COVID-19: Health Plan Timeframe Extensions

March 2, 2021 | WebTPA

On May 7, 2020, WebTPA provided information regarding the extension of certain health plan timeframes due to the COVID-19 pandemic (EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01). The extensions were removed from the calculations of time periods listed below for the duration of the “Outbreak Period,” which was defined as March 1, 2020, until 60 days after the pandemic-related National Emergency Ends.

The timeframes that were adjusted by Notice 2020-01 are as follows:

• The 30-day or 60-day period for HIPAA Special Enrollment (such as the addition of a new spouse or newborn child)

• The 14-day period to offer coverage to newly-eligible COBRA beneficiaries

• The 60-day election period for COBRA initial enrollment

• The 30-day period to pay COBRA premiums

• The 60-day notification period for a COBRA beneficiary to notify a plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability

• The claims and appeal submission timeframes as provided by plans

• The timeframe to request an external review or provide information that would perfect an external review 

On Friday February 26, 2021, the US Department of Labor issued updated guidance on the EBSA relief, stating that the relief is limited to only one year per statutory language. So, in effect, the Outbreak Period for purposes of this notice has now ended as of February 28, 2021. Under section 518 of ERISA and section 7508a of the Code, the “disregarded period for individual actions ‘required or permitted’ is expressly limited by statute to a period of 1 year from the date the individual action would otherwise have been required or permitted.”

We are reviewing the guidance issued last week, but wanted to share the update as soon as possible as this will impact various processes that WebTPA handles on behalf of our clients from claims appeals to COBRA elections. We will provide more detailed updates on the processes themselves and updates taking place as a result of this notice shortly.