Update Regarding Existing COVID-19 Timeframe Extensions for COBRA and FSA/HRA Claim Filing Deadlines and the February 18, 2022 Extension of the National Health Emergency
On Friday February 18, 2022, the White House issued an extension of the National Emergency and referred to the extension as the ‘Notice on the Continuation of the National Emergency Concerning the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.’
The extension of the National Emergency directly impacts previously announced relief, Extension of Certain Timeframes for Employee Benefit Plans, Participants, and Beneficiaries Affected by the COVID-19 Outbreak, which was announced by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Labor (DOL) on April 28, 2020. As a reminder, this relief was mandatory for ERISA plans and voluntary for non-ERISA plans. Among other things, in the 2020 relief there were extensions of claim filing deadlines for FSAs and HRAs and for various timeframes related to COBRA deadlines.
Last year, Notice 2021-01 clarified that the timeframe extension applied on an individual basis. The 2021 Outbreak Period Guidance provided for the following example as it relates to FSAs:
A Health FSA with a 90 day run out period for the 2020 Plan Year would have otherwise ended on March 31, 2021. For Employers subject to ERISA, the claim filing deadline is now extended to March 31, 2022.
Since the National Emergency was extended effective March 1, 2022, ERISA employers with FSAs and HRAs should continue to follow the one year rule. Essentially this means that a Plan would identify the original claim filing due date (the end of the Plan Year plus the runout period) and add one year to the original claim filing due date. The 2022 National Emergency extension provides for the continuation of the one year rule whereby applicable timeframes will be disregarded until the earlier of:
- One year from the date the individual was first eligible for relief, or
- The end of the Outbreak Period (60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency)
An example of the impact of the recent extension of the National Emergency on claim filing deadlines for employers with Health FSAs or HRAs will be as follows:
- A Health FSA or an HRA with a 90 day run out period for the 2021 Plan Year would have otherwise ended on March 31, 2022. For employers subject to ERISA the claims submission deadline would now be extended to March 31, 2023.
What Benefits, Actions, or Elections are Impacted?
The following COBRA deadlines are impacted by this relief:
- 60-day COBRA election
- 45-day initial COBRA premium deadline
- 30-day grace period for subsequent monthly COBRA premiums
- 60-day period that qualified beneficiaries have to notify the employer of a disability determination or secondary qualifying event
Health FSA and HRA Claim Runout Period Timeframes
Claim filing deadlines (plan year-end runout periods or terminated participant runout periods) that occurred on or after March 1, 2020 have been temporarily extended for a maximum period of up to one year, depending on the length of the National Emergency.
Claim Appeal Deadlines for Health FSAs and HRAs
Claim appeal deadlines that occurred on or after March 1, 2020 have been temporarily extended for a maximum period of up to one year, depending on the length of the National Emergency.
External Review Process for HRAs
External Review request deadlines that occurred on or after March 1, 2020 have been temporarily extended for a maximum period of up to one year, depending on the length of the National Emergency.
HIPAA Special Enrollment Deadline
HIPAA Special Enrollment deadlines that occurred on or after March 1, 2020 have been temporarily extended for a maximum period of up to one year, depending on the length of the National Emergency.
In no case will the extension of the aforementioned deadlines be longer than 1 year.
What if I have questions about this?
Please contact our COBRA Department for COBRA related questions or our Claims Department for claims related questions at (800) 234-1229.
DBS will provide additional updates as more information becomes available or if additional relief is issued. DBS continues to consult with legal, association and other industry leaders and is not engaged in the practice of law. If there are additional legal questions regarding other specific benefit plan implications you should consult with your legal counsel.