For ACA, Check Your Handbooks and Intranet

affordable-care-actIf you are like most employers, you have been diligently revising your health benefit plans and working with your insurance providers to make sure your Summary Plan Descriptions comply with the Affordable Care Act. After those revisions are in place, if your handbook and intranet contain benefits-related information, you will need to make revisions there too.

For example, if you exclude “part-time” employees from your health plan, make sure to define that exclusion in your handbook. If your definition of “part-time” is different for health benefits than it is for other purposes (hours, compensation, or vacation for example), be sure to make a clear distinction and consider using a term other than “part-time” when referring to health benefits to avoid possible confusion. The level of detail you include will depend on your preference, but as with other benefit plan discussions it is best to avoid heavily detailed information about your benefits in a handbook.

Any handbook or intranet description of benefits should include language that:

  • Emphasizes that the handbook only summarizes benefits and directs employees to plan documents for detailed information.
  • States that the plan documents control if there are inconsistencies between them and the handbook or intranet.
  • Makes it clear that eligibility for participation in any plan is governed by the terms of that plan’s documents and specifies whether or not a waiting period applies and what it is.
  • States that the benefits described in the handbook may be modified or discontinued at the company’s sole discretion.
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