The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly decreased health care utilization, as health care providers and patients have canceled appointments and postponed elective procedures. Because employees are not using their insurance benefits, some group medical, dental and vision carriers are providing employers with a credit against future premiums owed under their insurance contracts.
Employers receiving these premium credits should consider their fiduciary obligations under ERISA when determining how to apply the credits. Any credit amount that qualifies as a plan asset under ERISA must be used for the exclusive benefit of the plan’s participants. Employers cannot retain any portion of the rebate that is a plan asset.
If the employer is the policyholder—as is most often the case—the portion of the rebate that must be treated as a plan asset depends on who paid the insurance premiums. For example:
- If the premiums were paid entirely out of trust assets, the entire rebate amount is a plan asset;
- If the employer paid 100 percent of the premiums, the rebate is not a plan asset and the employer can retain the entire rebate amount;
- If participants paid 100 percent of the premiums, the entire rebate amount is a plan asset; and
- If the employer and participants each paid a fixed percentage of the premiums, the percentage of the rebate equal to the percentage of the cost paid by participants is a plan asset.
Refer to the attached compliance bulletin for details and contact your NEEBCo representative with questions.