Glossary of Frequently Used Terms



Actual Contribution Percentage Test (ACP Test)
The test performed to show that employer matching and after-tax employee contributions are nondiscriminatory.

Actual Deferral Percentage Test (ADP Test)
The test performed to show that elective deferrals (including Roth deferrals) are nondiscriminatory.

Average Length of Stay (ALOS)
 The average number of patient days of service rendered to each inpatient (excluding newborns) during a given period. Varies for patients by diagnosis, age, hospital efficiency, etc. One measure of use of health facilities.

(Administrative Services Only) ASO
An arrangement in which a plan hires a third party to deliver administrative services to the plan such as claims processing and billing; the plan bears the risk for claims. Common in self-funded health care plans.

Accidental Tourist
If an employee and/or dependents are traveling outside of a geographical area where network facilities are readily available and need medical care, benefits may be provided by non-network facilities without penalty.

Accrued Benefit
A benefit that an employee has earned (or accrued) through participation in the plan. In a defined contribution plan, the participant's accrued benefit is the balance in his or her individual account at a given time. In a defined benefit plan, the accrued benefit is determined as specified by the plan.

Actuarial Valuation
A series of calculations performed by the plan's actuary to determine the plan sponsor's annual contribution amount in a defined benefit plan.

A person trained in the insurance field who determines policy rates, reserves and dividends, as well as conducts various other statistical studies.

The exercise of judicial power by hearing, trying and determining the claims of litigants before the court. Also, the review and adjustment of benefit claims and bills to arrive at a correct payment.

Administrator (Employee Benefit Plans)
Under ERISA, the person designated as such by the instrument under which the plan is operated. If the administrator is not so designated, administrator means the plan sponsor. If the administrator is not designated and the plan sponsor cannot be identified, the administrator may be such person as is prescribed by regulation of the secretary of labor. The administrator's responsibilities are as follows:

  1. Act solely in the interest of plan participants and beneficiaries, and for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits and defraying reasonable administrative expenses.
  2. Manage the plan's assets to minimize the risk of large losses.
  3. Act in accordance with the documents governing the plan.

Adverse Selection
The tendency of an individual to recognize his or her health status in selecting the option under an insurance plan that tends to be most favorable to him or her (and more costly to the plan). A person with an impaired health status or with expected medical care needs applies for insurance coverage financially favorable to himself or herself and detrimental to the insurance company.

Affiliated Service Group
Two or more related service or management organizations, whether or not incorporated. Employees of the members of an affiliated service group are treated as employed by a single employer for plan qualification purposes.

After-Tax Employee Contributions
Amounts that a participant voluntarily contributes to a plan in addition to the contributions made by the employer. After-tax employee contributions, unlike employer contributions, are not deductible on either the employee's or employer's tax return. Alternately referred to as voluntary contributions, mandatory contributions, post-tax contributions or employee after-tax contributions. Differ from Roth contributions in that earnings on the contributions are still taxable upon distribution.

Alternate Payee
A spouse, former spouse, child or other dependent of the participant.

Ancillary Benefits
Dental, vision, hearing, prescription drug, supplemental life, disability, etc.

A series of periodic payments, usually level in amount or adjusted according to some index (e.g. cost-of-living), that continue for a period certain or up to the lifetime of the recipient.

See Adverse Selection

Assignment of Benefits
The signed transfer of certain benefits by the insured person to a third party, e.g., to a health care provider such as a physician or hospital.

Commonly used in Canada and Great Britain, it is synonymous with insurance.

Attribution                                                                                                                                                                                 The concept of treating an individual as owning an interest that the individual does not actually own. Attribution of ownership may be the result of a family relationship or a business relationship.


Basic Care
Dental corrective services including basic restorative items such as crown repair and fillings, root canal therapy, treatment of gingivitis, and limited oral surgery. Benefits are limited to a fixed dollar amount each year.

Beneficiary Designation Form
Specifies the individual(s) to whom a participant's vested benefit will be distributed in the event of the participant's death.

Benefit Booklet
A booklet for the employee that contains a general explanation of benefits and related provisions of the health plan. See also Summary Plan Description (SPD).

Benefit Formula
The way a participant's benefit is defined in the plan. It is often based on compensation, years of service, or both.

Birthing Center
An attached facility affiliated with a hospital designed as a less expensive and more homelike setting for labor and delivery as an alternative to an operating room.

Blackout Period
Any period of more than three consecutive business days during which the ability of participants or beneficiaries to direct or diversify assets credited to their accounts or obtain loans or distributions is temporarily suspended, limited or restricted.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield Associations
Independent, nonprofit, voluntary membership organizations formed for the purpose of prepaying medical care expenses for their subscribers (insured persons). Blue Shield plans provide payments mainly for physician services, while Blue Cross plans provide coverage primarily for hospital services.

Brand-Name Drug
A drug protected by a patent issued to the original innovator or marketer. The patent prohibits the manufacturer of the drug by other companies as long as the patent remains in effect. See also Generic Equivalent Drugs.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty
A fiduciary's violation of a duty owed to an employee benefit plan or a participant or beneficiary in such a plan.

An insurance solicitor, licensed by the state, who places business with a variety of insurance companies and who represents the buyers of insurance rather than the companies even though he or she is paid commissions by the companies.




Companion Health Reimbursement Arrangement (CHRA)
This HRA is specially designed to provide a continuation percentage. Funds will build in the account each year and after termination will be available at the percentage earned for continuation.

Coordination of Benefits (COB)
A group health insurance policy provision designed to eliminate duplicate payments and provide the sequence in which coverage will apply (primary and secondary) when a person is insured under two contracts.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 requires almost every group health plan to provide each participant and qualified beneficiary under the plan the option to pay for continued coverage for a specified period of time under the plan in the event coverage would otherwise have ceased as a result of one of a number of qualified events.

Cafeteria Plan
Defined by the Internal Revenue Code as a plan that permits the participant to choose between two or more benefits consisting of cash and qualified benefits. See also Flexible Benefit Plan.

Calendar Year Deductible                                                                                                                                                     A deductible that applies to any eligible medical expenses incurred by the insured during any one calendar year.

Card Program
Use of a drug benefit identification card which, when presented to a participating pharmacy by employees or their dependents, usually entitles them to receive the medication for a minimal copay.

A commercial insurer, a government agency or a Blue Cross or Blue Shield plan that underwrites or administers programs that pay for health, life or other insurance services.

A program separate from the primary group health plan designed to provide a specialized type of care, such as a mental health carve-out.

Catch-Up Contributions
Elective deferrals made to a 401(k), 403(b), 457, or SIMPLE plan in excess of an applicable limit. Participants over the age of or who will attain age 50 in the calendar year are catch-up eligible.

Certificate of Insurance
A document that is given to insured members of a group plan and that outlines the plan's coverage and the member's rights.

Chiropractic Care
Spinal manipulation and other treatment and therapy provided by a licensed Chiropractor. Benefits are limit to a fixed number of visits per year and benefits are capped per visit and per year.

An itemized statement of services rendered by a health care provider for a given patient. The claim is submitted to a health benefits plan for payment.

Claim Administrator
Any entity that reviews and determines whether to pay claims to enrollees or physicians on behalf of the health benefit plan. Claim administrators may be insurance companies or their designated claims review organizations, self-insured employers management firms, third party administrators (TPA's) or other private contractors.

Co-pay / Co-payment
A co-payment, or co-pay, is the fixed dollar amount an insured person pays for certain medical services such physician office visits or prescription drugs and is separate from, and does not count towards, the regular deductible. Co-payments are often listed on the health insurance card in order for the medical provider to know immediately what amount to charge the employee.

A joint program involving health care providers, purchasers of care, industry, consumers, labor or insurers in an attempt to deal with health care costs, issues and problems.

A policy provision, frequently found in major medical insurance, by which the insured person and the insurer share the hospital and medical expenses resulting from an illness or injury in a specified ratio (e.g., 80%/20%), after the deductible is met.

Community Rating
The process of determining the premium for a group risk on the basis of the average claims experience for a general population instead of a particular employer. This is especially helpful for small groups, whose claims experience over two or three years may not be typical. Community rating is used my most HMO's which use the plans' entire client population to set premiums.

A person or firm specializing in the design, implementation and service or employee benefit plans and paid on a fee-basis primarily.

Contributory Plan
A plan that provides for employee contributions or a benefit plan under which employees bear part of the cost. In some contributory plans, employees wishing to be covered must contribute; in other contributory plans, employee contributions are voluntary and result in increased benefits.

Controlled Group
The three types of controlled groups are: (1) the parent-subsidiary controlled group, (2) the brother-sister controlled group, and (3) the combined group. All employees of the corporations that are members of a controlled group of corporations are treated as employed by a single employer for plan qualification purposes.

Conversion Privilege
The right of an individual to convert a group health or life insurance policy to an individual policy should the individual cease to be a member of the group. Under such a provision, a physical examination is usually not required.

Core Benefits
The central components of a health care plan, generally comprehensive major medical and hospitalization benefits. These may be supplemented by additional noncore benefits such as dental and vision benefits.

The organization (usually a bank or trust company) that holds in safekeeping the securities and other assets of a plan.


Diagnostic, X-Ray, and Lab (DXL)
DXL includes blood and urine testing as well as x-ray and other diagnostic tests. Some tests are performed in a physician's office and others are performed at an outside laboratory.

The amount of out-of-pocket expenses that must be paid for health services by the insured before becoming payable by the carrier. Most common in major medical policies, but also found in basis policies.

Deductible Carryover
A feature whereby covered charges in the last three months of the year may be carried over to be counted toward the next year's deductible.

Defined Benefit Plan
A plan designed to provide participants with a definite benefit at retirement (e.g. a monthly benefit of 50% of final average compensation upon reaching age 65). Contributions under the plan are determined by reference to the benefits provided.

Defined Contribution Plan
Accounts increase as contributions are made to the account and any income, expenses, gain and losses are allocated to the account.

Demand Management
The combination of strategies such as preventative health, health promotion, self-care guidelines, patient education programs and company practices that is designed to reduce actual and perceived need for health care services and promote and support informed, appropriated health care decision making, thereby reducing costs.

Designated Roth Contributions
Elective deferrals made on an after-tax basis subject to favorable distribution rules if the money remains in the plan for the required period of time.

Direct Contracting
A cost-containment strategy involving an exclusive contractual arrangement between an employer and a provider for health care services, usually obtained at reduced prices for employee groups. This may be accomplished without going through a health plan.

Disbursed Self-Funded Plan
In this type of self-insured or self-funded plan, employees' claims are paid directly out of the company's cash flow as part of the expense of doing business; thus, claims settlements are tax deductible when they are paid, not when they are incurred. The company sets aside not reserves and pays not premiums or expense load to an insurer. Most companies that employ a disbursed self-funded plan buy stop-loss insurance (reinsurance), usually in the range of 120% of expected claims, in order to protect themselves against a significantly poorer-than-expected experience.



Employee Assistance Program: An employment-based health service program designed to assist in the identification and resolution of a broad range of employee personal concerns that may affect job performance. These programs deal with situations such as substance abuse, marital problems, family troubles, stress and domestic violence, as well as health education and disease prevention. The assistance may be provided within the organizations or by referral to outside resources.

Explanation of Benefits: This is paperwork that typically accompanies your reimbursement request from your health carrier or BPC and explains the amount requested and any denial reasons. An EOB is often required by BPC to substantiate HRA claims.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974: The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 is a Federal statute that requires persons engaged in the administration, supervision and management of health and welfare and pension plans do so without discrimination. The act defines the role and responsibilities of a fiduciary and establishes other benefit requirements. The basic labor law covering qualified plans, it incorporates both the pertinent Internal Revenue Code provisions by reference and labor law provisions.

Elective Deferral
A contribution to a 401(k), 403(b), 457, or SIMPLE plan made pursuant to an employee's election to have such contribution made in lieu of receiving cash. Alternatively referred to as elective contributions, salary deferrals or salary reduction contributions.

Emergency Care
Treatment provided for a life threatening or urgent condition requiring immediate attention. Treatment is provided in a hospital emergency room and includes charges for an ambulance and other medical procedures.

Emergency Room Care
The use of the Emergency Room for treatment of a non-acute illness will result in higher out of pocket expense for the covered individual. This benefit item encourages plan participants to utilize the services of a physician's office for non-critical medical care on a more cost-effective basis.

Employee Benefit Plan
Any plan providing employee benefits generally falling into two broad categories, welfare benefit plans that provide a variety of benefits ranging from vacation pay to health and life insurance or pension benefit plans that provide retirement income.

Employee Benefits Security Administration
The division under the Department of Labor which administers non-tax (regulatory and administrative) provisions of ERISA, such as the reporting, disclosure and standards of conduct provision of ERISA Title I. The EBSA issues opinion letters and other pronouncements, and requires certain information forms to be filed with it by plan sponsors.

Employee Stock Ownership Plan
A profit sharing, stock bonus, or money purchase plan, designed to be invested primarily in employer company stock. Unlike other plans, an ESOP may borrow from the employer or use the employer's credit to acquire company stock.

Employer Contributions
See Matching Contributions or Nonelective Contributions.

Entry Date
The effective date of an employee's participation.

Excess Aggregate Contributions
Contributions attributed to a failure of the ACP test.

Excess Contribution
Contributions attributed to a failure of the ADP test.

Excess Deferrals
Elective deferrals that exceed the IRC §402(g) limit.


Family Planning
Family planning includes sterilization methods such as vasectomies and tubule ligation.

Favorable Determination Letter
A letter illustrating approval of the plan's provisions regarding form for qualification purposes.

Fidelity Bond
An insurance contract in which the issuing agency agrees to pay sums up to the bond limit to reimburse the employer or plan for losses created by the actions of those individuals who handle plan assets or have other discretionary authority over the plan and its assets.

Any person (individual or corporation) who exercises discretionary authority or control over the management or disposition of plan assets, renders investment advice for a fee, or has discretionary authority or responsibility for the plan administration.

Frozen Plan
The plan continues to exist absent any benefit accruals or contributions.




Highly Compensated Employee:
An employee who either (1) on any day during the current or preceding year, is or was a more than 5% owner or (2) received compensation in excess of the specified dollar limit for the preceding year.

Hardship Withdrawal
A distribution that is on account of an immediate and heavy financial need and must be necessary to satisfy that financial need. Plan document indicates whether permitted or not.

Home Health Care
Home Health Care is the delivery of medical care by nurses or other medical professionals in a patient's home.

Hospice Care
A Hospice is a facility for individuals with terminal illnesses. Medical care is provided mainly to relieve pain and increase the patient's comfort. Arrangements are made to reduce the hospital-like setting and provide comfort to a patient with a limited time to live.



Individual Retirement Account:
A personal savings account established by an individual for the purpose of accumulating tax-favored retirement income.

In-Service Withdrawal
withdrawal of vested money from a qualified plan to an employee who is still actively employed. Also referred to as an in-service distribution. Plan document indicates whether permitted or not.

Inpatient Psych/Substance Abuse
Treatment for psychological, family, and interpersonal problems as well as drug and alcohol abuse in an inpatient facility such as a hospital or rehabilitation clinic. Benefits are limited to a maximum limit per year and lifetime.

Inpatient Surgery
Surgery performed in a hospital once admitted.




Key Employee
A participant who, at any time during the plan year is: (1) an includible office who earns the specified dollar amount or more, (2) a 5% owner, or (3) a 1% owner.


Lifetime Maximum (Annual)
The maximum dollar amount the health insurance plan will pay for each covered person each year.

Lump Sum Distribution
A complete distribution of the entire vested account balance in a single payment.



Money Purchase Plan:
A defined contribution plan under which the employer is subject to minimum funding requirements. Contributions are usually based on each participant's compensation. Retirement benefits under the plan are based on the amount in the participant's individual account at retirement.

Major Care
Major restorative services such as inlays, crowns, bridges, dentures and associated repairs. Orthodontia is not included.

Matching Contributions
Employer contributions made to the plan based on a participant's elective deferrals.

The physician and hospital charges related to labor and delivery including scheduled physician office visits, hospital room, surgical charges, and supplies. Benefits are paid the same as any other illness unless indicated otherwise according to a separate benefit schedule.

Minimum Funding Requirement
The minimum amount an employer is required to contribute to fund adequately a defined benefit or money purchase plan.


NHCE (Non-Highly Compensated Employee)
Any employee not considered an HCE.

Named Fiduciary
A fiduciary that is named in the plan instrument or identified through a procedure set forth in the plan. One of the distinguishing features of the named fiduciary is that the person has the authority to designate others to carry out fiduciary responsibilities (e.g. invest the plan funds).

The list of hospitals and, in some cases, other medical providers who have agreed to discount their normal charges, set maximum limits on charges, and bill the insurance plan directly on behalf of employees for whom their employer has entered into a managed care agreement. Higher benefits are provided to employees who use the facilities on the network list.

Those medical facilities that have not entered into a managed care agreement with an employer. Benefits are less for employees who use facilities that are not on the network list.

Nonelective Contributions
Employer contributions made to a plan other than elective deferrals or matching contributions. Nonelective contributions are often made in the form of a discretionary profit sharing contribution.



Occupational Therapy
Treatment and training provided by Occupational Therapists and clinics to assist patients with the acquisition or relearning of job related skills, often following an injury or illness.

Organ Transplants
An organ transplant is the surgical removal and replacement of organs allowing a patient to regain use of vital bodily functions.

The maximum dollar amount a covered individual will be required to pay during a calendar year excluding deductibles and co-payments. Out-of-pocket maximums will be higher for the use of non-network facilities.

Outpatient Psych/Substance Abuse
Treatment for psychological, family, and interpersonal problems as well as drug and alcohol abuse in an outpatient facility such as a counselor's office or clinic. Benefits are limited to a fixed number of visits per year with a fixed maximum benefit amount payable.

Outpatient Surgery
Surgery performed in a physicians office or other outpatient clinic or surgical center.


Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)
A nonprofit corporation, functioning under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor, responsible for insuring benefits to participants of certain defined benefit plans.

Profit Sharing Plan (PSP)
A defined contribution plan under which the employer makes discretionary contributions (usually out of profits) A participant's retirement benefits are based on the amount in his or her individual account.

An ERISA term used to identify individuals when applying the prohibited transaction rules.

Pension Benefit Plan
Any plan, fund or program established or maintained by an employer or employee organization that provides retirement income to employees or results in a deferral of taxable income until distribution.

Physician Office Visits
Medical care provided by a doctor, or his or her staff, directly in the doctor's office for illness or preventative care including examinations and treatment. Coverage for some diagnostic, X-ray, and lab work and outpatient surgery may be covered through a different benefit than the Physician Office Visit.

Plan Administrator
A person, group or entity specifically designated in the plan document as responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the plan.

Plan Sponsor
The entity that establishes the plan. Note that the terms employer and plans sponsor are frequently used interchangeably, but are separate concepts.

Pre-Admission Testing
As a result of pre-certification, the patient may be asked to have medical tests completed prior to admission. These tests help to determine the appropriate course of medical treatment prior to a hospitalization. The cost of pre-admission testing is typically paid by the health plan.

A requirement for a covered individual or provider to call a toll free number listed on the plastic insurance card prior to a hospitalization or surgical procedure. In some cases a second opinion may be requested by the insurance plan in order to verify the necessity or cost of a recommended treatment or procedure. The cost of a second opinion is paid for by the health plan. A board of medical professional's review recommended treatments in order to direct plan participants in the most beneficial and cost effective medical care.

Pre-Certification Penalty
Failure to call the pre-certification number prior to hospitalization or surgical procedure results in higher out-of-pocket expense to the employee.

Prescription Drug Card
A Prescription Drug Card is a plastic card that, when presented to a pharmacist, entitles an employee to purchase covered prescriptions by simply paying a co-payment. Co-payments are lower for generic drugs to encourage the employee to purchase the less costly prescription medication. However, the employee has the choice of purchasing a name brand medication, if available, but with a higher required co-payment.

Preventative Dental Care
Two annual dental check-ups per year including teeth cleaning, bitewing x-ray's and fluoride treatment constitute preventative dental care.

Preventative Health Care
A benefit provided annually to each covered person for routine physical exams including school physicals and related lab or x-rays. This benefit includes routine gynecological exams, pap smears, mammograms and related expenses. This benefit also includes proctology exams, proctoscopy and related expenses. Well baby check-ups, immunizations and inoculations are also included. Prenatal care may also be included in this benefit.

Profit Sharing Contributions
See Nonelective Contributions.

Prohibited Transactions
Specified transactions that may not be entered into (directly or indirectly) by a party-in-interest with the plan. Those include, for example, sales or exchanges, leases, and loans between the parties. The DOL has exempted specific transactions from the prohibited transaction restriction.


Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
An order issued under state domestic relations law that relates to the payment of child support or alimony or to marital property rights. A QDRO creates or recognizes or assigns to an alternate payee the right to receive plan benefits payable to the participant.

Qualified Joint and Survivor Annuity (QJSA)
Provides for a series of periodic payments for the life of the participant with a survivor annuity for the life of the participant's spouse.

Qualified Matching Contribution (QMAC)
A matching contribution that is 100% vested and subject to withdrawal restrictions. It may be used in the ADP and/or ACP tests.

Qualified Nonelective Contribution (QNEC)
An employer contribution that is 100% vested and is subject to withdrawal restrictions. It may be used in the ADP and/or ACP tests.

Qualified Pre-Retirement Survivor Annuity (QPSA)
A series of periodic payments for the life of the surviving spouse of a participant who has died before commencing payment of benefits.

Qualified Plan
A plan that meets the requirements of IRC §401(a) and, therefore, provides special tax considerations to the plan sponsor, the trust and plan participants.


A recordkeeper typically handles processes such as money in, money out, balancing fund positions, updating daily systems, and reporting to participants.



Summary Annual Report (SAR)
A narrative summary of a plan's Form 5500 filing for the year disclosed to participants and beneficiaries.

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP)
An employer-sponsored retirement plan that uses individual IRAs as the funding vehicle. Subject to lesser administrative requirements than plans qualified under IRC §401(a).

SIMPLE 401(k)
A type of 401(k) plan that permits only certain types of contributions and does not require nondiscrimination testing.

A type of IRA maintained in conjunction with an employer-sponsored arrangement.

Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees. See SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k).

Summary of Material Modifications (SMM)
A detailed summary to notify participants of minor plan changes to the plan document.

Summary Plan Description (SPD)
A detailed, but easily understood, summary describing a qualified plan's provisions that must be provided to participants and beneficiaries.

Skilled Nursing Facility
A nursing home or other extended care facility.

Speech Therapy
Training and therapy provided by Speech Therapists or Speech Pathologists to help correct speech defects or problems.

Stock Bonus Plan
A defined contribution plan that is similar to a profit sharing plan except that benefit payments generally must be made available in the form of employer company stock.

Supplemental Accident
This benefit pays 100% of charges for medical care received in the event of an accident up to a fixed dollar amount per accident, per person, per year prior to a deductible being met.



Top-Heavy (TH)
A plan that primarily benefits key employees is considered top-heavy and qualifies for favorable tax treatment only if, in addition to the regular qualification requirements, it meets minimum vesting and contribution requirements. The TH test is based on account values at the end of the prior plan year.

Tempromandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ):
A disorder of the jaw often treated with mouthpieces or outpatient surgery. Benefits are limited to a fixed dollar amount per year and lifetime.

Third-Party Administrator (TPA)
A TPA typically handles eligibility, nondiscrimination testing and preparation of government filings.

Tax-Sheltered Annuity (TSA)
Governed by IRC §403(b). Although similar to 401(k) plans in many respects, they have their own unique rules and are only available to certain types of employers.

The parties named in the plan or trust documents that are authorized to hold the assets of the plan for the benefit of the participants.



Unrelated Rollover
A rollover contribution or transfer that is elected by the participant and made between unrelated plans or IRAs.

Vesting Schedule
The schedule of increasing ownership based on years of service.

Vision Care
Vision Care provides a fixed dollar amount for a variety of services and items provided by an Optometrist or Vision Care Center. Benefits include eye examinations and payments for frames and lenses including contact lenses. Any medically necessary surgical procedures would be covered under the major medical plan of benefits.



Well Baby Care
The series of scheduled procedures required of infants during their first year. Charges include immunizations and inoculations and well as regular check-ups by nurses and physicians.