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How Serious is ERISA?

With so many rules and regulations a business must follow it is often difficult to know which ones apply and how serious the penalties could be if not applied.  One of those regulations:  The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). 

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) protects the interests of employees (and their beneficiaries) and safeguards any employer-sponsored plan.  ERISA is a federal law that governs how employers provide benefit plans and the Summary Plan Description (SPD) to the participants.  The law establishes standards to ensure that plan funds are protected, how the qualified participants receive their appropriate benefits, and their access to the health benefit plan information.

During the fiscal year of 2019, the DOL reported recoveries of $2.5 billion with a 56.25% increase over 2018.  Recoveries are the result of imposed penalties up to $110/per day per employee for employers failing to adhere to ERISA rules and regulations.  This increase affirms that the DOL ERISA enforcement program remains very active, is taking their job seriously, and continues to find breaches of ERISA.  In recent years, much focus has been on retirement plans, but health plans have become an increasingly high DOL priority.

Many businesses do not understand how serious it could be if their business fails to comply with ERISA.  Failure to comply can expose their company to ERISA litigation and DOL or IRS monetary penalties.  In a court case, Harris-Fry v. United of Omaha Life Insurance Company, a federal district court case awarded $74,140 in penalties on a plan administrator for failing to simply provide the plaintiff with the plan documents requested in a timely manner.  The court imposed the maximum penalty of $110 per day (for 674 days) to punish the plan administrator for failing to respond to the plaintiff’s request.

To be in compliance and avoid the steep DOL penalties, BASE® has just the product.  The BASE® ERISA Wrap was designed to help employers fulfill the ERISA requirements for an SPD and Plan Document.  These documents are designed to wrap around existing certificates of insurance and benefit plan booklets to provide the required provisions and information necessary to comply with ERISA.  Within the requirements, plan administrators must provide their participants with information about the health plan features including plan rules, financial information, documents on the operation/management of the plan, and funding.

Virtually all employers, regardless of size or number of participants, who provide health benefits to their employees are required to have an ERISA Wrap.  To avoid not being in compliance with ERISA, BASE® suggests a full review of the business’ compliance measures in place.  For more information on the ERISA Wrap, call BASE® at 888.386.9690 or visit www.BASEonline.com.

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