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Employee Benefits Introduction

Employer-sponsored benefits are a life-saver for many workers, both in terms of the monetary savings and the wide-range of benefits (basic & fringe). Every employee should be knowledgeable about the benefit package offered by their employer.

The WEALTH for the RIGHTEOUS newsletter and planning guides will cover employee benefits and benefit issues, including Education, Employee Assistance Programs, Flexible Spending Accounts, Insurance Coverage, Retirement Savings, Transportation Expenses, and more.

The Employee Benefits section of our website features articles that discuss the value of work benefits, both federally mandated and voluntarily provided by many employers.

Guiding Principles

Health Benefits

Health insurance programs allow workers and their families to take care of essential medical needs. A health plan can be one of the most important benefits provided by an employer.

Private-sector employers are not required to promise retiree health benefits. Furthermore, when employers do offer retiree health benefits, nothing in federal law prevents them from cutting or eliminating those benefits–unless they have made a specific promise to maintain the benefits

Retirement Benefits

An employee is eligible to participate in his or her employer’s retirement plan when he or she meets certain conditions stated in the plan. The law permits each type of plan to have different requirements for participation in the plan.
Employers can choose whether to offer a retirement plan to employees; Federal law does not require employers to offer or to continue to offer a plan.

Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits include cars and flights on aircraft that the employer provides, free or discounted commercial flights, vacations, discounts on property or services, memberships in country clubs or other social clubs, and tickets to entertainment or sporting events.

Federal Benefit Laws

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) administers several important benefit laws covering employer-based plans.

  • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) – Offers protection for individuals enrolled in retirement, health, and other benefit plans sponsored by private-sector employers, and provides rights to information and a grievance and appeals process for participants to get benefits from their plans.
  • The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) – Contains provisions giving certain former employees, retirees, spouses, and dependent children the right to purchase temporary continuation of group health plan coverage at group rates in specific instances.
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – Includes protections for millions of working Americans and their families who have preexisting medical conditions, prohibits discrimination in health care coverage, and guarantees issuance of individual policies for certain eligible individuals.
  • The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) – Offers protections for breast cancer patients who elect breast reconstruction in connection with a mastectomy.
  • The Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act (Newborn’s Act) – Provides rules on minimum coverage for hospital lengths of stay following childbirth.
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) – Prohibits discrimination in group health plan premiums based on genetic information. Also, generally prohibits group health plans from requesting genetic information or requiring genetic tests.
  • The Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) – Prohibits lifetime or annual limits on mental health/substance use disorder benefits that are lower than lifetime or annual dollar limits on medical/surgical benefits. Requires parity in financial requirements and treatment limitations for mental health/substance abuse benefits with those for medical/surgical benefits.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) – Allows special enrollment in a group health plan if an employee or dependents lose coverage under CHIP or Medicaid or are eligible for premium assistance under those programs.

Note: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides additional protections for your benefits under your health plan. For further information, visit the Department of Health and Human Services web site at http://www.healthcare.gov. (See “Health Reform – Affordable Care Act”)