The regulatory landscape for employee benefit plans is changing quickly, with new guidance being issued nearly every month. Indeed, it is becoming more and more difficult for employers to keep up with all of these regulatory changes. Below is a list of some of the items employers may wish to review in light of such changes:

  1. Group Health Plans
  1. Many employers are reviewing the terms and operation of their group health plans to determine whether the plan continues to be a "grandfathered plan" within the meaning of health care reform.
  1. Federal agencies have issued new guidance that applies to non-grandfathered group health plans. The new guidance includes new claims and appeals procedures that affect non-grandfathered group health plans, particularly self-insured plans, generally effective for plan years on and after January 1, 2012. Significant new guidance was issued expanding the definition of "women's preventive care," which non-grandfathered plans must provide without cost sharing, effective for plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012; the expanded definition includes, among other things, contraceptives and well women visits.
  1. In addition, the federal agencies very recently issued proposed regulations on uniform benefit summaries to be provided to participants, with forms anticipated to be available in 2012.  
  1. Wellness Programs – Many employers have been reviewing their wellness programs for compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA"), the Americans with Disabilities Act, and GINA.
  1. Cafeteria Plans – Employers have been continuing to review their cafeteria plan documentation for regulatory compliance, including the limits on reimbursement under flexible spending accounts for over-the-counter drugs and HIPAA disclosures
  1. Pension Plans – Pension plan sponsors have been preparing for the new requirements on fee disclosures. Service providers are required to provide pension plans with information about the service provider's fees; this requirement has been delayed until April 1, 2012. The new fee disclosure requirements also require pension plans to provide disclosures on fees to participants ("participant level fee disclosures"), which requirement is delayed to correspond to the service provider fee disclosure requirements. Initial annual notices for participant level fee disclosures must be distributed by May 31, 2012, for plan years beginning on or after Nov. 1, 2011, through April 1, 2012. Quarterly notices for participant level fee disclosures must be distributed within 45 days after the end of the quarter in which the initial annual notices were required, i.e., for calendar year plans by August 14, 2012.
  1. Domestic Partner Rules – Effective July 24, 2011, New York legalized same-sex marriages. Many New York plan sponsors are considering whether, and to what extent, employee benefits may be offered to same-sex spouses.