Last November, we received an email from a member of the public who tried to sign up for COBRA coverage after he lost his health insurance in August. After two months of hitting dead ends with plan administrators, and with a long-planned surgery rapidly approaching, he reached out to a government agency he’d never heard of: the Employee Benefits Security Administration.
Expecting to leave a message, he was shocked to reach an EBSA Benefits Advisor in our Kansas City office, and even more surprised when she followed up later that day to report on her progress. She continued to follow up over the next few weeks, offering advice and checking on his progress.
He wrote to tell us his surgery was fully covered, which he credits entirely to EBSA’s assistance. The Benefits Advisor, he wrote, “is the archetype of which I like to believe our federal government is composed — folks who care about the people they serve,” he wrote. We also like to believe that our Kansas City employee’s service is archetypal, and we’ve got plenty of evidence to back that up.
This year, we’ve requested $188 million to help our 1,000+ full-time employees carry out our mission of assuring benefits security for America’s workers. This request includes funds to support ongoing initiatives such as our enforcement, compliance assistance and educational initiatives. It also includes new funding for efforts such as enhanced compliance with health care laws.
EBSA protects retirement, health and welfare benefit plans for more than 141 million workers, retirees and their families. Our strategic plan for fiscal year 2015 underscores our goal of improving health benefits and retirement security for all workers.
In the past year, EBSA protected, recovered and prevented the loss of $1.69 billion in plan assets. We provided millions of people with greater retirement security and reliable health care. We assisted dislocated workers, and helped workers around the nation better understand their rights.
Vice President Biden likes to quote his father, saying: “Don’t tell me what you value; show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”
This latest budget highlights EBSA’s values clearly: vigorous enforcement, informative compliance assistance, proactive regulation, targeted research, strong consumer outreach and excellent customer service. It demonstrates our commitment to protecting retirement security and health benefits and promoting opportunity for America’s workers.
Phyllis C. Borzi is the assistant secretary of labor for employee benefits security.