On June 21, 2016, the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Treasury released another Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) related to Affordable Care Act (ACA) issues. The FAQ, number 32 in a series of FAQs, provides group health plan administrators the option to include additional information in COBRA election notices about ACA Marketplace coverage that might be available to participants who are eligible for COBRA due to a qualifying event.
By way of background, temporary guidance issued in 2013 said plan administrators could include information about alternative coverage options through the ACA Marketplace in COBRA election notices provided to eligible individuals.
Additionally, the DOL then provided an updated model COBRA election notice. This notice included key information about the ACA Marketplace, such as:
- How to request additional information about the Marketplace.
- When an individual becomes eligible for Marketplace coverage.
- The availability of premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions to make Marketplace coverage more affordable.
- Implications for the COBRA beneficiary should he or she opt for COBRA coverage or purchase coverage from the ACA Marketplace.
Use of the DOL model COBRA election form was, and still is, considered good faith compliance with the election notice requirements of COBRA, for DOL purposes.
The recent FAQ builds on the earlier guidance, basically allowing plan administrators the option to include in a COBRA election notice the ACA Marketplace information found in the DOL model COBRA election notice, and any additional information about Marketplace coverage not found in the DOL model notice. The goal is to assist employees in determining the best coverage option available to them. Examples of additional information about ACA Marketplace coverage might include:
- How to obtain assistance with enrollment, including special enrollment.
- Information about Marketplace websites and contact information.
- General information regarding particular products offered in the Marketplace.
In light of this guidance, the FAQ reiterates that use of the DOL model COBRA election notice will continue to be considered good faith compliance with COBRA election notice requirements.
Lockton Comment: Keep in mind that should employers or their COBRA administrators opt to amend their COBRA notice election forms to include additional information about ACA Marketplace coverage options, they need to ensure the amended election notice meets all COBRA requirements, and is easily understood by the average plan participant.