What this means for benefit plan sponsors and the professionals who advise them is that compliance with plan reporting and disclosure rules, and with the plan documentation duties that underpin them, must remain a priority. This is particularly the case with regard to health and welfare plans offering group medical, dental, vision, life, disability and similar forms of coverage, as opposed to 401(k) and other retirement plans.
That is because retirement plan service providers supply plan documentation to employers who engage their services, whereas insurance companies only provide benefit summaries designed to comply with state insurance laws rather than with the disclosure duties mandated under ERISA.
It is often left to benefit brokers and other third parties to the insurance (or self-funding) relationship, to bridge the gap, by drafting Summary Plan Descriptions and/or “wrap” documentations containing required ERISA disclosures, and by ensuring that they are properly delivered to plan participants and beneficiaries under Department of Labor protocols for hard copy and electronic distribution.
If you or your clients have any questions on what ERISA requires around plan documents and their delivery to the folks that they cover, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.