When the same health plan administrator both administers a benefit plan and pays the benefits due under the plan, it is considered by courts to have a structural conflict of interest.  That conflict of interest is not problematic on its own – it is perfectly legal, and it is not a breach of fiduciary duty.  However, when a plan member files a lawsuit challenging the administrator’s denial of the member’s benefits, a court can consider the conflict of interest as a factor in whether the administrator’s denial was arbitrary and capricious.

Over the last several years, courts have provided administrators and their attorneys with guidance on how to limit the impact of this common structural conflict of interest.  When defending against denial of benefits claims under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B), defendant plan administrators should be aware of whether the conflict of interest exists and address it proactively to avoid negative inferences.Continue Reading When the Payor is Also the Decisionmaker in ERISA Benefits Lawsuits Under 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B)

There were several recent court decisions that have addressed the right of medical providers, acting under assignments of ERISA plan benefits from patients, to seek plan documents and summary plan descriptions, and to sue plan fiduciaries.

In one case, the district court dismissed the action, holding that the patients had not assigned their rights to sue the plan for statutory penalties. The provider attempted to obtain a retroactive assignment, but the Eleventh Circuit court of appeals held that the provider was not a participant nor a beneficiary in the plan and thus had no standing to bring a claim.
Continue Reading Recent Case Law Regarding Health Plan Assignment of Benefits

This is the second article in our series on Association Health Plans (AHP). This week’s discussion focuses on the potential impact of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) decision to relax some AHP requirements.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently expanded the ability of small groups and the self-employed to obtain health coverage through AHPs. A final rule published June 21 eases certain AHP requirements and restrictions.
Continue Reading DOL Rule Relaxes Some AHP Requirements, Points to Other Protections

On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the employee benefit plans of church-affiliated hospitals and healthcare facilities may be exempt from the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), in Advocate Health Care Network et al. v. Stapleton et al. More background information can be found in our December legal alert on this case.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds Church-Affiliated Hospitals are Exempt From ERISA Requirements