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What You Need to Know About the 2018 ERISA Translation Requirements

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Amended at the end of 2016, ERISA adds new government regulations to benefit plans.  The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, also known as ERISA, was updated to improve minimum standards as well as communication in the benefits division. Dubbed the ‘Final Rule’, the latest amendment heavily focuses on improving enrollees benefit plan knowledge, such as providing content in a participant’s native language. The new translation requirements contained within ERISA may cause many benefit administrators to fall out of compliance in 2018.

Review of ERISA

The Department of Labor created ERISA to protect benefit enrollees. ERISA covers a wide range of benefit plans, such as welfare, retirement, flexible spending and health reimbursement accounts.

ERISA mandates that benefit plans must provide adequate information about how the system works to enrollees. The Department of Labor established these minimum standards to assure that participants receive what they need to know to make an educated decision about their benefits. This includes everything from verbal assistance to the following:

–  Plan Features
– Funding Explanation
– Collaboration With Trustees
– How to Establish a Grievance
– The Appeals Process

According to the United States Department of Labor, ERISA gives enrollees the right to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary (trustee), duty. Outside of court, ignoring the importance of this vital law can have devastating results, such as fines exceeding $1,000 a day. Due to this, benefit administrators are advised to start preparing for the latest amendment to ERISA, the ‘Final Rule’.

Who is Affected

ERISA’s new amendment affects those that provide benefits to enrollees and the enrollees themselves. The ‘Final Rule’ mandates that an in-depth analysis of why a claim was denied needs to be provided. If requested, this can include the entire claims file as well as any relevant documentation, such as guidelines used internally to dictate when benefits should be denied.


The new regulation applies to participants in the LEP population as well. Now, benefit administrators are required to provide those in the Limited-English Proficient, or LEP, population with documentation in their native language. The U.S. Department of Labor established this new minimum requirement for language access as of 2016 and the ‘Translation Regulation’ may be found in Section 503 of ERISA.

“Notices and disclosures issued under the regulations must be written in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.” – Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor

The ‘Final Rule’ goes on to stipulate that if a claimant lives in an area where at least 10 percent of the population is literate in the same non-English language, translation services must be offered. This will be applied proactively using the same standard that was mandated for the group health-benefit notices under the Affordable Care Act.

Originally, the new ERISA amendment was to go into effect on January 1st, 2018, however, a 90-day grace period was allotted to assist benefit administrators and others with the adjustment process. Due to this, all claims submitted on or after April 1st, 2018 are subject to ERISA compliance.

It’s Not Too Late

ERISA non-compliance fees are pretty hefty and can add up relatively fast. Fines for ignoring ERISA regulations can easily exceed $1,000 per day. It is worth remembering that this daily fine can be applied to each subsequent request after the first one is issued.

Fortunately, there is still time to avoid falling into non-compliance with the ‘Translation Regulation’. Contact a globally trusted translation service, such as Akorbi, to assist you with maintaining ERISA compliance. Make sure that you are able to provide the following translation services by no later than April 1st.

– Literature For Benefit Plans
– Accurate Denial of Benefit Letters
– Live Video Chat Interpretation
– Non-English Audio Recordings
– Onsite Translations
– On-Demand Phone Language Support

Founded in 2003, Akorbi started as a home-based translation business. Since then, we evolved into an enterprise level translation company. Our ability to maintain a customer-driven approach throughout the years helped us become a globally trusted translation company. We take pride in simplifying the translation process while ensuring the cultural and linguistic accuracy of each translation in a time-sensitive manner.

Rely on Akorbi for the multilingual business solutions you need to remain ERISA compliant. Contact Akorbi today and get a jump start on your ERISA compliance preparation.

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