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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Labor (DOL) published a joint notice on May 4, 2020. The Extension of Certain Timeframes for Employee Benefit Plans, Participants, and Beneficiaries Affected by the COVID-19 Outbreak notice outlines the temporary extension of certain timeframes related to COBRA and other benefits. The period from March 1, 2020 until the end of the Outbreak Period is disregarded. In other words, for the timeframes referenced in this letter, the clock is stopped during the Outbreak Period. The clock resumes the day following the Outbreak Period. The Outbreak Period is the period from the start of the National COVID-19 Emergency (March 1, 2020) until 60 days after the announced end of the National COVID-19 Emergency.

Please Note: At this time, we do not know when the National COVID-19 Emergency will be declared over.

Extended COBRA Timeframes

  • The 60-day election period for electing COBRA continuation coverage
  • The 45-day initial COBRA premium deadline
  • The 30-day grace period for subsequent monthly COBRA premiums
  • The 14-day period, following notice of an event, that plans have to provide qualified beneficiaries with an election notice
  • The 60-day period that qualified beneficiaries have to provide notice to the employer of a qualifying event or disability determination

How Does This Impact You?

If you experienced one of the timeframes noted above on or after March 1, 2020, the clock for your applicable deadline will not start until the day following the end of the Outbreak Period.

If you were in the middle of one of the timeframes noted above prior to March 1, 2020, the clock was stopped on February 29, 2020 and resumes the day following the end of the Outbreak Period. (The period from March 1, 2020 until the end of the Outbreak Period is disregarded.)

Examples of the timeframe extensions are provided below. For each example, the following dates will be used for illustrative purposes only: Start of the Outbreak Period is March 1, 2020, End of the National COVID-19 Emergency is June 30, 2020; therefore, the Outbreak Period is March 1, 2020 through August 29, 2020 (60-days after the end of the National COVID-19 Emergency).

Please note: The end of the National Emergency has not been determined at this time. The dates in the following examples are for illustration purposes only and should not be used for determining or calculating actual timeframe extensions.

COBRA Election Period Examples:

If your COBRA Election Form indicates that your First Day of COBRA was March 1, 2020 or later:

  • The 60-day COBRA election deadline (Last Day to Elect), as noted on your COBRA Election Form (Specific Rights Notice), has been extended until 60 days after the end of the Outbreak Period.
  • Example: Bob terminates employment on March 25, 2020 and his coverage terminates as of March 31, 2020. He receives a COBRA Election Form dated March 31, 2020. The Outbreak Period runs through August 29, 2020. His 60-day election window begins on August 30, 2020 and he has until October 28, 2020 to elect COBRA.

If your COBRA Election Form indicates that your First Day of COBRA was between January 1, 2020 and February 29, 2020 and the Last Day to Elect was March 1, 2020 or later:

  • The clock on the election timeframe was stopped on February 29, 2020 and will resume the day following the end of the Outbreak Period.
  • Example: Bob terminates employment on January 30, 2020 and coverage terminates January 31, 2020. He receives a COBRA Election Form dated January 31, 2020. Prior to the Outbreak Period, 29 days of the 60-day election period had elapsed. The clock is stopped on February 29, 2020 and does not resume until August 30, 2020. Restarting the clock on August 30, 2020, Bob is provided with the remaining 31 days to make a COBRA election. His new Last Day to Elect is September 29, 2020.

Initial COBRA Premium Payment Deadline

If your 45-day initial COBRA premium period began on or after March 1, 2020:

  • The 45-day initial COBRA premium payment deadline has been extended until 45-days after the end of the Outbreak Period.
  • Example: Bob elects COBRA on May 4, 2020. The clock for the 45-day initial COBRA premium does not start until the Outbreak Period ends. The Outbreak Period runs through August 29, 2020. His 45-day initial COBRA premium period begins on August 30, 2020 and he has until October 13, 2020 to elect COBRA.

If your 45-day initial COBRA premium period began between January 17, 2020 and February 29, 2020 (if you elected COBRA between January 16, 2020 and February 28, 2020):

  • The clock on the 45-day initial COBRA premium stopped on February 29, 2020 and will resume the day following the end of the Outbreak Period.
  • Example: Bob elects COBRA on February 1, 2020. Prior to the Outbreak Period, 28 days of the 45-day initial premium payment deadline had elapsed. The clock is stopped on February 29, 2020 and does not resume until August 30, 2020. Restarting the clock on August 30, 2020, Bob is provided with the remaining 17 days to make the initial COBRA premium payment. His initial COBRA premium payment is due by September 15, 2020.

Subsequent COBRA Premium Payment Deadline (COBRA premiums after the initial COBRA premium)

If your subsequent COBRA premium payment was due on or after March 1, 2020:

  • The 30-day grace period for subsequent COBRA premium payments has been extended until 30-days after the end of the Outbreak Period.
  • Example: Bob previously paid his initial COBRA premium. His subsequent premium payment was due April 1, 2020. The clock for making this subsequent premium payment does not start until August 30, 2020. Payment for the April 1, 2020 premium and all subsequent months of desired coverage (May 1, 2020 through August 1, 2020) are due by September 28, 2020. The September 1, 2020 premium and all future premiums would be subject to the applicable 30-day grace periods.

If your subsequent COBRA premium payment was due on February 1, 2020 (prior to the beginning of the Outbreak Period), the grace period allows 30 days after the payment due date:

  • The clock on the 30-day grace period stopped on February 29, 2020 and will resume the day following the end of the Outbreak Period.
  • Example: Bob previously paid his initial COBRA premium. His subsequent premium payment was due on February 1, 2020. The 30-day grace period allowed him to make the February COBRA premium payment until March 2, 2020. The clock is stopped on February 29, 2020 and does not restart until August 30, 2020. Restarting the clock on August 30, 2020, Bos is provided with the remaining 2 days, until August 31, 2020, to make the February 1, 2020 premium payment.

Additional Timeframes That Have Been Extended

As previously mentioned, the following timeframes have also been extended and calculations similar to those previously illustrated would apply:

  • The 60-day period that qualified beneficiaries have to provide notice to the employer of a disability determination or qualifying event (divorce, child ceasing to be a dependent, or covered employee (retiree)’s Medicare entitlement)

Factors to Consider For Those Currently Enrolled in COBRA or Who Enroll in COBRA During the Outbreak Period:

  • You are still required to pay for your COBRA benefits; however, for payments due during the Outbreak Period, the deadlines for making these payments has been extended.
  • COBRA premiums will be applied to the oldest premium due. For example, you cannot pay for April, skip the May and June premiums and then pay for coverage in July.
  • If you opt to postpone payment of premiums that are due during the Outbreak Period, you will have a large balloon payment due when the Outbreak Period ends, subject to any remaining or applicable grace period.
  • If payments are not current within the required timeframe after the Outbreak Period ends, subject to any remaining or applicable grace period, coverage will be retroactively terminated to the end of the last month paid in full. This may result in retroactive claim denials if claims were paid during a period for which premiums were not received.
  • This Extension of Certain Timeframes notice does not extend your last day of COBRA beyond the original COBRA end date. Refer to your COBRA Election Form for your “Last Day of COBRA” date.
  • If your COBRA coverage was terminated for non-payment of premiums that were due March 1st or later or you terminated coverage and were still within your premium grace period (i.e., your premium was due February 1, 2020) and you would like to be reinstated into your COBRA plans, please contact your COBRA Specialist.

 

 

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