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You’ll have more time to revamp COBRA notices

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

You and your health plan administrator will soon need to provide more specifics on COBRA rights to departing employees, according to final rules published recently by the U.S. Labor Department. The rules set minimum standards for the timing and contents of COBRA notices, plus provide sample notices that organizations can modify and use.

Labor floated a proposed version of the rules in 2003. While the final version is similar, here are some of the key changes:

 

  • The proposal would have allowed a beneficiary to notify "any officer of the employer" about a qualifying COBRA event. The final rules wisely take a narrower view, saying employees must give notice to a "party that customarily handles employee benefits matters."

     

     

  • Labor intended to make the new rules effective as of the first day of the first plan year occurring on or after Jan. 1, 2004. The final rules now apply for the first plan year that begins six months after May 26, 2004. For most employers, that means Jan. 1, 2005.

     

     

 

Advice: Incorporate the new notices now or make sure your third-party vendor is aware of the new rules. Read the new rules at www.dol.gov/ebsa/regs/ fedreg/final/2004011796.htm.Down-load copies of the model notices at www.dol.gov/ebsa/compliance_assistance.html#section2.

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