The 90-day rule is finally final: Any employee eligible for coverage by a company's health plan may not be kept waiting longer than 90 days.

That's the word from the U.S. Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services. The agencies handed down their final regulations implementing a 90-day limit with qualifiers to address various situations, such as employees who have been asked to meet certain sales goals, put in a certain number of hours on the job and so on. But any condition that looks like it was created simply to avoid having to offer coverage after 90 days won't be allowed by the government under the new, amended law.

"Eligibility conditions that are based solely on the lapse of a time period would be permissible for no more than 90 days," the rule's guiding principle reads. "Other conditions for eligibility under the terms of a group health plan (that is, those that are not based solely on the lapse of a time period) are generally permissible under PHS Act section 2708 and the proposed regulations unless the condition is designed to avoid compliance with the 90-day waiting period limitation."

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.