extension).

Pursuant to EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01, this also means employees and their dependents have additional time to exercise their rights for group health plans, disability plans, and other welfare plans that are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). In particular, employees and/or their dependents have additional time to do the following:

  • Enroll in coverage during a HIPAA special enrollment period
  • Elect coverage under COBRA
  • Make a COBRA premium payment
  • Notify a plan administrator of a COBRA qualifying event or a determination of a disability 
  • File a claim for benefits
  • Appeal a claim that was denied in whole or in part
  • Request an external review of a final adverse benefit determination
  • File information to perfect a request for an external review

Employers, insurance carriers, and benefit administrators are to disregard a period of time that is referred to as the outbreak period. The outbreak period started on March 1, 2020, and it will end 60 days after the COVID-19 national emergency is declared over. EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 confirms that the maximum length of time that can be disregarded is one year.

This means many individuals will have the normal timeframe to exercise certain rights, plus up to an additional year. For example, there is normally a 60-day timeframe to make a COBRA election. Someone who lost coverage approximately 14 months ago would still be within election period because of the extended timeframes (granted, they would have to pay for the previous 14 months of COBRA coverage).

As the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to eventually become an endemic, these deadlines should be closely monitored as the extensions will eventually end. Normal deadlines will apply once the outbreak period is over.

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