Sponsors of group health plans received welcome relief from Congress and regulatory agencies which should make health plan administration and reporting less burdensome. The relief comes in the form of a permanent extension of certain Affordable Care Act reporting deadlines, a temporary reprieve from new prescription drug reporting requirements, and a two-year continuation of the ability to offer telehealth and remote care services under HSA-compatible high deductible health plans.
Congress recently approved some of the most sweeping changes to retirement plans in decades. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 includes the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022. SECURE 2.0 makes numerous changes to qualified retirement plans, 403(b) plans, 457(b) plans, individual retirement accounts, and other employee benefits. The changes are designed to enhance access to retirement savings, preserve income, and lessen administrative burdens.
Employers will need to modify certain aspects of plan administration and make decisions about which optional plan provisions to adopt. This post provides an overview of the most relevant provisions of SECURE 2.0 and their effective dates. We will provide more detailed discussion of SECURE 2.0 and its implications in subsequent posts.
‘Tis the season for giving – and the Department of Labor just gave plan sponsors a gift. The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) recently announced its intent to update its Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP) to create a new self-correction process for correcting late remittances of participant deferrals and loan repayments to defined contribution plans.
In June 2022, the IRS launched a pre-examination pilot program for retirement plans that could help employers avoid costly penalties. The program aims to reduce the burden of, and time spent on, retirement plan audits, which are typically a time consuming endeavor for plan sponsors. The program ultimately should be good news for plan sponsors in terms of both financial penalties and, presumably, a more efficient audit process.
In a year already marked by overwhelming legislative and regulatory change, group health plans now must address yet another issue – abortion coverage in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. The Court overruled Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion and leaving states free to regulate the procedure – and health plan sponsors wondering what to do next.
The SECURE Act added a new disclosure requirement for sponsors of defined contribution plans that becomes effective this year. Plan sponsors of ERISA-covered defined contribution plans must provide participants with a lifetime income disclosure (at least annually) which estimates the monthly income that a participant’s account balance could produce if paid in the form of a qualified joint and survivor annuity or single life annuity stream of payments, rather than a lump-sum.
For participant-directed plans, the initial lifetime income disclosures must be incorporated into benefit statements no later than June 30, 2022. For plans under which participants do not direct the investment of their account, the disclosures must be on the statement for the first plan year ending on or after September 19, 2021. For most plans, this will be October 15, 2022.
Investment consultants and other service providers who advise plan participants and fiduciaries about rollovers and investment choices received another reprieve from new rules governing that advice. But the reprieve is only temporary; those consultants and advisors must be prepared to comply by February 1, 2022.
On April 14, 2021, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”) issued cybersecurity guidance for retirement plan fiduciaries and service providers, as well as plan participants. In the guidance, the EBSA states that ERISA fiduciaries are required to take appropriate steps to mitigate internal and external cybersecurity threats to plan participants and retirement plan assets. To assist fiduciaries and service providers in fulfilling this obligation, the EBSA issued two documents that describe cybersecurity best practices – Cybersecurity Program Best Practices and Tips for Hiring a Service Provider. The EBSA also issued some basic rules – Online Security Tips – to help participants reduce the risk of fraud and loss to their retirement accounts.
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA” or “the Act”) into law. Among the Act’s many provisions is a temporary subsidy for COBRA coverage that will undoubtedly be a significant benefit for individuals who lost health coverage during the pandemic, but which is just as certain to be a tremendous administrative burden for employers and group health plans.
The SECURE and CARES Acts provide a broad spectrum of required and optional changes that employers must evaluate with respect to retirement plan administration. One impending change is the SECURE Act’s broader eligibility requirement for part-time employees in 401(k) plans, which becomes effective on January 1, 2021. In addition, employers may be surprised to learn that some CARES Act distribution options were added to their plans automatically by their record keepers through a “default” process. Thus, employers should review their plan’s administrative procedures to determine if (and how) changes under the SECURE Act and CARES Act were (and are being) implemented to ensure administrative compliance with the plan document.