Admin America No Comments

Update on COVID-19-Related Extensions Impacting COBRA and Claims Filing Deadlines

Last week the U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance regarding when certain COVID-19 related deadline extensions will end.  This new guidance was released in EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 which can be found online here.  In short, the guidance clarifies that deadline extensions will continue beyond March 1, 2020 but the length of each deadline extension is determined on a case-by-case basis (instead of all deadlines ending on the same future day) and limited to one year. 

The guidance issued last week supplemented guidance originally announced last May by the DOL and the IRS (available online here).  The COVID related deadline extensions announced last year required group health plans to disregard certain deadlines under COBRA, ERISA and HIPAA.   Last May’s guidance had a clear starting point.  It applied to any deadlines that would have otherwise occurred on or after March 1, 2020.  The end point was not as clear.  There was not a specific date announced as to when the deadline relief would end. Instead it provided that the period for calculating deadlines would not start again until 60 days after the COVID-19 national emergency was declared over by the President.   While that definition seems specific, it was complicated by a one year limit on the DOL and IRS’s ability to extend these types of deadlines.  Therefore, as February 28, 2021 approached, there was uncertainty as to how the end of the deadline extensions would impact plans and participants.

Notice 2021-01 clarifies that applicable deadlines will be extended until the earlier of (1) one year from the date the deadline would have otherwise applied, or (2) 60 days after the end of the announced COVID-19 National Emergency. Once the extension period has ended, the period of time for determining the applicable deadline will resume. For example, if a COBRA qualified beneficiary would have been required to make a COBRA election by May 15, 2020, the deadline is extended until May 15, 2021. Similarly, a qualified beneficiary whose COBRA premium payment grace period for November 2020 should have ended on November 30, 2020 may now pay their premium for November 2020 coverage as late as November 30, 2021 (presuming the COVID National Emergency does not end at least 60 days before that date).

The Notice also indicates that plans should consider sending updated notices to participants regarding their revised deadlines. Plans are also advised to consider notifying participants who are losing coverage of other coverage options, such as through the recently announced COVID-19 special enrollment period in the Exchanges. The notice acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic and other circumstances may disrupt normal plan operations and reassures employers acting in good faith and with reasonable diligence that enforcement will emphasize compliance assistance and other relief. The notice indicates that other federal agencies with jurisdiction over employer sponsored group health plans concur with this new guidance and its application to laws under their jurisdiction.

Admin America is working with the vendors of our benefits administration software to incorporate this new guidance into our administrative procedures with the expectation that the necessary adjustments will be completed this month.  Employers and/or their professional benefits advisors with any questions about this most recent guidance are invited to submit their questions via Admin America’s online Q&A portal available here

Admin America No Comments

Update on New Section 125 Plan Rule Changes


Admin America, Inc. in-house attorney and President, Trey Tompkins, presents an update on recent federal rule changes impacting employee benefit plans.

Covered topics include:

  • IRS Notice 2020-33
  • IRS Notice 2020-29
  • EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01
  • 26 CFR Part 54 Final Regulation
  • Revised COBRA Model Notices
  • CARES Act Eligible Medical Expense Changes
  • IRS Notice 2020-18

If you have any questions, post them in the Q & A Forum here

Admin America No Comments

Federal Government Responses To The Coronavirus Pandemic Impacting HSAs, FSAs and HRAs

The federal government has responded to the coronavirus pandemic with numerous legislative and regulatory changes to help Americans deal with the health and economic challenges we are going through this Spring.  Included along with the stimulus checks, loan packages and enhanced unemployment benefits are other provisions that, while smaller in impact, should prove beneficial to families covered by account based health reimbursement plans.

One of these changes that will impact the largest number of plan participants is the permanent repeal of the requirement for a prescription issued by a physician in order for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) to reimburse the cost of over-the-counter medications.  This repeal was an element of the CARES Act signed by President Trump on Friday, March 27 but is retroactive to January 1 of this year for all plans.  In addition, the CARES Act also authorized, for the first time, all three types of account based plans to reimburse feminine hygiene products. 

Account based plans no longer being subject to the over-the-counter medications prescription requirement raises two issues that plan participants should keep in mind.   First, participants utilizing plan issued electronic payment cards to purchase over-the-counter medications may experience denials at the point of sale in the near term future.  Many retailers utilize an automated database system to screen individual products for eligibility for payment with the specialized electronic payment cards issued by account based plans.   It may take several months for some retailers to update their databases with the thousands of newly eligible products. 

The second issue participants need to remember is that over-the-counter medications remain subject to the general rules account based plans must apply in determining reimbursement eligibility.  For example, plans are not authorized to reimburse expenses which are primarily for general wellness as opposed to a specific medical condition.  This means that purchases of vitamins and supplements will typically require additional documentation from a health care provider regarding the specific medical condition for which they are being purchased.

The remaining account based plan related changes described below are more specific to HSAs and the High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) that individuals are required to have coverage under in order to make HSA contributions. 

In order to increase access to health care for individuals covered under HDHP plans, the CARES Act included a provision that allows for first dollar coverage of telehealth services (i.e., participants are not required to meet the HDHP’s annual deductible before receiving benefits for telehealth services).  Ordinarily, if an HDHP provided first dollar coverage for telehealth services, individuals covered under the plan would not be eligible to make contributions to their HSA for any month such coverage was in place.  This temporary exemption added to the CARES Act waives that restriction.  The temporary provision is in effect from March 27, 2020 until December 31, 2021.

Another waiver of the general rule against first dollar HDHP coverage was issued by the IRS to allow plans to cover all COVID-19 related testing and treatment prior to the covered individual meeting their annual deductible.  This waiver does not compel plans on their own to provide this coverage although other newly enacted federal laws such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the FFCRA) generally mandate COVID-19 related coverage (but that’s a topic for another post).

Lastly, as part of the IRS’s extension of the 2019 tax year return filing deadline from April 15 until July 15, 2020, other deadlines linked to the return filing deadline were also impacted.  These included the deadline for individuals to make 2019 tax year HSA contributions and to take curative distributions in the event they had contributed too much to their accounts in 2019.

If you have any questions about any of these changes, please e-mail or call 800-366-2961, Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.