Industry & Regulatory NewsCOVID-19 Relief Extended for Another Year
In March 2020, the President declared a national emergency effective March 1, 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The national emergency was extended for one year until February 28, 2022. On February 18, 2022, the President once again extended the national emergency until February 28, 2023.
The extended national emergency provides relief to health and welfare plans related to the following.
- COBRA notices (i.e., employer and employee), payment, and election
- HIPAA special enrollment requests
- Claims and appeals request and claims perfection
As clarified in Notice 2021-01, the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Department of Treasury explained the disregarded period applies on a person-by person basis and cannot exceed one year, as follows:
- one year from the date an individual was first eligible for relief, or
- 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency.
Employers should continue to monitor deadlines pursuant to prior guidance.
Industry & Regulatory NewsDOL Provides Guidance Related to Over-the-Counter COVID-19 Tests
Group health plans and health insurance issuers must provide benefits for certain items and services related to testing for the detection and diagnosis of COVID-19, including over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act require that these services be provided without imposing cost-sharing requirements, prior authorization, or other medical management requirements.
On February 4, 2022, the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) issued Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). These FAQs provide additional guidance on the requirement to provide coverage for OTC COVID-19 tests without a prescription or individualized clinical assessment from a health care provider.
The FAQs provide guidance in the following areas.
- Limits on Coverage: Plans or issuers may limit reimbursement to the lesser of the actual price of the test, or $12 per test. Each covered participant, beneficiary, or enrollee may be reimbursed for at least 8 tests per 30-day period (or per calendar month). The plan or issuer must calculate the reimbursement based on the number of tests in a package.
- Direct-to-Consumer Coverage: Plans or issuers that provide direct coverage of OTC COVID-19 tests through both a pharmacy network and a direct-to-consumer program, and otherwise limits reimbursement for OTC COVID-19 tests from nonpreferred pharmacies or other retailers to the lesser of the actual price of the test, or $12 per test, will not be subject to enforcement action. To provide adequate access, the plan or issuer must make OTC COVID-19 tests available through at least one direct-to-consumer shipping mechanism and at least one in-person mechanism. The direct-to-consumer mechanism may include online or telephone ordering, but the plan or issuer must cover the cost of shipping.
- Impact of Supply Shortage: Plans or issuers will not be out of compliance if they temporarily cannot provide adequate access because of a supply shortage.
- Fraud or Abuse: Plans or issuers may take reasonable steps to prevent, detect, and address fraud and abuse. For example, a plan or issuer can require tests to be purchased from an established retailer, substantiate the purchase by carefully reviewing receipts and documentation, and require the individual to attest that the product will not be resold.
- Self-Collected Sample with Lab Processing: OTC COVID-19 tests must be self-administered and self-read without the involvement of a health care provider. The OTC COVID-19 coverage rules do not apply when an individual sends the specimen to be processed in a laboratory. These tests must be ordered by a health care provider.
- FSA/HRA/HSA: The cost of OTC COVID-19 tests purchased after January 15, 2022, are eligible for reimbursement from a group health plan or issuer. Individuals may not seek reimbursement more than once for the same medical expense. When notifying individuals about any direct coverage or reimbursement, the plan or issuer must include a reminder stating that the same medical expense may not be submitted to a health flexible spending account FSA), health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), or health savings account (HSA).
Further developments, including any clarifying guidance will be shared.
Industry & Regulatory NewsIRS Updates Coronavirus-Related Relief FAQs
The IRS recently updated its coronavirus-related relief for retirement plans and IRAs questions and answers (FAQs) for Sec. 2202 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides for special distribution options and rollover rules for plans. The updated FAQs address questions regarding rehires following bona fide retirement and in-service distributions.
Industry & Regulatory NewsIRS Issues Guidance on Funding Relief for Multiemployer DB Plans
The IRS has released Notice 2021-57, providing guidance for multiemployer defined benefit (DB) plans receiving funding relief under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The Notice provides guidance regarding the plan sponsor’s ability to elect to delay designating a plan as being in endangered, critical, or critical and declining status or to delay updating the plan’s funding improvement or rehabilitation plan, and to extend the plan’s funding improvement or rehabilitation period. The guidance further explains the plan sponsor’s ability to amortize certain investments and other experience losses related to COVID-19 over a 30-year period in determining charges to the funding standard account.
Industry & Regulatory NewsIRS Provides COBRA Coverage Clarifications
The IRS has issued Notice 2021-58, which clarifies the application of extension under the “Joint Notification of Extensions of Certain Timeframes for Employee Benefit Plans, Participants, and Beneficiaries Affected by the COVID-19 Outbreak” and additional guidance issued by the Department of Labor’s Emergency Relief Notices. Moreover, this notice addresses the interaction between the Emergency Relief Notices and COBRA premium assistance available under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Industry & Regulatory NewsWomen’s Retirement Protection Act Re-Introduced in House/Senate
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL) have introduced the Women’s Retirement Protection Act of 2021 in their respective chambers. The legislation is intended to address what some have identified as a gap between the retirement preparedness of women compared to their male counterparts—a gap seemingly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Key provisions of the legislation are as follows.
Industry & Regulatory NewsIRS Again Extends Temporary Relief from Physical Presence Requirement for Retirement Plan Consents
The IRS issued Notice 2021-40, extending guidance released under Notice 2020-42 and previously extended by Notice 2021-03, which provided temporary relief from the physical presence requirements for certain elections that are made by participants and beneficiaries in qualified retirement plans and other tax-favored retirement arrangements. The additional extension provides relief through June 30, 2022. This includes signatures of those making an election ordinarily needing to be witnessed in the physical presence of a plan representative or notary public, including spousal consent and certain forms of distribution from retirement plans.
Industry & Regulatory NewsUnderstanding the CARES Act: Contribution Deadline and Defined Benefit Funding Relief
Understanding the CARES Act: Contribution Deadline and Defined Benefit Funding Relief
Industry & Regulatory NewsUnderstanding the CARES Act: Retirement Plan Loans
Understanding the CARES Act: Retirement Plan Loans
Industry & Regulatory NewsHouse Passes Senate’s Coronavirus Response Bill Unchanged, President Trump Signs Into Law
The House of Representatives today passed—by an expedited procedure—the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by the Senate late on Wednesday, March 25. This afternoon, President Trump signed the legislation into law.