Looking in the Crystal Ball: DOL Releases Semiannual Regulatory Agenda

Mark Buckberg, CPA, CFE, CFF

The Department of Labor recently released its Spring 2014 semiannual regulatory agenda. This lists all regulations that the DOL expects to consider for proposal or review within the next six to twelve months.

Here are the regulations that may affect your benefit plan in the near future:

Final Rules for:

  • Adoption of amended and restated Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program. The DOL is looking to expand the scope of transactions eligible for correction, as well as streamline correction procedures.
  • Amendment of Abandoned Plan Program. Under examination is whether and how to expand the scope of individuals entitled to be a “qualified termination administrator” (QTA).
  • Annual Funding Notice. This rule will implement requirements of the Pension Protection Act to require defined benefit pension plan administrators to provide an annual funding notice to participants, beneficiaries, and other parties.

Proposed Rules for:

  • Amendments to excepted benefits. These proposed rules would amend regulations regarding excepted benefits in ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, the Public Health Service Act, and the Affordable Care Act.
  • Conflict of interest rule – investment advice. This rule is intended to reduce harmful conflicts of interest by giving the term “fiduciary” a broader definition. Although this reproposal has been delayed for several years, its release remains on the active agenda.
  • Electronic filing of apprenticeship and training notices, and top hat plan statements. Approval of this rule would allow for electronic filing in lieu of regular mail or hand delivery.
  • Guide for 408(b)(2) disclosures. Rulemaking would amend the disclosure provisions to require covered service providers to provide a guide or similar tool with their disclosures.
  • Ninety-day waiting period limitation under ACA. This rule will provide guidance related to the 90-day waiting period limitation within the Affordable Care Act.
  • Notice of proposed rulemaking for health care continuation coverage. Under review is the proposal to eliminate the current version of the model general notice and the model election notice in appendix §2590.606-1. Also under consideration within this proposal are technical changes to the instruction language regarding model notices that will allow the DOL to amend the notices as necessary.
  • Pension benefit statements. The DOL is exploring whether and how an individual benefit statement should include a lifetime income stream of payments.
  • Selection of annuity providers – safe harbor for individual account plans. Under this rule, the DOL is considering how Departments could encourage these plans to offer annuities or other arrangements that provide a lifetime stream of income after retirement.
  • Target date disclosure. This rule aims to enhance the information provided regarding target date funds.

Long-term Action:

  • Amendment to claims procedure regulation. If finalized, this rule would establish minimum requirements for benefit claims procedures. It is intended to strengthen, improve, and update the current rules regarding the internal claims and appeals process.
  • Automatic enrollment in health plans of employees of large employers. This rule implements a portion of ACA which requires employers with more than 200 full-time employees to automatically enroll new full-time employees in one of the employer’s plans.
  • Improved fee disclosure for welfare plans. Under consideration is an amendment to the standards regarding contracting with a party in interest for office space or services. Specifically, this amendment will ensure that fiduciaries have the information they need to make the appropriate determination regarding these contracts.
  • Revision of Form 5500 series. The DOL, along with the IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, is considering how to modernize and improve the Form 5500. Specifically, the focus is on making investment and other information mineable.

Completed Action:

  • Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. The DOL has developed regulatory guidance for this Act.
  • Ninety-day wait period limitation and technical amendments to certain health coverage requirements under ACA. This rule will provide guidance related to the 90-day waiting period limitation within the Affordable Care Act.

Pre-rule:

  • Standards for brokerage windows. The EBSA will review the use of brokerage windows in participant-directed individual account retirement plans that fall under ERISA regulations. Under exploration is whether, and to what extent, regulatory guidance for these arrangements are appropriate for plans that allow participants to direct investments through brokerage windows.

For more details on this listing, visit Regulations.gov and select “DOL”. If you have any questions about these rules or how your plan might need to prepare, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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