President Biden has signed a resolution to end the COVID-19 National Emergency. Here's what that means for the extended periods allowable for COBRA elections and payments.
On April 10, 2023, President Biden signed a resolution to end the COVID-19 National Emergency enacted in March 2020. Previously, the Department of Labor, Treasury Department, and IRS issued extended time periods and dates for HIPAA special enrollment, COBRA continuation coverage elections, payments, and internal claims and appeals under Flexible Benefit Plans.
The end of the National Emergency impacts the extended periods allowable for COBRA elections and payments. The National Emergency end date has been determined as April 10, 2023, taking the end of the Outbreak Period to June 9, 2023. This will provide any COBRA participant 60 days before deadlines revert to normal federal guidelines or August 8, 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the implementation of several areas with regard to the end of the National Emergency were prepared by the DOL and are available through the DOL website. The DOL has indicated that nothing in the Code or ERISA prevents a group health plan from allowing for longer timeframes for employees, participants, or beneficiaries to complete actions, and group health plans are encouraged to do so.
The end of the National Emergency impacts the following for COBRA:
- The 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request HIPAA special enrollment.
- The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage.
- The date for making COBRA premium payments, including the monthly 30-day grace period and the 45-day retroactive period for the initial payment.
- The date for individuals to notify the plan of a COBRA qualifying event or new disability.
- The date for plan sponsors and administrators to provide a COBRA election notice (typically within 14 days after the plan receives notice of a qualifying event).
Changes to deadlines are not immediate. All participants will be given a 60-day window (following the end of the Outbreak Period = June 9, 2023) to have all their payments and elections made within the extended timeframes. On August 9, 2023, the extension of these timeframes will have ended, and all elections and payments will revert to the normal federal guidelines (60 days to elect, 45 days to pay retroactive initial payment, 30 days for monthly payments, 60 days to report disability).