25 March 2020

Insurer Offers Special Enrollment Period Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

***Information and guidance in client updates was up to date at time of publication. During the pandemic, information and guidance has been changing rapidly. If you have any questions about the information contained in a client update, please contact the author(s) or your Miller Johnson attorney.***

UnitedHealthcare opened a special enrollment period from March 23 through April 6, 2020 for its fully insured employer group health plan customers in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The insurer eased contractual requirements otherwise prohibiting fully insured plans from allowing new enrollments outside of regular enrollment periods.

UnitedHealthcare is one of the first insurers to take this action. The decision comes as eleven states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) and the District of Columbia have opened special enrollment periods in their exchanges to provide an opportunity for more individuals to sign up for health coverage.

UnitedHealthcare is also giving its self-funded employer group health plan customers the option to offer this special enrollment period. For both fully insured and self-funded employer group health plans exercising this option, the next question is whether employees who elect coverage under this mid-year special enrollment opportunity can pay their premiums on a pre-tax basis (or rather, must do so on a post-tax basis). While there may be arguments that this new special enrollment opportunity is an unprecedented new benefit triggering a permitted mid-year change in pre-tax elections under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code, current IRS guidance doesn’t specifically recognize the ability to change a pre-tax premium election in this situation.

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact one of Miller Johnson employee benefits attorneys.