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Employee Benefit Plans COVID-19 Relief Guidance

employee benefit plan guidance

2 minute read

The Department of Labor issued Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01. It gives guidance on the duration of the COVID-19 related relief regarding certain employee benefit plan deadlines during the Outbreak Period.

The guidance allows employers to disregard the Outbreak Period when enforcing certain employee benefit plan deadlines. By law, the Outbreak Period cannot exceed one year. It began on March 1, 2020 and the relief was expected to expire on February 28, 2021. The new guidance allows the relief to extend beyond this date in certain situations.

Specifically, the relief extended HIPAA, COBRA, claims procedures, and the external claim review process time frames. It will also give plan sponsors more time to furnish benefit statements and other notices and disclosures.

According to the DOL Notice, the one-year limit on the relief (related to the Outbreak Period) to begin on the date of action would otherwise have been required in a given situation. Individuals and plans subject to the initial relief can extend the applicable deadlines until the earlier of:

  • One year from the date first eligible for relief; or
  • 60 days after the announced end of the Outbreak Period.

Time frames for plans and individuals with periods that were previously disregarded will resume. Cases with disregarded periods cannot exceed one year.

The DOL recognizes that beneficiaries and plan participants may encounter problems when the relief may no longer be available due to the one-year limit. Plan administrators may want to make reasonable accommodations to prevent the loss or delay in payment of benefits in these cases and take steps to minimize the possibility of some losing benefits because of a failure to comply with pre-established timelines.

Download the bulletin for more details.

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This blog is intended to be a compilation of information and resources pulled from federal, state, and local agencies. This is not intended to be legal advice. For up to the minute information and guidance on COVID-19, please follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your local health organizations.

National Insurance Services is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the readers’ business activities.

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Steve Smith

Steve Smith

Steve Smith, Employee Benefits Consultant for National Insurance Services, has his energy level permanently set at “high.” His maxim is “work hard, play hard.” Steve’s an expert in getting groups of people working together for a higher cause. Minnesota schools, cities, and counties rely on Steve’s unique and creative ideas of engaging employees in their own health and wellness to lower utilization trends. He has 20+ years in the health insurance field doing compliance, cost mitigation, utilization, analytics, wellness plans, and strategic planning. Steve is a licensed insurance agent and holds the designations for Managed Healthcare Professional (The Health Insurance Association of America), Certified Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Professional (National Association of Health Underwriters), and Group Benefits Disability Specialist (Hartford School of Insurance). He specializes in Employee Benefits Consulting for Minnesota schools, cities, and counties including fully insured, self-insured, and stop-loss plans.