From the Ascensus Health & Benefits Companies Compliance Manager: Impact of the Continued COVID-19 National Emergency
As the United States anticipates the illusive end of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is cause to be continually mindful of ongoing regulatory guidance and changes. Although legislative activity including new laws and regulations is not near the level seen in the early months of the pandemic, it is important to understand what is temporary, what is renewed, and what is the new standard. Following are a couple of key developments.
On February 18, 2022, President Biden 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
EBSA Notice 2020-01 defined a new term “Outbreak Period” to signify disregarded periods of time for critical deadlines related to items listed above. Until the end of the pandemic is announced, employees continue to have an additional year to meet certain deadlines.
Specifically, periods are disregarded until the earlier of one year from the date they were first eligible for relief, or 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency (the end of the Outbreak Period). 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.
When the President declared a National Emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, effective March 1, 2020, there was no expectation of the Outbreak Period end. The Outbreak Period had been set to expire on February 28, 2022. As that deadline drew near, it was extended to February 28, 2023. Note that on March 3, 2022, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to end the National Emergency. This bill has yet to make it through Congress.
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