Phyllis Borzi, Assistant Secretary of the Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”) and one of the founding members of the Worldwide Employee Benefits Network (“WEB”) paid a visit to WEB’s Cleveland Chapter yesterday. One of the issues she addressed was the status of the retirement plan service provider disclosure regulations. Ms. Borzi explained that while she was expecting the release of final regulations any day, Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) has not yet pushed the button to make this happen. These regulations, which will require substantial ramp-up time for compliance, are scheduled to become effective April 1, 2012. Understandably, employers and service providers are concerned about having sufficient time to review and comply with the regulations before they become effective. Likewise, employers are concerned about having time to comply with the participant-level disclosure regulations after they receive service provider disclosures.
When I asked about the time frame for the health care Summary of Benefits and Coverage final regulations, slated to become effective March 23, 2012, Ms. Borzi’s response was “funny you should ask.” It seems that shortly before she stepped on the plane, EBSA published Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) About Affordable Care Implementation Part VII and Mental Health Parity Implementation, and this was the first question. The answer provides that compliance was not required until the final regulations are “issued and applicable” and provides that the regulations will include an applicability date that gives group health plans and health insurance issuers “sufficient time” to comply. The question refers to need “several months” to prepare the summary, so “sufficient time” is not terribly comforting and not the one year that was provided by the statute, but better than nothing.
We thought we were the first to hear about the new health care FAQs, but wouldn’t you know it, Dave Baker and his team at benefitslink.com already had the word on the street. You can’t scoop Dave, even when you have an audience with EBSA!