Biden Administration Extends National Emergency for Another Year
Updated March, 2022
Issue Date: February 2022
On February 18, 2022, President Biden formally extended the COVID-19 National Emergency for up to another year. The National Emergency first went into effect on March 1, 2020, and after being first extended in February 2021, was set to expire on March 1, 2022.
After a National Emergency was declared as of March 1, 2020, regulatory agencies jointly issued a final rule in April extending several specific notice and disclosure deadlines applicable under HIPAA, COBRA, and ERISA. The rule effectively extended the time participants were given for things like COBRA elections, COBRA payments, HIPAA special enrollments, and ERISA claims filing and appeals. In addition to the final rule, the DOL issued Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01, granting some leniency regarding enforcement of the timing and delivery method for plan sponsor disclosures required under ERISA. The rules apply broadly to all employer-sponsored benefits subject to ERISA and COBRA. The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) indicated that similar relief was available to non-federal governmental plans as well.
For the period of time beginning March 1, 2020, until 60 days after the National Emergency is over (the “Outbreak Period”), all group health plans, disability plans, other employee welfare benefit plans, and employee pension plans must disregard this time period when administering plans with respect to notices, disclosures and other deadlines covered by the rule.
This most recent extension of the National Emergency further extends the duration of the Outbreak Period. It is possible that President Biden will end the National Emergency before another year passes, but this remains to be seen. Plan sponsors should be aware that the extended deadlines for participants under HIPAA, COBRA, and ERISA remain in effect for the time being and ensure that their plans continue to operate in accordance with the requirements for any deadlines.
EBSA Disaster Relief Notice Update 2021-01
Updated March 10, 2021
EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01
COBRA Deadline Extensions
Updated May 12, 2020
On April 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued guidance providing significant deadline extensions and other relief to assist employee benefit plans, plan participants and beneficiaries, employers and other plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, and other service providers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance applies to health and welfare plans and retirement plans and follows the March 13, 2020 declaration of a federal emergency resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act (COVID-3 Stimulus Bill)
Updated March 31, 2020
The “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act” was signed into law on March 27, 2020. What exactly does this mean? This new bill contains many employee benefit-related items. The revisions permanently reinstate coverage of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medicines as eligible for reimbursement from FSAs, HRAs, and HSAs without the necessity of a prescription, assuming the employer’s plan documents allow so. It further expands the definition of qualified OTC items to include eligible menstrual care products that can be purchased with these funds. This change is effective for expenses incurred on or after January 1, 2020.
As the industry makes this important transition, the implementation of the new eligible item list will gradually occur over the next 4-6 weeks.
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