In the final rule we add a definition of "plan sponsor." We define plan sponsor by referencing the definition of the term provided in (3)(16)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The plan sponsor is the employer or employee organization, or both, that establishes and maintains an employee benefit plan. In the case of a plan established by two or more employers, it is the association, committee, joint board of trustees, or other similar group of representative of the parties that establish and maintain the employee benefit plan. This term includes church health plans and government health plans. Group health plans may disclose protected health information to plan sponsors who conduct payment and health care operations activities on behalf of the group health plan if the requirements for group health plans in § 164.504 are met.
The preamble to the Transactions Rule noted that plan sponsors of group health plans are not covered entities and, therefore, are not required to use the standards established in that regulation to perform electronic transactions, including enrollment and disenrollment transactions. We do not change that policy through this rule. Plan sponsors that perform enrollment functions are doing so on behalf of the participants and beneficiaries of the group health plan and not on behalf of the group health plan itself. For purposes of this rule, plan sponsors are not subject to the requirements of § 164.504 regarding group health plans when conducting enrollment activities.