Update on COVID-19 Extensions Impacting COBRA

As we have mentioned in previous communications, some COBRA deadlines have been extended by temporary changes enacted by the United States Departments of Labor and Treasury in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. These extensions apply to certain COBRA deadlines during an “Outbreak Period” defined as March 1, 2020 until 60 days after (a) a yet-to-be announced end of the COVID-19 national emergency, or (b) an end date announced by the agencies, which is not to extend beyond March 1, 2021. 

Deadlines extended through the outbreak period include: (1) deadline for plan to furnish COBRA election notice; (2) deadline for participant to elect COBRA; (3) deadline for qualified beneficiary to make a first premium payment or ongoing premium payment (deadline + grace period); (4) deadline for individual or employer to notify plan of a qualifying event; and (5) deadline for individual to notify the plan of a determination of disability.

While the deadline to furnish COBRA election notices has been extended, ProBenefits will continue to send required notices based on standard deadlines and procedures. 

Deadlines that have been extended and impact ProBenefits’ COBRA administration include:

  • COBRA Election Period – For COBRA qualifying events occurring March 1, 2020 or after, the deadline to elect COBRA is 60 days after the end of the Outbreak Period. Once elected, all monthly premiums due must be paid in full in order to reactivate COBRA coverage.

  • Notice of Qualifying Event or Disability Extension – For certain COBRA qualifying events, second qualifying events (divorce or legal separation, a dependent child ceasing to be a dependent, death or Medicare entitlement), or if deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration and potentially eligible for a disability extension, the normal 60-day limit will not be enforced for any required notification that would normally be due during the Outbreak Period. 

  • COBRA Premium Payments – The extended deadline for premium payments originally due March 1, 2020 or after will be either 45 or 30 days after the end of the Outbreak Period depending on whether the payment due is an initial or subsequent monthly payment respectively. Although a Qualified Beneficiary will receive a termination of coverage notice if payments are not made within the standard deadlines, coverage will be retroactively reinstated if payments are subsequently made within the extended deadlines provided by the COVID-19 relief.

As part of our updated procedures to comply with these short-term changes and to provide this information to COBRA Qualified Beneficiaries, ProBenefits is attaching a supplemental notice to the following COBRA notices/communications:
  • COBRA General Rights Notice (Initial/New Hire Notice);
  • COBRA Specific Rights Notice (Election Notice);
  • COBRA Premium Coupon Booklet; and
  • COBRA Termination Notice. 

The supplemental notice will also be sent to Qualified Beneficiaries who have had COBRA coverage terminated early due to non-payment between March 1, 2020 and the time we added the attachment to the Termination Notice.

Additionally, while not COVID-related, our COBRA notices have been updated to reflect recent DOL revisions to the model notices to help Qualified Beneficiaries better understand the interactions between Medicare and COBRA.  

We recommend that you review the supplemental notice that we are providing to QBs for additional details about how we are handling these events. You can also provide this notice to your employees or COBRA participants who have questions.

Don't forget to attend our client webinar tomorrow, June 17, at 11 am EDT. This session will feature a practical discussion regarding key COBRA compliance topics. We will provide a refresher on these recent regulatory changes and provide additional practical details and instruction on how ProBenefits is handling these changes for your group health plans and qualified beneficiaries. If you haven't already done so, register here  to attend. Even if you can't attend the live session, go ahead and register to receive a link to the recording afterward.

As always, you can contact us at COBRA@ProBenefits.com or (888) 722-8382 for more information.