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There has been an explosion of participant disclosure requirements for group health plans in recent years. While health care reform created some of these new requirements, many of them became effective years earlier. For busy human resources departments, just keeping up with the summary plan description (SPD), summary of material modification and COBRA notice requirements can be challenging enough. And while some of these additional disclosure requirements can be satisfied by having the right language in the SPD, others require a separate, specifically-worded notice.

As we enter open enrollment season for calendar year plans, take a moment and use the following checklist to be sure your company is satisfying its group health plan participant disclosure requirements.

This alert focuses on the periodic disclosures to participants required for ERISA-covered group health plans. While the SPD, SMM and SAR requirements do not apply to non-ERISA plans, sponsors of non-ERISA group health plans should consider complying with the SPD distribution requirements when including any of the other applicable disclosures described above in a plan description. Disclosures also are required for certain participant-specific events, such as COBRA, FMLA, and USERRA, or for plans that have received special exemptions, and in some cases disclosures must be provided to persons other than participants, such as spouses, dependents, and health care providers. These additional disclosure requirements are beyond the scope of this alert. However, if you have questions about fulfilling any of the disclosure requirements for your company’s group health plan, please contact one of our employee benefits attorneys.

Gene Griggs, an attorney no longer with Poyner Spruill, was the original author of this article.

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