Under the Affordable Care Act, once we decide who we have to offer coverage to, then we have to decide when they get the coverage. Generally the new rule is that a waiting period for coverage cannot exceed 90 days. More recently, the IRS has given us proposed rules on the 90 day waiting period. As with all proposed rules, they are not final until they are final, but these do give employers some additional guidance on how to maintain the correct waiting period.

The proposed regulations define a waiting period as “the period that must pass before coverage for an employee or dependent who is otherwise eligible to enroll under the terms of a group health plan can become effective.” What this means is that once eligibility requirements are met (meaning that an employee is "full time"), coverage must begin 90 calendar days after eligibility is obtained. This includes weekends and holidays. If day 91 falls on a weekend or holiday, the plan sponsor may elect to have coverage be effective earlier than the 90th day, for administrative convenience, but may not delay coverage past the 91st day. So plan sponsors should eliminate any plan provisions that provide that coverage begins at some time after the 90th day (like the first day of the month after the expiration of the 90 day period.)

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