Many of the nation's 5+ million employers are not in compliance because they are not aware that their group insurance policies and other Welfare Benefit Plans are subject to ERISA, just as their 401(k) plans are.
Atlanta, Georgia (PRWEB) August 20, 2009
ERISA Pros released its proprietary "Wrap-Tight"SM Plan Documents, SPDs (Summary Plan Description), Form 5500 Preparation, and Compliance Services for Health & Welfare Benefit Plans. Atlanta attorney, Bernard Kearse JD, LLM, founded ERISA Pros to fill the need for high quality, yet affordable ERISA SPDs dedicated to the Welfare Benefit Plans, such as employer sponsored group life, medical, dental, and disability insurance plans.
According to Kearse, "Many of the nation's 5+ million employers are not in compliance because they are not aware that their group insurance policies and other Welfare Benefit Plans are subject to ERISA, just as their 401(k) plans are." Almost every employer, regardless of its size or number of employees, must comply with ERISA. The only exceptions are church and government plans. Most employee benefit plans are subject to ERISA's requirements--whether they are insured or self-insured. There are very few exceptions to ERISA's applicability.
In addition to a general lack of awareness, the rate of compliance is low due to several common misconceptions. One common misperception held by even experienced insurance brokers, consultants, Human Resources and Benefits personnel, accountants, and attorneys is that an insurance company's group insurance policy or Certificate of Insurance is an SPD. However, Certificates of Insurance are not SPDs because they rarely contain all of the required ERISA language. An employer must prepare an ERISA "wrapper." Together, the wrapper and the Certificate of Insurance constitute an SPD. Another common misperception is who is responsible for preparing, filing, and delivering SPDs and Form 5500s. Most employers believe their insurance broker, insurance carrier, accountant, or perhaps even their lawyer is taking care of this. However, ERISA compliance is solely the employer's responsibility.
Employers can face a Department of Labor penalty of up to $1,100 per day for not being in compliance. In 2008, enforcement of ERISA laws resulted in $1.2 billion. Hilda Solis, the new Secretary of Labor in the Obama Administration, is committed to protecting workers' benefits. This year, the DOL expects to hire about 1,000 new employees, including 670 investigators.
An employer must be in compliance before a problem arises. By the time the DOL knocks on its door or an employee lawsuit surfaces, it is too late. Failure to comply with ERISA can result in an unnecessary, time consuming, and expensive DOL ERISA penalty and employee lawsuit.
ERISA is a complicated and confusing area of the law. ERISA Pros produced a humorous short movie, "The ERISA Force," to demonstrate the consequences of an unannounced DOL audit on an employer. The movie can be viewed on the company's website.
Until now, employers had to either engage an attorney to draft a custom SPD or fill in a template. A custom drafted SPD is typically quite expensive, and a template is often not in full compliance with ERISA. Either way, an employer's documents can become out of compliance without periodic monitoring because of changes in an employer's benefits or in the law.
ERISA Pros plans to distinguish itself through proactive, ongoing compliance. Its experienced professionals will personally obtain the information to prepare documents for its client--rather than giving a blank template to an employer, which would likely be incomplete, completed incorrectly, or never completed. ERISA Pros' proprietary "Wrap-Tight"sm SPD consolidates all of an employer's ERISA Plans into a single Plan. Employers utilizing this approach save the time and expense of preparing an SPD and a Form 5500 for each Plan. ERISA Pros will contact its customers annually to assess whether their SPDs are still in compliance.
About ERISA Pros:
ERISA Pros is a Third Party Administrator (TPA) providing ERISA compliant documents and services related to Health & Welfare Benefit Plans. For a complimentary ERISA compliance evaluation or for additional information on ERISA Pros, its wrap SPD, or Form 5500 preparation, contact Bernard Kearse.
Bernard V. Kearse, III, JD, LLM
ERISA Pros, LLC
678-443-4003 (local) or 866-488-6582 (toll-free)
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