IRS, DOL relax some health plan, COBRA enrollment deadlines

employer health plan

In the past couple weeks, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service jointly issued new rules that give certain qualifying employees more time during this pandemic to enroll in their employer’s medical plan following a special enrollment event, which includes things like a new marriage, new baby, etc.

In a business Q&A in The Oklahoman, McAfee & Taft employee benefits lawyer Melissa Cottle explained that the regulations specifically provide that plan sponsors must disregard the COVID-19 “Outbreak Period” — the period that began March 1 and ends on the 60th day after the day the National Emergency is declared to have ended — when calculating these deadlines. For example, if the National Emergency is declared over on May 31, the Outbreak Period will end July 30.

“While these new rules offer notable relief to those individuals affected, it can create administrative and record-keeping challenges for plan administrators, especially if the qualifying health plan event occurred just prior to March 1,” Cottle told The Oklahoman. “For example, an employee who got married on February 14 now only has 15 days, not 30 days, after the Outbreak Period has ended to add her spouse to her company’s medical plan because 15 days had already elapsed before the Outbreak Period started. It’s important for plan administrators to accurately calculate, calendar and track each individual’s amended deadlines caused by the Outbreak Period.”

You can learn more about these new rules and their impact on employers and employees in a special LINC video alert presented by Melissa Cottle and Brandon Long.