On February 18, 2022, President Biden formally extended the COVID-19 National Emergency Period, which would have expired on March 1, 2022. The extension of the National Emergency period means that the deadlines listed below continue to be paused for up to one year or 60 days after the end of the National Emergency Period (if earlier).
The DOL issued Disaster Relief Notice 2020-018, which provides relief during the COVID-19 “Outbreak Period” (defined as the period beginning March 1, 2020, and ending 60 days after the date on which the President declares the COVID-19 national emergency has ended).
The subsequent guidance confirms that applicable deadlines for plans that fall within the Outbreak Period will be extended on a case-by-case basis until the earlier of: (1) the end of the Outbreak Period; or (2) one year from the date the plan or individual’s deadline period would have begun (which will vary by individual occurrence).
This means the following deadlines, on an individual-by-individual basis, will be extended for the duration of the Outbreak Period relief:
- The 44 days (when the employer is the plan administrator) for the employer to provide a COBRA election notice to qualified beneficiaries.
- The 30-day period (or 60-day period, in some cases) to exercise HIPAA special enrollment rights in a group health plan following birth, adoption, or placement for adoption of a child; marriage, loss of other health coverage; or eligibility for a state premium assistance subsidy;
- The 60-day deadline by which a participant or qualified beneficiary must provide notice of divorce or legal separation, a dependent child that ceases to be an eligible dependent under the terms of the plan), or a Social Security disability determination used to extend COBRA coverage;
- The 60-day deadline in which to elect COBRA coverage; Individuals electing COBRA outside of the initial 60-day election period (as referenced above) generally have one year and 105 days after the election notice is provided to make the initial premium payment; and individuals electing COBRA within the generally applicable 60-day election period have one year and 45 days after the date of their election to make the initial payment;
- The date by which monthly COBRA premium payments are due; and
- The deadline under the plan by which participants may file a benefit claim (under the terms of the plan) and the deadlines for appealing an adverse benefit determination or requesting an external review.
Employers should be aware of these extensions, especially when administering COBRA and HIPAA special enrollments requested by plan participants.