On April 7, 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued FAQs and model notices for the COBRA premium assistance provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The ARPA provides a 100% subsidy for employer-sponsored group health coverage continued under COBRA and similar state continuation coverage programs for eligible individuals. The subsidy applies from April 1 through September 30, 2021. The notices and the FAQs appear on a new DOL webpage dedicated to the ARPA COBRA subsidy.
The DOL released the following new model notices:
Plans may use these DOL model notices to meet their notice obligations under the ARPA COBRA subsidy provisions.
The DOL guidance contains 21 FAQs on topics such as eligibility, elections, notice requirements and duration of the subsidy. Notably, the FAQs state that prior federal COVID-19-related relief for plan deadlines does not apply to notice or election periods set forth in the ARPA provisions about the COBRA subsidy. However, an individual may elect COBRA from an earlier qualifying event if the individual is eligible to make that election, including under the extended time frames provided under that relief.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) amended the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) to provide additional protections. On April 2, 2021, the DOL, Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury jointly issued FAQs to clarify these amendments.
In particular, the CAA requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to conduct comparative analyses of the nonquantitative treatment limitations (NQTLs) used for medical and surgical benefits as compared to mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits. The comparative analyses, and certain other information, must be made available upon request to applicable agencies beginning February 10, 2021.
The FAQs address the following:
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