U.S. Department of Labor Issues Proposed Regulations Amending the COBRA Notice Requirements

By on May 8, 2014

On May 2, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued proposed regulations which seek to amend the notice requirements under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).  The changes are intended “to better align the provision of guidance under the COBRA notice requirements with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions already in effect, as well as any provisions of federal law that will become applicable in the future.”

Under COBRA, a group health plan must provide participants with a general COBRA notice and COBRA qualified beneficiaries with an election notice.  These notices describe a qualified beneficiary’s right to continue coverage under a group health plan.  On May 8, 2013, DOL issued Technical Release 2013-02, which included a series of model COBRA notices (see “Notice of Coverage Options Available Through the Exchanges” for more information).  These model notices include references to the ACA, noting that some qualified beneficiaries (1) may want to consider and compare health coverage alternatives to COBRA continuation coverage that are available through the ACA exchanges and (2) may also be eligible for a premium tax credit to help pay for the cost of coverage.

The proposed regulations eliminate the current versions of the model notices.  However, until the regulations are finalized and effective, the DOL will consider appropriately completed use of the model notices that are currently available on its website to constitute good faith compliance with the notice content requirements of COBRA.  Once the current notices are available, they will be posted at the following links:

Note: Use of the model notices is not required.

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