Insurance Law is a broad field, with a wide variety of specialties under the general umbrella. ERISA is typically thought of as long-term disability compensation, although that is not it’s only focus. It is a complicated field, and attorneys who are acknowledged experts in ERISA regulations are sometimes hard to find.
ERISA law differs substantially from short-term disability insurance coverage, and it is not like other employer-supplied health plans. Because it applies to long-term benefits that are available only to employees who opt in to an employer-sponsored private plan, and who have a financial investment in the coverage, it is subject to highly restrictive regulations. Since the act was initially enacted into law, there have been a number of amendments that have altered and increased the protection available to plan participants. Among those important successive improvements, two are highly noteworthy:
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows some workers (and their families) access to limited-time continued health coverage even if eligibility for the coverage ends, i.e, following the loss of a job, or if it is terminated for another reason. Discrimination in health coverage based on a participant’s individual health condition is addressed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. That legislation has been an important factor in equalizing opportunities for all Americans.
Additional amendments deal with the protection of health for mothers and newborns, the Mental Health Parity Act, a Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act, the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. These amendments to ERISA, while they have been instrumental in expanding payments to deserving employees, have made understanding ERISA provisions highly complex. When dealing with issues that can be so vital to the economic, physical and mental well-being of plan participants, it is vital to have knowledgeable and informed legal assistance.