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June 14, 2002
New ERISA Requirements on July 1
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July 1, new ERISA requirements for changes to claims and appeals procedures for health care and disability related claims go into effect.

Business and Legal Reports, a compliance publisher and parent company of, advised that these changes should be communicated before July 1 to all affected employees and incorporated into new Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs).

At first glance the new requirements may be quite confusing to both employers and employees, and care should be taken in communicating the changes.

"Explanations of how claims and appeals will be handled should include examples as well as a `road map' of what happens when a claim or appeal is processed" according to Ron Wohl, CMC, President of In Plain English, a communications consulting firm.

Wohl suggests that employers can get added value from this exercise by reprinting their new claims and appeals procedures in a small brochure. This brochure should be included in all responses to requests for claim forms, be sent out with paychecks, handed-out at employee meetings, printed in the employee newsletter, and be made available for pickup at the Human Resource Office and other areas where employees may gather.

"Quick, frequent, and clear communication of the new claims and appeals procedure will help assure an easy transition," says Wohl.

Wohl and Chuck Miller, a principal of Lakeshore Communications, have co-authored the only up-to-date comprehensive guide to communicating employee benefit information, entitled, "Benefits Communication: A Guide." This 300-page book, CD, and six-times-a-year newsletter can help any employer maneuver the mine fields of change and compliance under ERISA and other regulations affecting disclosure of benefit information to employees and beneficiaries.

The book is updated twice a year and published by BLR. For subscription information contact BLR at 1-800-7-ASK-BLR or visit online at

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