The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for most
voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industry
to provide protection for individuals in these plans.
ERISA requires plans to provide participants with plan
information including important information about plan features
and funding; provides fiduciary
responsibilities for those who manage and control plan assets;
requires plans to establish a grievance and appeals process for
participants to get benefits from their plans; and gives
participants the right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary
There have been a number of amendments to ERISA,
expanding the protections available to health benefit plan
participants and beneficiaries. One important amendment, the Consolidated
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), provides some workers
and their families with the right to continue their health coverage
for a limited time after certain events, such as the loss of a job.
Another amendment to ERISA is the Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which
provides important new protections for working Americans and their
families who have preexisting medical conditions or might otherwise
suffer discrimination in health coverage based on factors that
relate to an individual's health. Other important amendments include
the Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act, the Mental Health
Parity Act, and the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act.
In general, ERISA does not cover group health plans
established or maintained by governmental entities, churches for
their employees, or plans which are maintained solely to comply with
applicable workers compensation, unemployment, or disability laws.
ERISA also does not cover plans maintained outside the United States
primarily for the benefit of nonresident aliens or unfunded excess
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
Information on Health Plans
Provides fact sheets, booklets,
and other health plan information from the Department's Employee
Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).