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Must we offer EAP services to those on COBRA?

by on
in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Q. Currently, we offer our employee assistance program (EAP) to those who elect COBRA coverage. But are we required by law to offer the EAP to COBRA participants? This is the first time I’ve seen a company offer an EAP through  COBRA. Participants pay $3.08 plus a 2% administrative fee if they elect. — T.A., Maryland
A. Yes, you are required, to the extent that the EAP provides services that constitute medical benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

For example, in the following situation, the DOL concluded that an EAP benefit had to be offered under COBRA: The EAP provided assistance to employees and their dependents for a wide range of problems, including drug and alcohol abuse, stress, depression, anxiety, marital problems, money troubles and legal problems. 

Since benefits for the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse, stress, anxiety, depression and the like are medical benefits, the DOL concluded that the EAP benefits were subject to COBRA (see DOL Advisory Opinion 88-04A).  

Generally, if you have an open enrollment period for similarly situated, active employees, each qualified beneficiary receiving COBRA coverage must be given the same open enrollment period rights. (Reg.§54.4980B-5, Q&A 4(c)) Therefore, to the extent an EAP offers medical benefits, qualified beneficiaries must be given an opportunity to elect continuation coverage with respect to the medical portion of the plan and, if not already covered by the EAP, elect to become covered under the EAP.

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