COVID-19 COBRA Extensions

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COVID-19 COBRA Extensions

The IRS, Department of Labor, and other federal agencies released an update on COBRA extensions and claims filing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This latest guidance comes after Congress passed the CARES Act in late March and other initiatives to ease the economic pain on American workers and companies.

The final notice, published April 29, 2020, recognizes that “participants and beneficiaries covered by group health plans, disability or other employee welfare benefit plans, and employee pension benefit plans may encounter problems in exercising their health coverage portability and continuation coverage rights, or in filing or perfecting their benefit claims.”

Final Notice Guidelines – COBRA Extensions and Claims Filing

Group health plans, disability and other employee welfare benefit plans, and employee pension benefit plans subject to ERISA or the Code must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency or such other date announced by the Agencies in a future notice (the “Outbreak Period”) in determining the following periods and dates.

  • 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage;
  • Date for making COBRA continuation coverage premium payments;
  • Notification date for individuals to tell a health plan of a qualifying event or disability;
  • Date for providing a COBRA election notice from group health plan sponsor or administrator

In the Final Notice, there is a list of scenarios that provide clarification for each situation.

We recommend that employers contact their carriers and benefits counsel for additional guidance on COBRA terminations. For practical purposes, it is in the best interest for COBRA participants to pay their premiums (if they are able to do so) as they are incurred; though payments may be delayed in accordance with IRS and DOL guidelines, not remitting premiums could jeopardize claims payments and also result in a higher bill due once the COVID-19 period ends. 

We are tracking this situation as it evolves and will provide updates as we are informed of them.

Under normal conditions (non COVID-19 related), the following COBRA rules apply:

COBRA Election

Under COBRA continuation law, once a beneficiary has a qualified event (loss of job, reduction in hours, death of covered employee, etc.), they have 60 days to choose whether or not to elect COBRA coverage.

COBRA Premium Payments

Plans are required to allow premium payments in monthly installments and cannot require a payment before 45 days after the day of initial COBRA election. Failure to pay on time can result in coverage termination for the beneficiary. However, premiums must be considered on time if they are made no later than 30 days after the first day of the period begins.

COBRA Notifications

Once a beneficiary has a qualifying event, the employer must notify the plan administrator within 30 days of the event. Within 14 days of getting the employer’s notice, the COBRA administrator must send a COBRA election notice to the beneficiary.

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Last Modified:6/15/2020 8:11:30 AM

Last Modified By: Kevin_Murphy

Type: INFO

Level: Intermediate

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