On May 8, the DOL issued eagerly anticipated guidance regarding the notice of health insurance exchanges that employers must distribute to employees during 2013, including model notices that employers may use to satisfy the notice obligation.

The first model notice applies to employers who offer a health plan to some or all employees.  The second model notice applies to employers who do not offer a health plan.  Employers are permitted to modify the model notices as long as they still meet the content requirements specified in the health care reform law.

Employers must provide the notice to all current employees by October 1, 2013, though the notice may be provided sooner.  Also starting October 1, 2013, new employees must receive the notice at the time of their hire.  For 2014, the DOL will consider a notice to be timely provided at hire if it is provided within 14 days of the employee’s start date.  The notice must be provided in writing and can be provided electronically if the DOL’s electronic disclosure safe-harbor requirements are met; otherwise, the notice may be provided by first-class mail. 

Also in connection with the new exchange notice, the DOL released a revised COBRA Model Election Noticethat includes information about the health insurance exchanges.  The DOL included a redlinedocument showing the changes made by the revised COBRA notice.