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DOL Issues Emergency Extensions to COBRA

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) today issued opens in a new windowFrequently Asked Questionsopens PDF file under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and revised opens in a new windowCOBRA model notices. Plan administrators can use these model notices to notify plan participants and beneficiaries of their rights under COBRA and qualified beneficiaries of their rights to elect COBRA.

“The information we’re providing today will help Medicare-eligible Americans make key decisions regarding their healthcare coverage,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “As many individuals face economic hardship related to coronavirus, the Department will continue to inform workers and help them avoid incurring unnecessary health costs.” Scalia added, “This change was prompted by a letter from members of Congress –Representatives Kevin Brady, Virginia Foxx, Richard Neal, Frank Pallone, Bobby Scott, and Greg Walden. We thank them for their attention to the issue.”

In general, COBRA allows employees (and their families) who would otherwise lose their group health coverage due to certain life events to continue their same group health coverage. These events include termination or reduction in hours, death of a covered employee, divorce or legal separation, Medicare entitlement and loss of dependent status. COBRA generally lasts for 18 months but, in some cases, can last up to 36 months.

Under COBRA, group health plans must also provide covered employees and their families with certain notices explaining their COBRA rights. The revised model notices provide additional information to address COBRA’s interaction with Medicare. The model notices explain that there may be advantages to enrolling in Medicare before, or instead of, electing COBRA. It also highlights that if an individual is eligible for both COBRA and Medicare, electing COBRA coverage may impact enrollment into Medicare as well as certain out-of-pocket costs.

These documents will provide important information to COBRA-eligible individuals as they make healthcare choices for themselves and their families while assisting employers that must comply with the notice requirements under COBRA.

EBSA’s mission is to assure the security of the retirement, health, and other workplace-related benefits of America’s workers and their families. EBSA accomplishes this by developing effective regulations; assisting and educating workers, plan sponsors, fiduciaries and service providers; and vigorously enforcing the law.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Source:  opens in a new windowU.S. Department of Labor News Release, May 1st, 2020

 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.  It is the second major legislative initiative passed in the United States in response to COVID-19.

opens in a new windowFamilies First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) took effect on April 1, 2020, and provides eligible workers with paid leave for reasons related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Covered employers should post notice of the FFCRA requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises. A copy of the notification is linked below, along with a link to the U.S. Department of Labor website, which provides additional guidance on paid leave requirements related to COVID-19.

opens in a new windowDOL FFCRA Posteropens PDF file

opens in a new windowDOL FFCRA Fact Sheet

We have also provided an FFCRA Compliance Bulletin, which includes frequently asked questions issued by the DOL to assist employers and employees on their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA, as well as a resource on the U.S. Chamber website that outlines what businesses need to know.

opens in a new windowCrane Agency – Families First Coronavirus Response Act Q&Aopens PDF file

opens in a new windowU.S. Chamber – FFCRA:  What Businesses Need to Know

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes two new significant paid leave laws:  (1) the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, and (2) the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.  Both statutes address absences from work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Both provisions are effective April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA)
This act creates a new form of FMLA leave covering up to 12 weeks of an eligible employee’s inability to work or telework “due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.”

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)
Employees covered under the EPSLA are entitled to paid leave for several different types of absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic:
– Employees subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19
– Employees who have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
– Employees experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis
– Employees caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2)
– An Employee caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons
– Employees experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Due to the speed at which these laws took effect, the U.S Department of Labor has created a Q&A page to address questions and provide additional guidance:   opens in a new windowU.S. Department of Labor – Families First Coronavirus Response Act Q&A

Please visit the opens in a new windowCrane Agency Coronavirus Preparedness Resource page for further information.  As with any rapidly changing situation, please check local, state, and federal websites for the most recent updates and guidance on this quickly evolving topic.