By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff
The IRS and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) are extending certain timeframes during the outbreak period for group health plans, disability and other welfare plans, pension plans, and participants and beneficiaries of these plans during the COVID-19 National Emergency. On March 13, 2020, President Trump issued the Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak and by separate letter made a determination, under section 501(b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq., that a national emergency exists nationwide beginning March 1, 2020, as the result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Under the authority of ERISA Sec. 518 and Code Sec. 7508A(b), the IRS and EBSA are extending certain timeframes otherwise applicable to group health plans, disability and other welfare plans, pension plans, and their participants and beneficiaries under ERISA and the Code.
Relief for outbreak period. Under the relief, all 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 sixty days after the announced end of the National Emergency for all plan participants, beneficiaries, qualified beneficiaries, or claimants wherever located in determining the following periods and dates:
- The 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request special enrollment into any group plan under Code Sec. 9801(f) and ERISA Sec. 701(f);
- The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage under Code Sec. 4980B(f)(5) and ERISA Sec. 605;
- The date for making COBRA premium payments under Code Sec. 4980B(f)(2)(B)(iii) and (C), and ERISA Sec. 602(2)(C) and (3);
- The date for individuals to notify the plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability under Code Sec. 4980B(f)(6)(C) and ERISA Sec. 606(a)(3);
- The date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedure pursuant to ERISA Reg. §2560.503-1, and the date within which claimants may file an appeal of an adverse benefit determination under the plan’s claims procedure pursuant to ERISA Reg. §2560.503-1(h);
- The date within which claimants may file a request for an external review after receipt of an adverse benefit determination or final internal adverse benefit determination pursuant to IRS Reg. §54.9815-2719(d)(2)(i) and ERISA Reg. §2590.715-2719(d)(2)(i), and
- The date within which a claimant may file information to perfect a request for external review upon a finding that the request was not complete pursuant to IRS Reg. §54.9815-2719(d)(2)(ii) and ERISA Reg. §2590.715-2719(d)(2)(ii).
Affected dates for group health plans. With respect to group health plans, and their sponsors and administrators, the outbreak period should be disregarded when determining the date for providing a COBRA election notice under Code Sec. 4980B(f)(6)(D) and ERISA section 606(c).
Examples are provided that illustrate the timeframe for extensions required by this relief notification. The Agencies will continue to monitor the effects of the outbreak and may provide additional relief as warranted.
Source: IRS, EBSA Notification of Relief and Extension of Timeframes.
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