DOL Issues Final COBRA Notice Regulations

 
Tuesday, June 1, 2004
 
by Jackson Lewis

On May 26, 2004, the Department of Labor issued final rules governing COBRA notice requirements. Generally, the final rules set new minimum standards for the timing and content requirements for providing notice of COBRA group health plan continuation coverage rights to participants and beneficiaries. The DOL included separate model notices to facilitate meeting the COBRA notice requirements at the commencement of plan coverage, and again following the occurrence of certain "qualifying events."  

The final rules are effective for group health plan COBRA notice obligations that arise on or after the first day of the first plan year beginning on or after November 26, 2004 (the date six months after the rules were published in the Federal Register). For example, employers with calendar year group health plans will have to comply with the new rules beginning January 1, 2005. Employers will need to check their group health plan documents or insurance contracts to identify the plan year for this purpose.  

All employers with group health plans subject to the COBRA group health plan continuation coverage rules will need to review and revise their existing COBRA notice forms, administrative procedures, and summary plan descriptions (SPD). SPDs must include certain COBRA administrative procedures, and COBRA notices typically included in SPDs should be updated.  

Model notices contained in the regulation will be available for download from EBSA’s Web site at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa. The final regulations will also be available on EBSA’s Web site.
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