Agencies Extend of Certain Time Frames for Employee Benefit Plans

May 05, 2020

Learn more about the new final rules and FAQs released by the Departments of Labor and the Treasury on April 28, 2020.


On April 28, 2020, the Departments of Labor and the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services (collectively, the "Departments") issued new final rules imposing mandatory time frame extensions for common employee benefits compliance requirements. The department also issued a set of Frequently Asked Questions on health benefit and retirement benefit issues to help employee benefit plan participants and beneficiaries, plan sponsors, and employers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak understand their rights and responsibilities under ERISA. As a result of the COVID-19 National Emergency, the Departments state that employers, employees, and dependents may have difficulty meeting standard time frames with respect to HIPAA, COBRA, and claims. The new final rule extends certain of those time frames to assist employers and employees in the process of maintaining employer-sponsored group health plan coverage.

While the new rules provide relief for some aspects of employee benefit plan administration, it does not modify the existing rules regarding cafeteria plan elections nor does it make any changes to the amount of carryover permitted by a health FSA. Those requirements remain unchanged.

Relief for Plan Participants, Beneficiaries, Qualified Beneficiaries, and Claimants

All group health plans, disability and other employee welfare benefit plans, and employee pension benefit plans subject to ERISA or the Code must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until sixty (60) days after the announced end of the National Emergency or such other date announced by the Agencies in a future notice (the "Outbreak Period"). The relief during the Outbreak Period is applicable in determining the following periods and dates for all plan participants, beneficiaries, qualified beneficiaries, or claimants wherever located:

  1. The 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request special enrollment under HIPAA;
  2. The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage;
  3. The date for making COBRA premium payments;
  4. The date for individuals to notify the plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability;
  5. The date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan's claims procedure;
  6. The date within which claimants may file an appeal of an adverse benefit determination under the plan's claims procedure pursuant;
  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 a claimant may file information to perfect a request for external review upon a finding that the request was not complete.

Relief for Group Health Plans

Group health plans must disregard the Outbreak Period when determining the date for providing a COBRA election notice.


The final rules contain examples and use April 30, 2020 an assumed end-date of the Covid-19 National Emergency. The Departments confirm that this date was used to make the example clear and understandable. The actual end-date has not yet been determined.

For additional information see:

Next Steps

The Agencies will continue to monitor the effects of the Outbreak and may provide additional relief as warranted.