Important Update: Based on informal comments from the U.S. Department of Labor, it appears that the tolling of benefit plan deadlines will end on July 10, 2023, as described in our earlier blog on this subject, notwithstanding the legislation that was signed on Monday ending the COVID-19 National Emergency on April 10th. As explained in our blog below, the April 10th termination of the National Emergency technically means that under the current rule, the tolling period ends a month earlier (on June 9th).  However, it appears that the agencies are contemplating changing the rule so that it will still end on July 10 as previously scheduled. Check back here for updates as we await a formal announcement from the U.S. Department of Labor.

On Monday, April 10, 2023, President Biden signed legislation passed by Congress ending the COVID-19 National Emergency.  Since this legislation appears to have an immediate effect, the National Emergency will end one full month prior to the May 11, 2023, date on which the Biden Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services had previously announced that they intended to jointly end the COVID-19 National Emergency and the Public Health Emergency.

What does this mean for employee benefit plans? 

Not a whole lot.  As we noted in our prior blog on the end of the emergency periods (found here), there are a number of benefit coverage mandates that were adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  These mandates include, for example, in-network and out-of-network coverage of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations without cost sharing, as well as coverage of over-the-counter tests.  However, these coverage mandates are tied to the existence of the Public Health Emergency, not the National Emergency.  The legislation signed yesterday by President Biden changed only the expiration date of the National Emergency – it did not change the scheduled May 11, 2023, end date of the Public Health Emergency.  Therefore, those mandates will end on May 11, 2023, as previously scheduled, unless the Administration announces another change.

Then what does change?

The only benefit plan mandate tied to the COVID-19 National Emergency is the requirement to toll participant deadlines for making COBRA and special enrollment elections, filing claims and appeals, and making COBRA premium payments until sixty days after the end of the COVID-19 National Emergency (referred to as the “Outbreak Period”).

Had the COVID-19 National Emergency ended on May 11, 2023, as previously scheduled, the Outbreak Period would have ended on July 10, 2023.  Since this emergency ended on April 10, 2023, the Outbreak Period will instead end on Friday, June 9, 2023.

This change means that plan administrators will not be required to toll benefit plan deadlines after June 9, 2023.  So, the benefit plan deadlines previously tolled during the COVID-19 National Emergency will start to run after that date.

Takeaway for plan sponsors

As noted in our prior blog, plan sponsors and administrators should consider whether and how to communicate with participants about the end of the tolling period.  Any election forms or other communications referencing the tolling period should also be updated to reflect its expiration.

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Photo of Jennifer Rigterink Jennifer Rigterink

Jennifer Rigterink is senior counsel in the Labor Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Jennifer focuses on a diverse array of tax and ERISA issues impacting employee benefits.  Her wide-ranging practice encompasses qualified retirement plans and non-qualified…

Jennifer Rigterink is senior counsel in the Labor Department and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Jennifer focuses on a diverse array of tax and ERISA issues impacting employee benefits.  Her wide-ranging practice encompasses qualified retirement plans and non-qualified arrangements, health and welfare benefits, and fringe benefit programs.  She counsels single-employer and multiemployer clients on matters pertaining to plan administration, design and qualification, as well as regulatory, legislative and legal compliance.

In recent years, Jennifer has advised employers and plan sponsors with fiduciary and governance matters applicable to defined benefit plans and pension de-risking activities, including lump sum window programs, annuity purchases, and pension plan terminations.

Jennifer frequently counsels clients on health and welfare arrangements, with a particular focus on all matters relating to family building and reproductive health care benefits.  Her experience also includes working with employers and plan sponsors on mental health parity compliance issues.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Jennifer clerked for Judge Jacques L. Wiener, Jr., in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Judge Yvette Kane in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Photo of Roberta Chevlowe Roberta Chevlowe

Roberta K. Chevlowe provides advice to employers and boards of trustees of multiemployer benefit plans on a broad range of issues relating to their retirement, health and other employee benefit plans. With three decades of experience practicing in this area, Roberta employs a…

Roberta K. Chevlowe provides advice to employers and boards of trustees of multiemployer benefit plans on a broad range of issues relating to their retirement, health and other employee benefit plans. With three decades of experience practicing in this area, Roberta employs a practical, business-minded approach to helping her clients comply with the various requirements imposed by ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, COBRA, the Affordable Care Act and other federal and state laws affecting employee benefit programs. Roberta’s practice also includes advising clients in connection with benefit claim appeals, lawsuits and government audits; drafting plan documents, policies and employee communications materials; and negotiating with plan service providers.

Roberta is best known for her work in the area of COBRA compliance and for advising employers in connection with the benefits they provide to employees’ domestic partners and same-sex spouses. She is a co-author of The COBRA Handbook and lectures and publishes articles on a variety of employee benefits topics. In addition, Ms. Chevlowe is a leader of Proskauer’s Task Force on Reproductive Health Care Benefits.

Photo of Robert Projansky Robert Projansky

Robert M. Projansky is a partner in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group and is currently a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee.

Rob has a broad practice advising both multiemployer and single employer clients on all issues related to the legal…

Robert M. Projansky is a partner in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group and is currently a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee.

Rob has a broad practice advising both multiemployer and single employer clients on all issues related to the legal compliance and tax-qualification of ERISA-covered pension and welfare plans. Rob’s clients include the largest and highest-profile U.S. media and entertainment industry clients, as well as a broad range of Fortune 500 companies.

In the multiemployer context, he serves as counsel to the boards of trustees of a number of large and small funds and frequently assists clients in addressing issues related to the funding of defined benefit pension plans, including zone status, benefit suspensions, special financial assistance and withdrawal liability. He also advises these clients on healthcare compliance, cybersecurity and government investigations. In addition, his practice includes advising corporate clients on their responsibilities related to multiemployer plans, with particular expertise on the impact of multiemployer and collectively bargained plans in corporate transactions.

Rob has extensive experience advising corporate clients regarding general compliance issues and fiduciary compliance matters, including plan asset and prohibited transaction issues. He also has addressed a myriad of issues related to complex plan investments, including negotiation of separately managed and collective investment vehicles for both traditional and alternative investments such as hedge funds, private equity funds and fund-of-funds vehicles.

Rob is described in Chambers USA as “incredibly smart and creative, and a really effective, zealous advocate” who “adroitly communicates complicated ERISA matters to clients in understandable language and well-timed levity.”  He is a widely sought after speaker on topics related to employee benefits, fiduciary, cybersecurity and government investigations and speaks each year at the annual conference and various other conferences sponsored by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, the largest educational organization in the employee benefits industry. Rob currently serves as one of the nine Advisory Directors on the Board of Directors of the International Foundation.

Photo of Jesse T. Foley Jesse T. Foley

Jesse T. Foley is a labor associate and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Jesse has a diverse practice advising multiemployer and single-employer clients on all aspects related to the legal compliance and tax qualification of ERISA-covered pension and…

Jesse T. Foley is a labor associate and a member of the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group.

Jesse has a diverse practice advising multiemployer and single-employer clients on all aspects related to the legal compliance and tax qualification of ERISA-covered pension and welfare plans, including the treatment of such plans in corporate financings and transactions.

In his multiemployer practice, he represents a number of funds, counseling Boards of Trustees on issues such as healthcare compliance, cybersecurity, government investigations, benefit suspensions, special financial assistance, and withdrawal liability.

In addition, Jesse advises private, public, and not-for-profit employers on all aspects of their non-qualified executive compensation arrangements.  Jesse regularly provides technical and practical advice on the establishment, administration, and continued legal compliance of deferred compensation and supplemental employee retirement plans.  As part of his practice, Jesse routinely negotiates and drafts equity plans and awards, employment agreements, severance agreements, and other compensation arrangements.

Jesse earned his J.D. degree from the University of Southern California, where he was a Senior Editor of the Southern California Law Review.  Jesse also frequently contributes to Proskauer’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Blog.