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Kendra Roberson has experience advising clients on a broad spectrum of employee benefits matters including tax-qualified retirement plans, employee stock ownership plans, executive compensation arrangements, stock option and other equity-based compensation plans, cafeteria plans, VEBAs, self-insured medical plans, and other health and welfare plans.  Her experience includes plan design and drafting, regulatory compliance, ERISA litigation, and handling employee benefits matters and plans in corporate transactions.  In addition, Ms. Roberson has extensive experience advising employers and state governments on compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”).

Businesses are rapidly developing strategies to continue functioning and protect their workforces in the face of the growing Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. For obvious reasons, businesses may want to deploy health screening, testing, and professional medical advice services—including telemedicine—to their employees and dependents. It is critical that employers’ health plans support these efforts and not get

In October, the U.S. Department of Labor released a proposed rule that would increase plan administrators’ ability to make certain required ERISA pension disclosures through electronic, rather than paper, delivery.  Below is a summary of the proposed rule with some highlights on aspects of the proposal that have been questioned by interested parties and might be changed.

Continue Reading DOL Proposal for Electronic Disclosure of ERISA Pension Documents

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury released a new “Transparency in Coverage” proposed rule that requires most group health plans and issuers to publicly disclose negotiated rates with in-network providers and historical data showing amounts paid for covered items or services furnished by out-of-network providers.  In addition, group health plans and issuers would be required to create a self-service website through which participants could obtain estimates of out-of-pocket costs for covered items or services.  The proposed rule implements provisions of the Affordable Care Act and is intended to help consumers shop for medical services from lower-cost, higher-value providers.

Continue Reading Group Health Plans Face Automatic Public Disclosure of Negotiated Rates and Plan Payments

(This article was originally published in Law360 and has been modified for this blog.)

Employers commonly offer a wide array of employee benefit plans and programs.  In addition to traditional staples, many employers today offer an employee assistance program, dependent care, accident insurance and even pet insurance.  In an increasingly competitive labor market, offering a full spectrum of employee benefits is an important way to maintain a competitive advantage.  While the type of programs offered have increased, employees may not always have sufficient knowledge to make use of them.  In a 2017 survey, only 60 percent of employees thought their employers effectively educated them to select the benefits options that meet their needs.  Underutilization means employers are not receiving the full benefit of their offerings.

That is why some employers are starting to use a navigator, or concierge service, to help employers realize a greater return on their investment in these programs by raising employees’ awareness of available benefits and promoting employees’ access and utilization of them.  Benefit concierge services raise several unique legal issues in the areas of data privacy, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, and technology, to name a few.  With appropriate legal counsel and planning, many of these issues can be addressed.  This article highlights some of the legal issues that may arise when providing a concierge service.


Continue Reading Beware Laws Intersecting Benefit Concierge Services

In January, we posted about the Department of Labor’s (DOL or the “Department”) proposed rule to allow more Association Health Plans (AHPs) to be regulated as large group health plans.  The proposed rule garnered national attention and the Department received over 900 stakeholder comments from consumer groups, individual employers, employer associations, health insurance issuers, business groups, and state regulators.  Supporters of the rule emphasized the need for more affordable health care options while detractors raised concerns about the rule’s potential effects on the existing health care markets and the scope of coverage that will be available to individuals who enroll in AHPs.

On June 19, 2018, the Department finalized the rule, 83 Fed. Reg. 28912 (June 19, 2018) (codified at 29 C.F.R. 2510), with relatively few changes to the proposed rule.


Continue Reading DOL Finalizes Highly Anticipated Rule Aimed at Expanding Access to Association Health Plans

On February 20, 2018, the Supreme Court decided CNH Industrial N.V. v. Reese, 574 U.S. ___ (2018), which raised, for the second time in three years, the question of how courts should interpret collective-bargaining agreements (“CBAs”).  Reese involved a dispute between retirees and their former employer, CNH, about whether an expired 1998 CBA created a vested right to lifetime health benefits.  In a per curiam opinion, the Court found that a straightforward reading of the CBA compelled the conclusion that retiree health benefits expired when the CBA expired in 2004.  The Court’s opinion emphasized the significance of CBA expiration dates for retiree health benefits and forcefully reiterated its decision in M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, 574 U.S. ___ (2015), that collective-bargaining agreements must be interpreted according to “ordinary principles of contract law.”

Continue Reading Supreme Court Deals Another Blow to Sixth Circuit’s “Yard-Man Inferences”

On January 5, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL or the “Department”) published a proposed rule to allow more Association Health Plans (AHPs) to be regulated as large group health plans. 83 Fed. Reg. 614 (Jan. 5, 2018) (to be codified at 29 C.F.R. pt. 2510). The proposed regulation was developed in response to President Trump’s October 12, 2017 Executive Order 13813, directing the executive branch to facilitate the purchase of insurance across state lines and, specifically, directing the DOL to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance . . . to expand access to health coverage by allowing more employers to form AHPs.” The proposed regulation fulfills this charge by relaxing the Department’s existing interpretation of the conditions under which an association is considered the employer sponsor of a single multiple employer welfare arrangement under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). 83 Fed. Reg. at 626. An AHP that is a single multiple employer arrangement more easily qualifies as a plan offered in the large group market because it may aggregate employees of all employer members to determine the plan’s market. In some cases under the proposed rules, an AHP may be offered to employers in more than one State, even if the AHP is insured.

Continue Reading DOL Proposes to Relax Regulations Governing Association Health Plans

Legislation proposed by the Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, called the American Health Care Act (“AHCA”), repeals most of the taxes that were imposed by the Affordable Care Act on employers, their health plans and employees, such as the employer mandate and 0.9% Medicare surtax. The AHCA would not repeal the Affordable Care Act’s insurance coverage mandates, including the elimination of lifetime and annual dollar limits on essential health benefits or requirements to cover dependent children up to age 26. Below is a summary of the key provisions that would affect employers and their health plans.

Continue Reading The Effect of American Health Care Act on Employers