QUESTION: Our company sponsors a calendar-year self-insured major medical plan subject to ERISA. Are we permitted to treat Patient-Centered Outcomes Research (PCOR) fees as plan expenses?

ANSWER: The DOL has indicated that PCOR fees generally are not permissible plan expenses under ERISA since they are imposed on the plan sponsor and not the plan. As background, PCOR fees, which are used to fund research on patient-centered outcomes, are payable annually by sponsors of self-insured plans (and insurers, but we focus here on plan sponsors) through plan years ending before October 1, 2029. By statute, the fee for a self-insured plan is to be paid by the “plan sponsor,” which in most cases means the employer or employee organization that established or maintains the plan.

This means that plan assets (e.g., trust assets or participant contributions) should not be used to pay PCOR fees since ERISA’s prohibited transaction rules prohibit plan assets from being used to offset employer obligations. However, multiemployer plan assets may be used to pay PCOR fees since the plan sponsor liable for a multiemployer plan’s fee is generally an independent joint board of trustees with no source of funding other than plan assets.

Source: Thomson Reuters

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