Your Rights Under ERISA
As a participant in the Plan, you are entitled to certain rights and protections under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). ERISA provides that all Plan Participants are entitled to:
- Examine, without charge, at the Plan Administrator’s office and at other specified locations, such as worksites and union halls, all documents governing the Plan, including insurance contracts and collective bargaining agreements, and a copy of the latest annual report (Form 5500 Series) filed by the Plan with the U.S. Department of Labor and available at the Public Disclosure Room of the Employee Benefits Security Administration;
- Obtain copies of all Plan documents and other Plan information including insurance contracts and collective bargaining agreements, and copies of the latest annual report (Form 5500 Series) and updated Summary Plan Description upon written request to the Plan Administrator. The Plan Administrator may make a reasonable charge for the copies;
- Receive a summary of the Plan’s annual financial report. The Plan Administrator is required by law to furnish each participant with a copy of this summary annual report;
- Continue health care coverage for yourself, spouse or dependents if there is a loss of coverage under the Plan as a result of a qualifying event. You or your dependents may have to pay for such coverage. Review this Summary Plan Description and the documents governing the Plan, particularly the rules governing your COBRA continuation coverage rights; and
- A reduction or elimination of exclusionary periods of coverage for preexisting conditions under your group health plan, if you have creditable coverage from another plan. You should be provided a certificate of creditable coverage, free of charge, from your group health plan or health insurance issuer when you lose coverage under the plan, when you become entitled to elect COBRA continuation coverage, when your COBRA continuation coverage ceases, if you request it before losing coverage, or if you request it up to 24 months after losing coverage. Without evidence of creditable coverage, you may be subject to a preexisting condition exclusion for 12 months (18 months for late enrollees) after your enrollment date in your coverage.
Prudent Actions by Plan Fiduciaries
In addition to creating rights for Plan participants, ERISA imposes duties upon the people who are responsible for the operation of an employee benefit plan. The people who operate your Plan, called “fiduciaries” of the Plan, have a duty to do so prudently and in the best interest of you and other Plan participants. No one, including the Plan Sponsor or any other person, may fire you or otherwise discriminate against you in any way to prevent you from obtaining a benefit or exercising your rights under ERISA.
Enforce Your Rights: If your claim for a benefit is denied or ignored, you have a right to know why this was done, to obtain copies of documents relating to the decision without charge, and to appeal any denial, all within certain schedules.
Under ERISA, there are steps you can take to enforce the above rights. For instance, if you request a copy of plan documents or the latest annual report from the Plan and do not receive them within thirty (30) days, you may file suit in a Federal court. In such a case, the court may require the Plan Administrator to provide the materials and pay you up to $110 a day until you receive the materials, unless the materials were not sent because of reasons beyond the control of the Plan Administrator. If you have a claim for benefits which is denied or ignored, in whole or in part, you may file suit in a state or Federal court. In addition, if you disagree with the Plan’s decision or lack thereof concerning the qualified status of a medical child support order, you may file suit in Federal court.
If it should happen that Plan fiduciaries misuse the Plan’s money, or if you are discriminated against for asserting your rights, you may seek assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor, or you may file suit in Federal court. The court will decide who should pay court costs and legal fees. If you are successful, the court may order the person you have sued to pay these costs and fees. If you lose, the court may order you to pay these costs and fees, if for example, it finds your claim is frivolous.
Assistance with Your Questions: If you have any questions about this Plan, you should contact the Plan Administrator. If you have any questions about this statement or about your rights under ERISA, including COBRA, HIPAA and other laws affecting the Plan or need assistance in obtaining documents from the Plan Administrator, you should contact the nearest area office of the Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, listed in your telephone directory or the Division of Technical
Assistance and Inquiries, Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. You may also obtain certain publications about your rights and responsibilities under ERISA by calling the publications hotline of the Employee Benefits Security Administration. You may also visit their website at www.dol.gov/ebsa.