Should Electronic Disclosures Extend to Health and Welfare Plans?

The DOL issued proposed regulations and a request for information (RFI) that will, if finalized, create a new safe harbor that allows retirement plans to deliver ERISA-required disclosures to plan participants electronically, by default.

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January 13, 2020

The DOL issued proposed regulations and a request for information (RFI) that will, if finalized, create a new safe harbor that allows retirement plans to deliver ERISA-required disclosures to plan participants electronically, by default. The final regulations would be effective 60 days after publication, which means that plans likely will be able to use the safe harbor as early as the 2021 plan year.

Although the DOL expressed openness to extending the safe harbor to health and welfare plans, it is not proposing to do so at this time. The RFI, however, invites comments from health and welfare plans by November 22, 2019. Topics for comment include but are not limited to:

  • How plan sponsors assess the impact and effectiveness of plan disclosures;
  • Whether some ERISA-required disclosures are too voluminous or complex and whether there are effective alternatives;
  • Suggestions for streamlining ERISA-required disclosures;
  • How design impacts the likelihood that participants will read and understand the information in required disclosures;
  • Common features of websites or apps that communicate plan information effectively; and
  • Whether some communications are more effective in certain mediums (e.g., print vs. electronic).

The Business Group continues to support flexibility to use electronic disclosures.

What happens next?

The DOL will consider comments and likely issue final regulations in the coming months. The Business Group will submit comments and welcomes input from members.

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