The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has again extended the public health emergency declared for the COVID-19 pandemic. On January 31, 2020, HHS initially declared a public health emergency (PHE) and the declaration was previously renewed in April and July, and has now again been extended. PHE declarations are generally effective for 90 days, and unless this most recent PHE declaration is terminated or extended further, it will expire on January 22, 2021.
Various group health plan (GHP) related deadlines are extended due to the PHE (unless the agencies announce a different end date for purposes of these extensions). Joint DOL and IRS guidance extends numerous deadlines by specifying that the “outbreak period” beginning March 1, 2020, and ending 60 days after the announced end of the PHE is to be disregarded for specified purposes. Said differently, the rules “freeze” timely deadlines for the duration of the outbreak period. This extension applies to the following:
In addition, GHPs and responsible plan fiduciaries will not be treated as having violated ERISA if they act in good faith and furnish any notices, disclosures, or documents that would otherwise have to be furnished during the outbreak period “as soon as administratively practicable under the circumstances.” The deadline for furnishing advance notice of modifications to the summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) has also been extended.
Keep in mind that some COVID-19-related guidance may have different end dates (for instance, testing and diagnostic services under FFCRA and the CARES Act), and the timing is still in flux. Conner Strong & Buckelew will provide alerts and updates as new information becomes available and pronouncements are made about the end of the national emergency and the PHE and as guidance is issued that otherwise extends, terminates, or modifies deadline relief.
Please contact your Conner Strong & Buckelew account representative toll-free at 1-877-861-3220 with any questions. For a complete list of Legislative Updates issued by Conner Strong & Buckelew, visit our online Resource Center.