Back on January 30, 2023, the President announced his intention to end the COVID-19 National Emergency (NE) and Public Health Emergency (PHE) effective May 11, 2023. If you remember, both emergency declarations resulted in various forms of relief for employer-sponsored benefit plans, and both have been extended several times. Employers should be preparing for the end of the relief. BenefitMall is sending out this alert as a guide to help our broker partners and their clients.
Employers and other plan sponsors should start evaluating what changes to make to their health benefits. Additionally, some of the flexibility that was provided to extend the timeframes for participants for certain health plan-related deadlines, such as special enrollment, COBRA election and payment, and claims and appeals deadlines, may soon lapse.
Communication with participants in a group health plan is imperative. Some of the potential questions may include:
- What health benefits are changing? When?
- Can participants still receive free COVID-19 tests? If not, what will the new benefits be?
- What are the new deadlines by which participants and their families need to make decisions?
We urge plan sponsors to consider the following:
- Make decisions regarding the coverage of COVID-19 diagnostic testing, vaccines, and related services.
- Communicate to and update participants on these coverage decisions.
- Inform participants that the extended deadlines will be replaced with pre-emergency deadlines at the end of the Outbreak Period.
- Review all plan-related documents and participant communications to ensure they reflect proper deadlines and coverage information. Plan sponsors that amended legal plan documents and/or summary plan descriptions to incorporate the requirements will need to amend plan documents and/or issue SMMs along with any participant communication materials.
- Any change that impacts the summary benefits of coverage will require 60-day advance notification.
On March 30, H.J. Res. 7 was voted on and passed in both the House and the Senate. This resolution would terminate National Emergency prior to the May 11 date. The President signed the resolution on April 10, and it is effective immediately.
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