EMPLOYER TAX BRIEF
Extended benefit claims and appeals periods during COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal agencies have extended certain claims and appeals periods for employee pension benefits plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
The relief also applies to qualifying group health plans, as well as eligible disability plans and other employee welfare benefit plans.
The extension permits the “outbreak period” — which began March 1, 2020, and will conclude 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 emergency — to be disregarded for specified purposes related to claims. Read on for further details.
Affected timeframes include the deadlines for individuals to:
Deadlines have also been extended for requesting external review following exhaustion of the plan’s internal appeals procedures. Other deadlines that apply for perfecting an incomplete request for review are extended as well.
To determine the 365-day period applicable to the claim, the outbreak period is disregarded. Therefore, the last day to submit a claim under this example is 365 days after June 29, 2020, which is June 29, 2021.
Although plans aren’t expressly granted more time to process and decide claims, the U.S. Department of Labor recognizes that the COVID-19 emergency may present challenges for plans in achieving “full and timely compliance” with ERISA’s claims procedure requirements. The agency said that its approach to enforcement will emphasize compliance assistance and may include other relief.
If your organization sponsors an ERISA plan — be it a pension, health plan or some other type of welfare benefit plan — explore the ramifications of this extension carefully. Our firm can provide more information and keep you updated on further developments about COVID-19-related relief.