Insurance Law Alert

The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended his declaration of a public health emergency resulting from COVID-19.  The public health emergency was initially declared on January 31, 2020 and was subsequently declared on April 21, 2020 and July 25, 2020.  The most recent declaration is effective October 23, 2020, and the public health emergency will last for 90 days from October 23, 2020, or until HHS declares that the public health emergency no longer exists.  The public health emergency may also be extended for additional 90-day periods in the future.

This determination impacts group health plans.  Health insurance issuers must continue to provide coverage for COVID-19 testing and other related benefits without cost sharing, as required under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

Significantly, the extended public health emergency does not affect the DOL and IRS regulations that require plans to disregard the “outbreak period” when applying certain time frames for health and welfare benefit plans.  For these purposes, the outbreak period began on March 1, 2020, and will end on the date that is 60 days after the end of the national emergency declared by the President, or another date announced by the Agencies in the future.

On September 25, 2020 and for the seventh time, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy extended the emergency, which gives him the power to take executive action to combat COVID-19′s spread.  The emergency declaration expires after 30 days if the governor does not extend it.

In keeping with action in New Jersey and at the federal level, on Sep 30, 2020 New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo extended a state of emergency for New York as well.  Governor Cuomo also announced the New York State Department of Financial Services will extend an emergency regulation requiring New York health insurers to waive out-of-pocket costs, including cost-sharing, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance, for in-network mental health services for New York's frontline essential workers during COVID-19 until November 27.

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