With proposed changes to Form 5500, small business may need to be prepared to stay in compliance as exemption statuses may change. See the article by Joseph K. Urwitz, Srarh Engle and Megan Mard fro Employee Benefit Adviser.

Historically, Form 5500 has served primarily as an information return used by plan administrators and employers to satisfy their reporting obligations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code. However, the DOL and IRS are increasingly relying on information reported on Form 5500 as a key component of their compliance and enforcement initiatives.

As a result, the proposed revisions to Form 5500 would add a number of new reporting requirements designed to aid the DOL and IRS in assessing whether an employer-sponsored health and welfare plan is being operated and maintained in compliance with the Internal Revenue Code, ERISA and the Affordable Care Act. Most notably, the revisions would limit the reporting exemption for small health and welfare plans, and require employers to disclose significantly more information about their plans in a new Schedule J (Group Health Plan Information) to the Form 5500.

Proposed changes limit exemption for small health and welfare plan reporting

Under the existing reporting regulations, employer-sponsored group health plans with fewer than 100 participants that are fully-insured, self-insured or a combination of insured and self-insured, are not required to file a Form 5500. The proposed changes would eliminate this small plan exception and would require all employer-sponsored group health plans that are subject to ERISA (including grandfathered and retiree plans) to file a Form 5500, regardless of a plan’s size or funding.

The DOL’s executive summary on the proposed regulations states that this change will improve the DOL’s effective development and enforcement of health and welfare plan regulations, as well as the DOL’s ability to educate plan administrators regarding compliance. The new reporting rules will also provide the DOL with data needed for congressionally-mandated reports on group health plans. Under the proposed rules, the existing financial reporting exemptions for health and welfare plans on Schedule C (Service Provider Information), G (Financial Transaction Schedules) and H (Financial Information) will continue to apply. Small, fully-insured plans would have a new limited exemption and would only be required to complete basic participation, coverage, insurance company and benefit information.

Changes to form 5500-SF eligibility

Currently, a welfare plan with fewer than 100 participants, including a plan that provides group health benefits, may file the Form 5500-SF if it is not exempt from the reporting requirements and otherwise eligible. Under the proposed regulations, welfare plans that provide group health benefits and have fewer than 100 participants would no longer be permitted to use the Form 5500-SF. For example, under the proposed rules, a plan funded through a trust with fewer than 100 participants would be required to complete the Form 5500 and Schedule H and Schedule C, if applicable. Welfare plans that do not provide group health benefits, have fewer than 100 participants, and are not otherwise exempt from the reporting requirements would still be able to use the Form 5500-SF.

Proposed changes require disclosure of significantly more plan information

The proposed revisions would also add a new Schedule J (Group Health Plan Information) to the Form 5500. Schedule J would require group health plans to report detailed information about plan operations and compliance with both ERISA and the ACA. For example, plans would be required to disclose, among other things:

  • The number of participants and beneficiaries covered under the plan at the end of the plan year.
  • The number of individuals offered and receiving Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) coverage.
  • Whether the plan offers coverage for employees, spouses, children, and/or retirees.
  • The type of group health benefits offered under the plan, i.e., medical/surgical, pharmacy, prescription drug, mental health/substance use disorder, wellness program, preventive care, vision, dental, etc.
  • The nature of the plan’s funding and benefit arrangement, and information regarding participant and/or employer contributions.
  • Whether any benefit packages offered under the plan are claiming grandfathered status, and whether the plan includes a high deductible health plan, a health flexible spending account, or a health reimbursement arrangement.
  • Information regarding rebates, refunds or reimbursements from service providers.
  • Stop-loss coverage premiums, information on the attachment points of coverage, individual and/or aggregate claims limits.
  • Whether the plan’s summary plan description (SPD), summaries of material modifications (SMM) and summaries of benefits and coverage (SBC) comply with applicable content requirements.
  • Information regarding the plan’s compliance with applicable Federal laws, including, for example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) and ACA.
  • Detailed claims payment data, including information regarding how many benefit claims were submitted, appealed, approved and denied during the plan year, as well as the total dollar amount of claims paid during the plan year.

The DOL has generally requested comments on the new proposed reporting requirements for group health plans and has specifically requested comments on several of the proposed disclosures listed above, including the costs and feasibility of collecting COBRA coverage information and the methodology and reasonableness of collecting information on denied claims.

Next steps

The proposed revisions to Form 5500 are complex and will likely be subject to a number of changes in response to comments received by the DOL. It is clear, however, that future Form 5500 reporting obligations will require more data, more resources and be subject to increased scrutiny by Federal agencies. Employer sponsors of group health plans should begin to evaluate plan documentation and the potential new disclosures required by Schedule J to ensure that each plan sponsor will be in a position to access such information and adequately communicate the new reporting requirements.

See the original Article Posted on EmployeeBenefitAdvisor.com here.


Urwitz, J.K., Engle, S., Mardy, M. (2016, August 04). Form 5500 changes could increase obligations for plan sponsors [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/form-5500-changes-could-increase-obligations-for-plan-sponsors