DOL Relaxes Deadlines for ERISA-Governed Group Health Plans


In step with the U.S. Department of Treasury and the IRS, the U.S. Department of Labor published deadline leeway and direction for ERISA-related group health and welfare plans regulated by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, or ERISA. The counseling offers relief for plan sponsors, plan administrators, and plan participants struggling to meet applicable deadlines and obligations while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The DOL has expanded a plan’s ability to utilize forms of electronic disclosure, and has provided relief valid to retirement plan sponsors and beneficiaries.

To lessen the impact of the current pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act revised Section 518 of ERISA to explicitly empower the DOL with discretion to expand any action demanded or allowed by ERISA for up to one year. The COVID-19 guidance loosens the timing requirements for some health and welfare plan actions, defined as the period between March 1, 2020 (the commencement of the COVID-19 national emergency professed by President Trump) and 60 days following a declaration at the termination of the COVID-19 national emergency (or such other date declared by the DOL in a impending notice).

The guidance indicates that group health plans, disability plans and other employee welfare benefit plans are provided guidance in connection with the following dates or periods:

  • The 30-day period, or 60-day period if applicable, to ask for HIPAA special enrollment.
  • The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage
  • The date for making COBRA premium payments
  • The date for individuals to inform the plan of specific qualifying occurrences (such as a dependent child aging out of plan coverage or divorce) or conclusion of disability associated with the COBRA coverage.
  • The date within which people can file a benefit claim under a plan’s claims process.
  • The date within claimants may file an appeal of an adverse benefit determination under a plan’s claims process.

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