Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter

BULLETIN
April 29, 2020

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Benefits in General

[Official Guidance]

Text of EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01: Guidance and Relief for Employee Benefit Plans Due to the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) Outbreak

"[A]n employee benefit plan and the responsible plan fiduciary will not be in violation of ERISA for a failure to timely furnish a notice, disclosure, or document that must be furnished between March 1, 2020, and 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 National Emergency, if the plan and responsible fiduciary act in good faith and furnish the notice, disclosure, or document as soon as administratively practicable under the circumstances. Good faith acts include use of electronic alternative means of communicating with plan participants and beneficiaries who the plan fiduciary reasonably believes have effective access to electronic means of communication, including email, text messages, and continuous access websites....

[Items specifically addressed in this relief notice include] Plan Loans and Distributions ... Participant Contributions and Loan Repayments ... Blackout Notices ... Form 5500 and Form M-1 Filing Relief....

"General ERISA Fiduciary Compliance Guidance: The guiding principle for plans must be to act reasonably, prudently, and in the interest of the covered workers and their families who rely on their health, retirement, and other employee benefit plans for their physical and economic wellbeing. Plan fiduciaries should make reasonable accommodations to prevent the loss of benefits or undue delay in benefits payments in such cases and should attempt to minimize the possibility of individuals losing benefits because of a failure to comply with pre-established timeframes. In addition, the [DOL] acknowledges that there may be instances when plans and service providers may be unable to achieve full and timely compliance with claims processing and other ERISA requirements. Our approach to enforcement will emphasize compliance assistance and include grace periods and other relief where appropriate, including when physical disruption to a plan or service provider's principal place of business makes compliance with pre-established timeframes for certain claims' decisions or disclosures impossible."

Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor [DOL]

[Official Guidance]

Text of EBSA and IRS Final Regs: Extension of Certain Timeframes for Employee Benefit Plans, Participants, and Beneficiaries Affected by the COVID-19 Outbreak (PDF)

16 pages. "This document announces the extension of certain timeframes under [ERISA] and the Internal Revenue Code for group health plans, disability and other welfare plans, pension plans, and participants and beneficiaries of these plans during the COVID-19 National Emergency.... A. Special [Group Health Plan] Enrollment Timeframes ... B. COBRA Timeframes ... C. Claims Procedure Timeframes ... D. External Review Process Timeframes."

Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor [DOL]; and Internal Revenue Service [IRS]

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David Rhett Baker, J.D., Editor and Publisher  davebaker@benefitslink.com
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BenefitsLink Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter, ISSN no. 1536-9595. Copyright 2020 BenefitsLink.com, Inc. All materials contained in this newsletter are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of BenefitsLink.com, Inc., or in the case of third party materials, the owner of those materials. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notices from copies of the content.

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