End to COVID-19 National Emergency Impacts Employer Benefit Plans

Author: Emily Scace, Brightmine Legal Editor

April 11, 2023

President Biden signed a congressional resolution on Monday that terminates the national emergency declared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First declared in March 2020 by then-president Donald Trump and extended several times, the national emergency had been set to expire May 11. House Joint Resolution 7 moved that date forward and took effect immediately upon signing. However, it did not alter the timeline for ending the separate public health emergency, still slated to end May 11.

For employers, the end to the national emergency means that group health plans will no longer be required to allow extended time for special enrollment following certain qualifying events, like losing coverage or having a child. Ordinarily, employees who wish to enroll in an employer-based plan following one of these events have 30 days to do so; the national emergency extended that time limit to one year.

Similarly, a range of requirements under COBRA, which allows employees and their beneficiaries to continue employer-based health coverage for a period of time after leaving the employer, were modified under the national emergency. Certain deadlines for covered employee benefit plans were relaxed to allow more time for individuals to elect and pay for coverage, including:

  • The 60-day period for election of COBRA benefits,
  • Requirements for plan administrators to provide required notices and disclosures;
  • Premium payment deadlines, and
  • Claims filing deadlines.

As of June 9 - 60 days after the end of the national emergency - these deadlines revert to their pre-pandemic norms.

However, many other COVID-related measures are still active under the public health emergency, including requirements for coverage of COVID-19 vaccinations and testing without cost sharing for private health insurers and various modifications of Medicare and Medicaid requirements.