What is Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA)?
Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA) is MEWA is a technical term under federal law that encompasses essentially any arrangement not maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement (other than a State-licensed insurance company or HMO) that provides health insurance benefits to the employees of two or more private employers. Some MEWAs are sponsored by associations that are local, specific to a trade or industry, and exist for business purposes other than providing health insurance. Such MEWAs most often are regulated as employee health benefit plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), although States generally also retain the right to regulate them, much the way States regulate insurance companies. They can be funded through tax-exempt trusts known as Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Associations (VEBAs) and they can and often do use these trusts to self-insure rather than to purchase insurance policies. Other MEWAs are sponsored by Chambers of Commerce or similar organizations of relatively unrelated employers. These MEWAs are not considered to be health plans under ERISA. Instead, each participating employer’s plan is regulated separately under ERISA. States are free to regulate the MEWAs themselves. These MEWAs tend to serve as vehicles for participating employers to buy insurance policies from State- licensed insurance companies or HMOs. They do not tend to self-insure.