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)