DOL Extends Timeframes for COBRA Eligibility, Issues New Model Notices

May 08, 2020

The Department of Labor released updates to its model COBRA notices in order to provide additional information and maximize flexibility for those who may lose employer-based health care coverage during the pandemic.

Employers need to ensure that their notices include the most current information required by DOL, but they are not required to use the updated model notices.

The updates include changes to the content of the initial and election notices provided to employees and beneficiaries.  These notices inform participants of their right to continued coverage after a qualifying event, outline that there could be advantages to enrolling in Medicare instead of electing COBRA, and explain the impact electing COBRA coverage has on Medicare enrollment and out-of-pocket costs.

DOL and IRS also issued a Joint Notice extending the timeframe of COBRA eligibility during the “outbreak period,” which extends from March 1 to 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 national emergency.  The participant will then have another 45 days to make the first COBRA premium payment.  Participants already on COBRA also have been given extensions on premium payment deadlines to 30 days after the end of the “outbreak period.”  Employers may not terminate coverage or reject claims on the basis of nonpayment of premiums during this time.