Enjoy the End of the Decade with Some Employee Benefit Plan Checklists

Each year, we publish health and welfare, cost-of-living, qualified retirement plan, and executive compensation plan checklists to help individuals and employers stay apprised of updates to the law of employee benefits.  We just published the last of these annual checklists.  In case you missed them, the links are below.

Happy Holidays!

2019 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 1) Health & Welfare

2019 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 2) Annual Cost of Living Adjustments

2019 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 3) Qualified Retirement Plans

2019 End of Year Plan Sponsor “To Do” List (Part 4) Executive Compensation

 

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Posted in Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation, Health & Welfare Plans, Health Care Reform, Qualified Retirement Plans | Tagged , , , , , , ,

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Potential $2.4 Billion and Countless Trees Saved – Department of Labor’s Proposed Rule on Electronic Disclosure for Retirement Plans

The Department of Labor recently issued a proposed rule that allows certain retirement plan disclosures to be posted online, rather than requiring such disclosures to be printed and mailed. The Department of Labor anticipates this rule, if finalized, would save plan sponsors $2.4 billion over the next ten years. The rule is currently in proposed form and will not become effective until 60 days after the final rule is published. As such, plan sponsors may not rely on this proposed rule now.

Current Electronic Disclosure Requirements

In 2002, the Department of Labor issued a safe harbor for the use of electronic media. Read More ›

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The Ninth Circuit Reverses Itself and Enforces ERISA Mandatory Arbitration Clause

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit recently decided that Charles Schwab Corp. can require a proposed class action to arbitrate its claim that Schwab breached its fiduciary duties by including Schwab-affiliated investment funds in the Plan, despite the funds’ poor performance, to generate fees for Schwab and its affiliates.  In doing so, the Ninth Circuit overturned its former decision in which it held that ERISA claims cannot be arbitrated.

Specifically, the Ninth Circuit panel determined that the Ninth Circuit’s 1984 opinion in Amaro v. Continental Can Co. should no longer be followed because of more recent precedent permitting ERISA claims to be arbitrated, including the U.S. Read More ›

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DOL Finalizes Regulations Requiring Electronic Filing of Top Hat Statements

On June 17th the Department of Labor finalized a set of proposed regulations requiring that all “top hat” plan statements be filed with the Department electronically though this website.  As brief background, a “top hat” statement is a one-time filing made with the Department of Labor to protect against a non-qualified plan established for a select group of management or highly compensated employees becoming subject to some of the more onerous requirements of ERISA.  Accordingly, to maintain this protection, effective August 16, 2019, “top hat” filings must be made electronically.

The Department introduced the proposed regulations on the electronic filings in September 2014 and has indicated that since the release of the proposed regulations 54% of the “top hat” filings received have been made electronically.  Read More ›

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Authorized Representatives – Fresh Look at an Old Rule

Earlier this year, the Department of Labor issued an information letter explaining ERISA’s authorized representative requirement.  Below are some of the takeaways employers may want to consider.

1.     The Authorized Representative Requirement Under ERISA

ERISA’s claims procedure regulations expressly give participants and beneficiaries the right to appoint authorized representatives to act on their behalf in connection with a claim for benefits and an appeal of an adverse benefit determination.  Furthermore, when a claimant clearly designates an authorized representative to assist with a claim and/or appeal, the plan should direct the claimant’s information and notifications to the authorized representative to act on behalf of the claimant. Read More ›

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Zombie Benefits – Are Health Reimbursement Arrangements (“HRAs”) Back From the Dead?

The Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) has not been kind to health reimbursement arrangements (“HRAs”).  Many employers got rid of HRAs, or integrated them with a major medical plan, in order to avoid significant penalties under the ACA.  At one point it appeared that after-tax HRAs did not have to comply with the ACA.  However, as noted in our March 11, 2015 SW Benefits Blog, “IRS Issues More Guidance On Employers That Pay For Individual Health Insurance Policies for Employees – Gives Limited Relief to Small Employers,” the IRS clarified that even after-tax HRAs are also subject to the ACA rules. The proposed regulations that were published in the Federal Register on October 29, 2018 breathe new life into HRAs.  Read More ›

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New Disability Claims Regulations Take Effect for All Plans April 1, 2018

As noted in our previous blog post, The New Disability Claims Regulations: They Don’t Only Apply to Disability Plans, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued regulations that revise the ERISA claims procedure regulations for all employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits (the “New Regulations”).  These rules can impact not only short-term and long-term disability plans but also qualified retirement plans (e.g., a 401(k) plan), nonqualified retirement plans, and health and welfare plans.  The New Regulations were published in the Federal Register on December 19, 2016, and are based on the Affordable Care Act’s enhanced claims and appeals regulations for group health plans.  Read More ›

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Contemplating a Severance Plan? Consider ERISA

A severance plan may be subject to the requirements of ERISA as an employee welfare benefit plan. The determination of whether a severance plan is subject to ERISA depends in large part on whether the plan is part of an “ongoing administrative scheme.”

Severance plans subject to ERISA have certain requirements, such as the obligation to file annual Forms 5500, to follow ERISA’s formal claims procedure, and to provide a summary plan description (“SPD”), a summary annual report (“SAR”), and any required summaries of material modification (“SMM”) to participants.

For a severance plan subject to ERISA, failure to comply with these requirements can carry a hefty fee – up to $110 per day for failure to provide required documents to participants on request and up to $1,100 per day for failure to file a Form 5500. Read More ›

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Dealing with Long-Winded Out-of-Network Provider Nuisance Letters

Over the past couple years, more and more of my clients with self-funded plans have received letters from out-of-network providers appealing denied claims.  The letters are usually 20 to 30 pages long, not very specific, and make various accusations against the plan and its fiduciaries. 

Most of the letters follow a standard approach.  They start by alleging breaches of fiduciary duty, they request all sorts of plan documents, and they request additional appeals to which the participant may or may not be entitled.  The biggest problem is that these letters are never very specific in exactly what they want.  Instead, they make vague accusations, and hope some or all will stick. Read More ›

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What is Telemedicine? A Cool Benefit or a Hot Mess?

We’ve had numerous inquiries lately about telemedicine benefits.  My clients most typically ask either “is this a group health plan?” or “is it just access to another provider?”  Clearly, there is much confusion surrounding telemedicine benefits.  Part of the problem is that the regulators have yet to issue guidance on how telemedicine should be treated.  All we can do is take what is a very innovative benefit and figure out how it fits into a complicated, and sometimes outdated, regulatory framework.

Let’s start by agreeing that telemedicine benefits are pretty cool.  With telemedicine, employees can usually see a doctor sooner than if they had to go to a doctor’s office.  Read More ›

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