Not all benefits are subject to retirement income security law

Enacted in 1974, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established retirement and health plans that are sponsored by employers in private industry. In an interview with The Oklahoman, McAfee & Taft employee benefits attorney Brandon Long provided an overview of the federal law and the protections it provides for individuals participating in covered plans.

He explained that while many plans are subject to ERISA, some are exempt. Examples include plans sponsored by governmental entities and churches, as well certain types of benefits, such as many cafeteria plans, some short-term disability benefits, and some voluntary benefits. Plans subject to ERISA must follow strict rules.

“ERISA requires an employer to furnish a summary plan description automatically and to notify employees when a benefit plan is amended,” said Long. “ERISA also requires employers to furnish certain specified documents to participants when participants request them. Many people don’t realize that the Affordable Care Act expanded ERISA’s disclosure rules to impose a new disclosure: the “summary of benefits and coverage.” The SBC must accurately describe the benefits and coverage under the applicable plan or coverage, and must be distributed to applicants and enrollees in connection with enrollment or re-enrollment.”