Notice to Employees of Coverage Options (Exchange Notice)
Under the ACA, employers are required to provide new hires, within 14 days of their hire date, a “Notice to Employees of Coverage Options,” which many of us refer to as the “Exchange Notice.” The DOL recently issued updated versions of two model notices–one for employers that do offer coverage, and one for employers that do not. (The new versions expire June 30, 2023.) The form is provided in English and Spanish.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA)
The DOL also issued new model notices under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA). Specifically, a new “Model General Notice of COBRA Continuation Coverage Rights” and a new “Model COBRA Continuation Coverage Election Notice” were issued, along with some FAQs. While several changes are sprinkled throughout each document, the key change is that in both the DOL added a discussion about the relationship between COBRA and Medicare.
Employers are not required to use the DOL forms. Whether an employer uses the DOL forms or its own, the notices must satisfy all applicable regulations. Further, while the model DOL forms are a good starting point, employers should edit them as necessary to ensure the forms are compliant with governing rules, that they fit the employer’s particular circumstances, and that they provide all of the information the employer believes a qualified beneficiary should know.
An additional point to note: As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the DOL issued a set of rules extending certain time-frames that otherwise apply to the administration of group health (and certain other benefit) plans, including deadlines applicable to the administration of continuation coverage under COBRA. The new model forms do not include any language notifying employees of their rights and obligations under these new rules. Employers should consider whether they should amend their COBRA notices to include such information.