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DOL and IRS Extend Welfare Plan Deadlines

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Mindi M. Johnson and Julie L. Hamlet
Foster Swift Business & Tax Law News E-blast
May 11, 2020

Stethoscope and ChartsThe Department of Labor ("DOL") and the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") have jointly issued a series of rules and notices that extend certain deadlines applicable to group health plans and other welfare benefit plans. A summary of the guidance appears below.

Deadline Extensions that Apply to Participants, Beneficiaries, and Claimants:

The guidance provides that all group health plans, disability and other employee welfare benefit plans, and employee pension benefit plans subject to ERISA or the Internal Revenue Code must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 national emergency declaration (the "Outbreak Period") for purposes of applying certain deadlines.

Specifically, the Outbreak Period will be disregarded when determining the following deadlines that apply to plan participants, beneficiaries, and claimants:

  1. the 30-day period to request special enrollment under HIPAA (or 60-day period, in the case of the special enrollment rights added by the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009);
  2. the 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage;
  3. the applicable 30-day or 45-day deadline for making COBRA premium payments;
  4. the applicable deadline for individuals to notify the plan of a COBRA qualifying event or determination of disability;
  5. the date within which individuals must file a benefit claim under the ERISA claims procedures;
  6. the date within which claimants may file an appeal of an adverse benefit determination under the ERISA claims procedures;
  7. the date within which claimants may file a request for an external review after receipt of an adverse benefit determination or final internal adverse benefit determination; and
  8. the date within which claimants may file information to perfect a request for external review upon a finding that the request was not complete.

Deadline Extensions that Apply to Plan Administrators:

A. COBRA Election Notice

The guidance provides that the Outbreak Period will also be disregarded when determining the date by which employers must provide a COBRA election notice.

B. Forms 5500 and M-1

The guidance provides that Form 5500 filings that were otherwise due on or after April 1, 2020 and before July 15, 2020 are now due on July 15, 2020. The guidance also provides the same relief for Form M-1 filings due during the same period. Form M-1 must be filed by multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs) and certain other entities to report compliance with certain ERISA group health plan requirements.

C. Other Notices and Disclosures

Additionally, the guidance indicates that a plan fiduciary will not be in violation of ERISA for a failure to timely furnish a notice, disclosure, or document that must be furnished during the Outbreak Period, if the plan fiduciary acts in good faith and furnishes the notice, disclosure, or document as soon as administratively practicable under the circumstances. Good faith acts include use of electronic alternative means of communicating with plan participants and beneficiaries who the plan fiduciary reasonably believes have effective access to electronic means of communication, including email, text messages, and continuous access websites.

Please contact Mindi Johnson or Julie Hamlet if you’d like to discuss any of these issues further: