Recent COVID-19 Regulations: Information and Solutions To Help

Coronavirus Resources & Information – Employer

Our Benefit Plans And COVID-19: Information and Solutions To Help

Welcome to our COVID-19 Information and Solutions page. Here you can find information on a variety of topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on plans we administer. This includes federal regulatory changes and guidance, new COVID-19 related plan options, remote open enrollment meeting tools and more.

We will keep this page updated with any related changes or impacts. We are continuously monitoring the situation and updating our information as quickly as possible.

For Our Broker Partners: If you need to discuss any information on this page, please email sales@benstrat.com.

For Our Clients: If you need to discuss any information on this page, please reach out directly to your dedicated Account Manager or email clientservices@benstrat.com.

This Page Has Been Updated To Include Information On The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) Signed Into Law on March 11, 2021.


  • ARPA – COBRA Subsidy

      The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) provides for a 100% federal subsidy of COBRA medical premiums (excluding Health FSAs) during the period April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021 for those who experienced an involuntary termination, or reduction in hours, causing them to lose group health coverage. Those who qualify for the subsidy are termed Assistance Eligible Individuals (AEIs). Here’s information to know about ARPA and AEIs:

      • To also qualify as an AEI, a person must be COBRA-eligible as of April 1, 2021, or later AND not be eligible for other coverage during the subsidy period.
        • COBRA-eligible means the full period of time they could be enrolled in COBRA (typically 18 months), whether they actually enrolled or not.
      • Premiums for medical coverage (but not Health FSAs) for all AEIs are subsidized at 100% during the coverage period.
      • The subsidy period lasts for up to six months (through September 2021) except for AEIs who exhaust their COBRA eligibility or qualify for other coverage. AEIs receiving the subsidy are required to inform the plan if they’re eligible for other coverage.
      • AEIs who become COBRA-eligible after April 1, 2021, receive the subsidy through September 2021, even if they receive less than six months’ premium subsidies.
      • The law establishes an Extended Election Period of 60 days from receipt of the ARPA eligibility notice during which AEIs can enroll in subsidized coverage retroactive to April 1.
      • Elections made under the Extended Election Period remain in effect until the end of the AEI’s maximum COBRA continuation coverage period.
      • Employers have the option to allow AEIs to change medical coverage (but not other benefits) as of April 1, but AEIs are limited to switching to a plan with the same or lower premium plan than they had prior to the qualifying event.
      • Employers are responsible for subsidizing the full premium plus the 2% administration fee. Companies will be reimbursed by credits against payroll taxes owed.

      Benefit Strategies has been communicating with our broker partners and COBRA clients on ARPA and AEIs as more information has been released from the Department of Labor. This includes two communications requesting that employers review the termination types they provided to us for Qualified Beneficiaries (QBs).

      Action Required as of May 4, 2021

      What you need to do: The May 3rd deadline to notify us of your Qualified Beneficiaries' (QBs) statuses under ARPA has passed and we are preparing to send out Subsidy Notices to those in our system with a status that indicates they are an Assistance Eligible Individual (AEI). It’s important to note that anyone with a status of Terminated is considered an AEI and a notice will be sent.If you still have updates to make, please do so immediately, but understand that we are operating on a best-effort basis to make sure subsidy eligibility is determined by any update you make. We may not be able to catch an update made after we have begun compiling the mailing for your group. Information on how to make the updates in the employer portal can be found here. We have created these helpful tools to help you identify which of your QBs are impacted:

      QB Summary Report Guide ARPA COBRA Subsidy Tool

      The ARPA COBRA Subsidy Tool has several tabs that will help you work through which initial Qualifying Events, benefit plan types, and maximum periods of COBRA coverage will determine if a QB is an AEI. This includes an introduction tab that will provide an outline of the tabs.

      To understand what will happen next with AEI communications, please click below.

      AEI WEBPAGE

      Reminder

      COBRA participants had been under relief guidance regarding COBRA election and payment deadlines during the COVID-19 Outbreak Period. Updated Department of Labor guidance recently clarified that this deadline extension can only extend to 1 year at most.

      Example:

      1. If a COBRA participant’s 60 day deadline to elect was set to end on 6/2/2020, they would now only have until 6/2/2021 to make their election.
      2. If a COBRA participant had until 6/30/2020 to pay a premium due, they would now have only until 6/30/2021 to make that payment.

      As the guidance does not require notification to QBs of this expiration, Benefit Strategies will not be sending notices. However, if you would like us to notify your QBs, we will do so and a fee of $5 will be charged for each notice sent. If this is something you would like us to do, please complete the simple form located below.

      COBRA Form

  • ARPA – Dependent Care Assistance Plans Maximum Increase

      We've created a pdf FAQ that can be downloaded below to answer some common questions.

      DCAP FSA CHANGES FAQ

      On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was signed into law. One of the law's provisions is to temporarily increase the maximum annual contribution amount for the Employer-sponsored Dependent Care Assistance Plans (DCAPs). The law provides for the following DCAP increases for the 2021 calendar year:

      • The maximum contribution has been raised to $10,500
      • For married couples filing separate tax returns, the maximum has been raised to $5,250

      These increases are only in place for the calendar year 2021. Employers are not required to adopt the new maximums to their plan.

      Employers who wish to adopt the temporary increase must amend their Cafeteria Plan Documents before the end of the plan year in which they decide to increase the limit. For calendar-year plans, this means the documents must be amended by December 31, 2021.

      Benefit Strategies is currently working on reconfiguring its system to accommodate the increased election limits. There will be a separate amendment that will be made available later this year to document the change, most likely during the second quarter.

      Action Needed

      Please use the below election form to adopt this adjustment and report it to Benefit Strategies.

      DCA Maximum Increase Form

  • The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021

      The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was signed into law on December 27, 2020. Included are various options employers may choose to add to their Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plans to provide relief for employees whose FSA elections may have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Action Needed

      If you would like to make changes to your FSA plan, please click the link below to complete the form. Below is a high-level overview of each of the changes included in the legislation. Please note that none of these changes are mandatory. Employers have the option to make one or more of the changes, all of the changes, or make no changes at all. Should an employer choose to make changes, those selections will be in addition to the mandatory one year filing extension already in place.

      Please note: If a form was previously submitted, all prior submissions will be disregarded and the most recent submission will be used.

      CONSOLIDATED ACT FORM

        1. Permit Health and Dependent Care FSAs to carryover all unused amounts from plan years ending 2020 to plan years ending 2021. This is also permitted for plan years ending 2021 to plan years ending 2022.

        2. Benefit Strategies Note: If your Health FSA plan ends December 31, 2020 and you already have the carryover provision on your Health FSA, please be aware that the normal automatic rollover, up to your plan’s rollover maximum, will happen on January 1, 2021 as planned. If you choose to allow the change for all unused amounts to rollover, including for Dependent Care FSAs, we will handle those rollovers separately.

        3. Permit a 12-month grace period for unused benefits or contributions in Health FSA and Dependent Care FSA for plan years ending in 2020 and 2021.
        4. Permit Health FSA participants who terminate during the 2020 or 2021 plan year to spend down their unused balances for expenses incurred through the end of the plan year in which the termination occurred, including any grace period.
        5. Permit the maximum age of eligible dependents for Dependent Care FSAs to be through age 13 (currently through age 12) for the 2020 plan year and for unused amounts from the 2020 plan year to be carried over into the 2021 plan year.
        6. Permit a prospective change in election amounts for Health and Dependent Care FSAs for plan years ending in 2021 without a corresponding change in status event.
  • IRS Cafeteria Plan Amendments

      On May 12, 2020, the IRS released two notices providing increased flexibility with Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). Notice 2020-29 allowed for mid-year elections and extension of the plan year end date, as well as Notice 2020-33 provided a permanent change to the maximum amount permitted on the FSA rollover option. Options under Notice 2020-29 have expired. Since Notice 2020-33 is permanent, that option is still available now and for future plan years. It allows for the maximum rollover amount on a Health FSA to be equal to 20% of the federal plan maximum election amount for that plan year. If you wish to add the rollover option to your Health FSA or to increase the rollover maximum amount, please contact your Account Manager.

  • DOL Guidance on Extensions of Claim Filing and Appeal Deadlines
  • Information on Qualifying Events For Enrollment and Election Changes
      Healthcare FSAs and Limited Purpose FSAs

      The IRS permits changes to an election for the below situations (called Qualifying Events). We are continually monitoring regulations to determine if any new Qualifying Events will be permitted due to the extraordinary circumstances being experienced across the country.

      Qualifying Events Due to Employment Changes:

      • You or your legally married spouse’s termination of employment
      • Your legally married spouse’s commencement of employment
      • You or your legally married spouse’s change from part-time to full-time, or full-time to part-time status
      • You or your legally married spouse’s unpaid Leave of Absence (LOA)

      Other Qualifying Events:

      • Marriage
      • Divorce
      • Birth or Adoption
      • You or your legally married spouse’s or your dependent’s death

      How To Make A Change To Your Health FSA Election If You Have Experienced A Qualifying Event:

      NEW! If your normal method for submitting FSA changes is submitting our paper FSA Status Change Form, please note we now have an electronic fillable form and no longer use the paper form. The electronic form can be found by clicking the button below. You can also access the form from the FSA page in the Resources section of benstrat.com.

      Status Change Form

      Dependent Care FSAs

      The IRS permits changes to an election for the below situations (called Qualifying Events). We are continually monitoring regulations to determine if any new Qualifying Events will be permitted due to the extraordinary circumstances being experienced across the country.

      Qualifying Events Due to Changes in Childcare Arrangements:

      • You no longer need childcare
      • You no longer need childcare as frequently
      • You have had a change in the amount you pay for childcare (increase or decrease)
      • You now need childcare - this is a Qualifying Event to add the Dependent Care FSA if you are not currently enrolled.

      Qualifying Events Due to Employment Changes:

      • You or your legally married spouse’s termination of employment
      • Your legally married spouse’s commencement of employment
      • You or your legally married spouse’s change from part-time to full-time, or full-time to part-time status
      • You or your legally married spouse’s unpaid Leave of Absence (LOA)

      Other Qualifying Events:

      • Marriage
      • Divorce
      • Birth or Adoption
      • You or your legally married spouse’s or your dependent’s death

      How To Make A Change To Your Dependent Care FSA Election If You Have Experienced A Qualifying Event:

      NEW! If your normal method for submitting FSA changes is submitting our paper FSA Status Change Form, please note we now have an electronic fillable form and no longer use the paper form. The electronic form can be found by clicking the button below. You can also access the form from the FSA page in the Resources section of benstrat.com.

      Status Change Form

      Parking and Transit Accounts

      IRS regulations allow participants to make changes to Parking and Transit elections at any time. This includes decreasing or increasing your election amount or suspending enrollment in the plan.

      How To Make A Change To Your Parking and/or Transit Account Election or Suspend Enrollment:

      You will need to contact your employer so they can update your payroll records and they will then notify Benefit Strategies to make the change in our system. Keep in mind your employer may have deadlines for the changes to be made in time for the following payroll.

      Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)

      IRS regulations allow HSA account holders to make changes to the amount they are contributing to their HSA at anytime. This includes no longer making any contributions.

      How To Make A Change To Your HSA Contribution Amount:

      You will need to contact your employer so they can update your payroll records and they will then notify Benefit Strategies to make the change in our system. Keep in mind your employer may have deadlines for the changes to be made in time for the following payroll or other policies surrounding timing of HSA contribution changes.

      How changes can be made with BenStrat

      Clients should always use their normal method for submitting changes to Benefit Strategies.

      If your normal method for submitting FSA changes is submitting our paper FSA Status Change Form, please note we now have an electronic fillable form and no longer use the paper form. The electronic form can be found below. You can also access the form from the FSA page in the Resources section of benstrat.com.

      Status Change Form

      Mid-Year FSA election changes: You can use our calculator below to determine the impact of a mid-year FSA election change.

      Assess Impact of Mid-Year Election Change

  • CARES Act Provides New Section 213d Eligible Expenses
      • The CARES Act
      • What this means for you

        Over-the-counter items eligible under an FSA

        Two permanent changes to FSA and HSA eligible expenses have been made under the federal CARES Act law signed March 27, 2020. Both of these changes are retroactive and effective for expenses incurred on or after 1/1/2020.

        1) Over the Counter (OTC) drugs and medicines no longer require a prescription to be eligible. This includes products such as cough syrup, allergy medicine and pain relievers.

        2) Menstrual care products (i.e. tampons, liners, pads, cups, etc.) are now eligible.

        Eligible Expense Lists

  • Online Shopping Options for FSA and HSA Eligible Expenses
  • Services We Offer To Assist During This Time
      • Direct Billing of furloughed and LOA employees
      • Emergency Assistance Plans
      • Work From Home Expenses Plans

      Contact sales@benstrat.com for a proposal or to learn more.

Blog

Follow our biweekly HSA GPS blog so we can work in collaboration on HSA administration.

Corporate Headquarters
967 Elm Street
Manchester, NH 03101
Directions to this office

Mailing Address
Benefit Strategies
P.O. Box 1300
Manchester, NH 03105-1300

Toll Free: 1-888-401-FLEX (3539)
Phone: 603-647-4666
Fax: 603-647-4668
Email: info@benstrat.com

Hours of Operation:
8am to 6pm Monday - Thursday
8am to 5pm Friday