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DOL Delays Benefits Summary Rules

January 9, 2012

The Department of Labor (DOL) has suspended a deadline for employers to comply with new rules regarding the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC). The new rule, part of the health care reform law, would require employers to supply a variety of information in their benefit communications, including a glossary of common health terms and examples of how certain medical conditions would be handled. The DOL announced that employers will not be required to comply until further notice. Previously, the deadline was set at March 23, 2012. The DOL indicated that it would announce a new compliance date after final regulations are set.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed new guidelines governing multiple-employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs) designed to protect small employers. Under the proposed rules, MEWAs would be required to register with the DOL. Also, the DOL would be able to issue cease-and-desist orders on MEWAs without prior notice and would be able to quickly seize assets from MEWAs if they fall into financial trouble.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is beefing up its whistleblower protections. The agency recently revised its manual on whistleblower investigations and has budgeted $6.1 million to hire 45 new investigators. OSHA also has posted final rules on whistleblower provisions under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as amended by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.


Fewer Americans are actively seeking health information, according to an analysis by the Center for Studying Health System Change. The recent study found that 50 percent of American adults looked for personal health information in 2010, a decrease from 56 percent in 2007. Americans’ rate of searching the Internet or asking friends about health information remained stable, but the use of hard-copy books, magazines and newspapers dropped by almost half to 18 percent, the study found.