Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
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How to Apply the IRS’s COBRA Premium Subsidy Guidance

On May 18, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued much-anticipated Notice 2021-31 (the Notice) regarding the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) premium subsidy provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Under ARPA, a 100% COBRA premium subsidy and additional COBRA enrollment rights are available to certain assistance eligible individuals (AEIs) during the period beginning on April 1, 2021, and ending on September 30, 2021.

The US Department of Labor (DOL) has previously issued model notices and a set of FAQs regarding the COBRA premium subsidy. The IRS has now issued additional FAQs in the Notice that apply to employers and plan sponsors­.

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DOL Relaxes Deadlines for ERISA-Governed Group Health Plans

The US Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service and US Department of the Treasury, issued guidance and deadline extensions applicable to ERISA-governed group health and welfare plans. The guidance provides relief for plan sponsors, plan administrators and plan participants that may be struggling to comply with applicable deadlines and requirements in the midst of the chaos related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Department of Labor Updates COBRA FAQs and Model Notices

On May 1, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued updated Frequently Asked Questions and revised model notices under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). COBRA is a federal law that permits individuals to continue group health plan coverage for a limited period of time following certain events, such as a termination of employment, that are coupled with a loss of coverage. Employers are required to notify individuals of their rights under COBRA.

The changes in the model notices are primarily designed to help Medicare-eligible individuals understand their options for healthcare coverage. The model notices, however, do not include language that addresses DOL relief issued earlier in the week that provides additional time for individuals to elect COBRA coverage through the end of the coronavirus pandemic. Plan sponsors should work with their COBRA vendors and legal counsel to determine whether the model notice updates or coronavirus relief would necessitate any updates to the notices currently used by their group health plan to notify plan participants and beneficiaries of their rights under COBRA.




Fla. Class Actions Show Why Correct COBRA Notices Matter

In Florida’s federal courts, there has been an epidemic of class actions alleging that employers failed to provide technically proper notice of the right to continued healthcare coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. A dozen such lawsuits have been filed (each by the same law firm) with mirror image allegations.

These cases illustrate why it is necessary to sweat the details in issuing COBRA notices, which McDermott’s Megan Mardy and Julie McConnell walk through in a recent analysis for Law360.

Access the full article.

Originally published by Law360, October 2019




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

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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