On April 10, 2023, the president signed a resolution formally terminating the COVID-19 National Emergency period. The administration had previously announced that both the national emergency and public health emergency (PHE) periods would end May 11, 2023, but the signing of the legislation ended the national emergency period earlier, as of April 10, 2023.
The PHE is still scheduled to end May 11, 2023, but the Outbreak Period, which ends 60 days after the end of the national emergency period, will end earlier than previously anticipated.
The COVID-19 Outbreak Period was declared effective on March 1, 2020. This rule significantly impacted employee benefit plans by extending timelines related to COBRA, CHIP, HIPAA Special Enrollments, and claims and appeals procedures.
Specifically, the Outbreak Period impacted benefit plans in several ways by instructing ERISA plans and participants to disregard the Outbreak Period for:
- 30-day timeframe (60-day for termination of Medicaid or CHIP) for a participant to elect HIPAA special enrollment;
- 60-day timeframe for a participant to elect CHIPRA special enrollment;
- 60-day timeframe for a participant to elect COBRA continuation coverage;
- Timeframe for a participant or Qualified Beneficiary to notify a plan of a qualifying event or disability determination;
- Timeframe for the plan to provide a COBRA election notice;
- Timeframe for a participant to timely pay COBRA premiums; and
- Timeframe for a participant to file claims, appeals, and requests for external review.
However, it is important to note that ERISA contains language limiting timeline extensions to no more than one year. Thus, for example, the normal 60-day timeframe for a qualified beneficiary to elect COBRA coverage was extended by the Outbreak Period to one year plus 60 days.
With the end of the national emergency now formally made on April 10, 2023, the 60-day clock to sunset the Outbreak Period has started. This means that all of the items above will revert back to their normal time frames effective June 9, 2023 (60 days after the end of the National Emergency Period), but prior guidance encourages plans to continue providing longer timeframes for the above periods.
Please reach out to your trusted advisors at Hausmann Group if you have questions.