Health and Welfare Benefit Plans

Overview

BakerHostetler’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plans team is comprised of more than 10 attorneys serving clients of all sizes, in all industries, nationwide to deliver exceptional legal services in the health and welfare benefit plan space. We serve our clients’ needs – whether in strategy, compliance, controversy or otherwise – with a holistic yet efficient approach, ensuring a client’s business needs, industry, workforce and demographics are considered to support sound decision-making.

We are distinguished by our experience in representing stakeholders ranging from employers to insurers to administrators to governmental entities, which uniquely positions our team to advise clients not only about how they can respond today but also how to prepare for future challenges regarding compliance, cost and competition. We also have a keen awareness that there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all approach, which is why we also counsel sponsors, administrators and promoters of plans with special characteristics and needs, such as multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs), jointly trusteed Taft-Hartley welfare benefit funds and welfare benefit plans that prefund benefits through the use of a voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (VEBA).

Our team – robust both in size and experience – enables us to staff matters with the right people for the issue at hand and to effectively manage all of our clients’ health and welfare needs.

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Many of our team members are also members of the firm’s Strategic Healthcare Initiatives team – a cross disciplinary team focused on direct relationships between employers and healthcare providers, data optimization and other strategies in delivering healthcare.

From design and planning to day-to-day compliance, we help clients:
  • Design and execute comprehensive, customized health and welfare benefit programs, including the traditional menu of medical, dental, vision, life, disability, cafeteria plan and fringe benefits as well as more evolving strategic options designed to address our clients’ increasing concerns over benefit plan costs and outcomes.
  • Ensure that those benefit programs comply with existing legal requirements, including:
    • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
    • The Internal Revenue Code (Code).
    • The Affordable Care Act (ACA).
    • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
    • The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
    • The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA).
    • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
  • Develop and implement effective strategies based on changing rules and changing employer needs.
  • Provide comprehensive, practical welfare benefit plan compliance and strategy counsel for plan terminations, corporate transactions (including mergers, acquisitions, reorganizations and expansions) and shifts in employment practices, such as reductions in force.
  • Navigate complicated litigation and regulatory proceedings involving the U.S. Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, National Labor Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other federal and state agencies.

Select Experience

  • Counseled clients through COVID-19 pandemic-related shifts in employment and employee benefits while ensuring compliance with an onslaught of temporary legal requirements impacting health and welfare plans.
  • Obtained a bench verdict for a client in a class action by union retirees challenging changes to the client’s retiree medical benefit plan.
  • Reached a favorable settlement in an ERISA benefits claim for short- and long-term disabilities on behalf of numerous employers.
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Experience

  • Counseled clients through COVID-19 pandemic-related shifts in employment and employee benefits while ensuring compliance with an onslaught of temporary legal requirements impacting health and welfare plans.
  • Obtained a bench verdict for a client in a class action by union retirees challenging changes to the client’s retiree medical benefit plan.
  • Reached a favorable settlement in an ERISA benefits claim for short- and long-term disabilities on behalf of numerous employers.
  • Negotiated the complete elimination of ~$1 million in ACA employer shared responsibility penalties.
  • Assisted a client through the full life cycle of its multiple employer welfare arrangement, including obtaining state licensure, assisting with ongoing federal/state compliance and benefit design issues and eventually terminating the solvent arrangement upon dissolution of the sponsoring organization.
  • Developed a full-scale HIPAA compliance program for an entity under a Department of Health & Human Services audit.
  • Restructured all the benefit plans for thousands of employees of a manufacturing company when it was spun off by a large multinational company.
  • Reached a favorable settlement in subrogation claims to recover plan assets on behalf of numerous clients.
  • Advised employers and insurers in strategies for ACA compliance, including establishing full-time employee determination processes and implementing market reform compliance strategies.

Recognition

  • Chambers USA: Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation – Ohio (2007 to 2021)
  • The Legal 500 United States:
    • Labor and employment – Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation & Retirement Plans: Design (2016 to 2021)
    • Labor and employment – Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation & Retirement Plans: Transactional (2016 to 2020)
  • U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms”
    • Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law: National (2012 to 2020); Cleveland (2011 to 2020); Columbus (2018 to 2020); Orlando (2012 to 2020);
    • Litigation – ERISA: National (2012 to 2020); Cleveland (2012 to 2020);
  • Recognized as one of the top law firms for client service, BakerHostetler was named to the 2020 BTI Client Service 30 for the sixth consecutive year.

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