Covid-19 National Emergency Ends Today

As announced by President Biden on January 30, 2023, the National Emergency in response to COVID-19 will end today. 

Joint Notice Relief

With the National Emergency ending today, the extension of deadlines that were permitted under the Notice of Extension of Certain Timeframes for Employee Benefit Plans, Participants and Beneficiaries Affected by the COVID-19 Outbreak (the Joint Notice) will continue until 60-days after the end of the National Emergency (the Outbreak Period) and come to an end on July 10, 2023 (some deadlines may still come to an end one year from the date an individual was first eligible for relief, if that date is earlier than the end of the Outbreak Period).

These extended deadlines include:

  • HIPAA special enrollment periods
  • 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage
  • Date for making COBRA continuation coverage premium payments
  • Date for individuals to notify a health plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability
  • Date that individuals can make a claim for benefits under the plan's claims procedures (extending the runout period for reimbursement by health plans, health FSAs, or HRA plans until after the pandemic has subsided)
  • Date for individuals to perfect an incomplete claim
  • Dates for appealing denied benefits and for external review of claims denials
  • Date that a group health plan sponsor or administrator must provide a COBRA election notice  

Notice 2020-01 Relief

In addition, the relief provided for by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) in Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 will be ending. The notice specified that deadlines for providing notices to participants, beneficiaries, and other persons that were required under Title I of ERISA would be extended for the length of the Outbreak Period (or one year, if shorter). The relief included disclosures such as Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) and Summary Annual Reports (SARs).  

This guidance differs from the blanket extensions issued under the Joint Notice, however, because EBSA did not permit required notices to be completely disregarded during the Outbreak Period. As Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 specified, the plan would not be considered to be in violation if “the plan and responsible fiduciary act in good faith and furnish the notice, disclosure, or document as soon as administratively practicable under the circumstances.” Good faith efforts were indicated to include the use of electronic means of communication if necessary.

Because of this caveat, EBSA would likely expect that plans will not have continuing outstanding disclosure requirements that have been delayed during the Outbreak Period, given the general ease of using electronic communications for many disclosures—and a return to business as usual—without impacts from lockdowns or business closures hindering the provision of written communication.