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October 4, 2008    DOL Home > Find It! By Topic > Health Plans > Fiduciary Responsibilities   

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Health Plans & Benefits

Fiduciary Responsibilities

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) protects your plan's assets by requiring that those persons or entities who exercise discretionary control or authority over plan management or plan assets, have discretionary authority or responsibility for the administration of a plan, or provide investment advice to a plan for compensation or have any authority or responsibility to do so are subject to fiduciary responsibilities. Plan fiduciaries include, for example, plan trustees, plan administrators, and members of a plan's investment committee.

The primary responsibility of fiduciaries is to run the plan solely in the interest of participants and beneficiaries and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits and paying plan expenses. Fiduciaries must act prudently and must diversify the plan's investments in order to minimize the risk of large losses. In addition, they must follow the terms of plan documents to the extent that the plan terms are consistent with ERISA. They also must avoid conflicts of interest. In other words, they may not engage in transactions on behalf of the plan that benefit parties related to the plan, such as other fiduciaries, services providers, or the plan sponsor.

Fiduciaries who do not follow these principles of conduct may be personally liable to restore any losses to the plan, or to restore any profits made through improper use of plan assets. Courts may take whatever action is appropriate against fiduciaries who breach their duties under ERISA including their removal.

DOL Web Pages on This Topic

Compliance Assistance
Provides publications and other materials to assist employers and employee benefit plan practitioners in understanding and complying with the requirements of ERISA as it applies to the administration of employee pension and welfare benefit plans.

Health Benefits Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) (PDF)
COBRA gives workers and their family members who lose their health benefits in certain circumstances the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their health plan. This publication provides a detailed overview of the law.

Questions & Answers on the HIPAA Nondiscrimination Requirements
Provides answers to frequently asked questions on final/interim regulations and proposed regulations issued on the nondiscrimination provisions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Health Coverage Portability (PDF)
Provides information about major provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act, the Mental Health Parity Act, and the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act.

Questions & Answers: Women's Health & Cancer Rights Act
Provides general guidance about the Women’s Health Act provisions that amend ERISA.

Frequently Asked Questions for Plan Sponsors, Fiduciaries, and Service Providers Related to the Events of September 11th
Provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by plan sponsors, fiduciaries, and service providers whose pension and health plans were impacted by the events of September 11, 2001.

Frequently Asked Questions for Plan Sponsors Related to Filing Relief
The Employee Benefits Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation have extended the deadline for filing the Form 5500s and Form 5500-EZs as a result of the events of September 11, 2001. These questions and answers provide general information about the filing relief.

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