Special Enrollment Periods for 2011

Special Enrollment Right

The Rules contain a one-time special enrollment right for adult children who become eligible for coverage under the Act. An adult child who was denied health coverage or lost coverage due to the attainment of a certain age (and is still under age 26) will have the right to enroll or re-enroll in the plan, regardless of whether he or she has continued coverage under COBRA. A plan or issuer must give such a child an opportunity to enroll that continues for at least 30 days (including written notice of such opportunity). The enrollment opportunity and notice must be provided no later than January 1, 2011 for calendar year plans (i.e. the first day of the first plan year beginning on or after September 23, 2010). The special enrollment period must last at least 30 days even if your open enrollment period is typically less than 30 days.

The Rules state that any child who enrolls during this special enrollment period must be offered all the benefit packages available to similarly situated individuals (i.e. those who did not lose coverage nor were denied coverage because of age). If the employee is not a participant in the plan, the employee and the adult child must both be offered the opportunity to enroll in any benefit option available.

Required Notice and Effective Date of Coverage

A written notice must be given to all adult children with this special enrollment right explaining the availability of dependent coverage to a child whose coverage ended, or who was denied coverage, before attainment of age 26. It is sufficient to provide the notice to an employee on behalf of the employee’s child, and the notice may be included with other enrollment materials provided the notice is prominent.

If a child enrolls within the 30-day special enrollment period, coverage must begin no later than the first day of the first plan year beginning on or after September 23, 2010 (for calendar year plans, January 1, 2011), even if the request for enrollment is made after the first day of the plan year. This means that coverage may be effective retroactively in some instances, provided that enrollment occurs during the 30-day special enrollment window. For example, if notice is provided on December 20, 2010, an adult child who enrolls in the plan on or before January 19, 2011 will have coverage retroactive to January 1, 2011.

Model notices are available at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform/

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