Highlights of Recent Regulatory Changes
In recent weeks, the federal government released several rounds of new guidance relevant to employers’ efforts to maintain compliance with leave laws and effectively administer benefits. Employers should take note of the following changes.
DOL Expands COVID-19 Paid Leave Guidance
The Department of Labor continues to issue clarifications concerning the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA), including revisions and expansions of its prior guidance on the following topics:
- Requiring employees to use existing paid leave entitlements at the same time as FFCRA
- COVID-19 leave for employees already on a leave of absence
- Stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders
- Use of leave by individuals who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19
- What it means to "seek a medical diagnosis" for COVID-19
- How to calculate an employee’s "regular rate" for FFCRA payments
We have established our COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions to keep you informed about the impact of these regulations and will continue to update our resource page as new guidance is released. You are also invited to join an informational webinar on this Act.
New Model COBRA Notices
The Department of Labor recently released new model COBRA notices and FAQs, with an expanded discussion of how Medicare interacts with COBRA rights. In this period of uncertainty, individuals whose medical coverage is terminating may want to consider and compare health coverage alternatives to COBRA continuation coverage, such as coverage that is available through the Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace) or enrollment in Medicare (if eligible).
While there is no specific effective date by which employers must update existing notices, employers that properly use the model notices are considered compliant with COBRA’s notice requirements. For this reason, consider working with your plan or COBRA administrator to incorporate use of the new model notices as quickly as possible.
Extended Deadlines for Group Health and Disability Plans
Your employees (and their beneficiaries) now have additional time to make certain benefits and health coverage-related decisions for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. The extended deadlines mean that FSA/HRA runoff periods ending March 1, 2020 or after will be extended. In addition, until the national emergency is over, individuals have more time to:
- Notify the plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability
- File a benefit claim or appeal
- Enroll under a special enrollment period or make permissible midyear election changes
- Elect COBRA continuation coverage and pay COBRA premiums
We’re Here to Help
As always, American Fidelity is committed to providing our customers with up-to-date information on employee health and welfare benefits compliance. For more information about this and other regulatory developments, visit our website at HCReducation.com. You can sign up for our Compliance Insights newsletters at bit.ly/AFASVIP.
This blog is up to date as of May 2020 and has not been updated for changes in the law, administration or current events.