The term “multiple employer welfare arrangement” is defined in ERISA Section 3(40), 29 U.S.C. §1002(40).  Section 3(40)(A) provides as follows:

The term "multiple employer welfare arrangement" means an employee welfare benefit plan, or any other arrangement (other than an employee welfare benefit plan) which is established or maintained for the purpose of offering or providing any benefit described in paragraph (1) [welfare plan benefits] to the employees of two or more employers (including one or more self-employed individuals), or to their beneficiaries, except that such term does not include any such plan or arrangement that is established or maintained -
1. under or pursuant to one or more agreements which the Secretary finds to be collective bargaining agreements,
2. by a rural electric cooperative, or
3. by a rural telephone cooperative association(1) (Emphasis supplied.)

As reflected above, the definition of MEWA includes both ERISA-covered employee welfare benefit plans and other arrangements which offer or provide medical, surgical, hospital care or benefits, or benefits in the event of sickness, accident, disability or any other benefit described in ERISA Section 3(1) (See:  definition of “employee welfare benefit plan” on page 6 for a complete list of benefits).  Therefore, whether a particular arrangement is or is not an employee welfare benefit plan subject to ERISA is irrelevant for purposes of determining whether the arrangement is a MEWA.  In order to constitute a MEWA, however, a determination must be made that:

  • the arrangement offers or provides welfare benefits to the employees of two or more employers or to the beneficiaries of such employees (i.e., the arrangement is not a single employer plan); and
  • the arrangement is not excepted from the definition of MEWA as established or maintained under or pursuant to one or more collective bargaining agreements, or by a rural electric cooperative, or by a rural telephone cooperative association.