What does the April 10, 2023, early end of the COVID-19 National Emergency declaration mean for employer health plans?
Well, nothing, actually.
That’s because the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury are sticking with the guidance in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that they issued on March 29, 2023, before President Biden signed into law House Joint Resolution 7 (H. J. Res. 7) on April 10, 2023, declaring an immediate end to the National Emergency declaration that had been in effect since March 2020.
The March 29 guidance focused on unwinding the 2020 and 2021 extensions of certain deadlines for continuing health benefits under COBRA, for special enrollment, and for filing claims and appeals—all of which hinged on the end date of the National Emergency. The March 29 guidance also addressed the wind-down of a separate federal emergency order—the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). (The PHE was declared by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on January 31, 2020, and has been renewed every ninety days since. The PHE, which affects the requirements that plans cover COVID-19 testing and vaccines, is set to expire on May 11, 2023, and is unaffected by the end of the National Emergency.)
Both orders—the National Emergency and the PHE—had been set to expire on May 11. In response to H. J. Res. 7, the agencies have clarified informally that they intend to continue to use May 11—rather than April 10—as the relevant date in applying guidance on the end of the National Emergency.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center and on the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation blog as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.