ERISA is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. This may seem like a daunting name at first until you know it helps regulate retirement plans and other employee benefit plans like disability and life insurance offered by private employers. In other words, ERISA “protects employee benefits in the event that an employer mismanages them.” Also, most of these plans are administered by insurance companies who issue group insurance plans to cover employees, and for which your employer pays the premiums.Since the insurance company would prefer not to pay you benefits unless it has to, these companies have a lot of power to decide whether or not you get your benefits. Sometimes those decisions are wrong and they must be challenged on appeal or in court.
Further, your employer may not be the most sophisticated, well-managed business. They may not be reliable about paperwork or even a little shady about how they handle their finances. Whatever actions they take may put your benefit plans in jeopardy. ERISA was enacted to regulate those plans to assure that the covered employees get the benefits to which they are rightfully entitled.
This may have you wondering if ERISA applies to you. Here’s what you need to know:
ERISA protects a number of benefit plans
You should feel safe knowing your Employer sponsored 401(k)s, pensions and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) are all protected under ERISA, as is your employer sponsored health and medical insurance, group life insurance plans (which frequently cover employee spouse), and employee disability plans.
Some of the most common benefit plans are even covered under ERISA. The act protects vision plans, dental plans, scholarship plans and, for the more adventurous, even travel plans. Many people might not realize that benefits like housing assistance plans, disability insurance and even unemployment benefits can be covered by ERISA. You should know which benefits are protected if they apply to you.
ERISA doesn’t protect everything
Iy is very important that you ask the right questions about your benefits so that you know your rights and responsibilities. Fear of resistance or hostility from your employer should not cause you to be silent when you have questions about your employee benefits. Speak up! Ask questions! Make sure you know where you stand. If the employer or insurance company does not respond to your legitimate questions, they may already be violating your rights under ERISA. Do not wait until you have to file a claim to ask the hard questions–by then it may be too late.
No one should be worried about their future benefits under any group or individual insurance policy. If you are not getting the information you need to make intelligent decisions, don’t take “no” for an answer. Contact experienced legal help to ensure you’re protected under ERISA and to obtain help pursuing the benefits you rightfully are owed.