Stuck On The Benefits Alphabet Soup? - Abel HR

W2 Issues/Concerns

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Check out our weekly blog posts and see the latest news and discussions happening in the HR world of business.

Stuck On The Benefits Alphabet Soup?

If there’s one thing that can overwhelm a business owner it’s the alphabet soup acronyms that comes along with human resources administration. Indeed, there is an abbreviation for just about every law, process, form and proceeding you’ll come in contact with – it’s near impossible to keep up.

Until now. Below is a list of the most frequently tossed around acronyms (and their definitions) so that you’ll be able to follow along next time someone starts talking about putting an EOB in with a COBRA so that everyone can correctly report to the DOL.

Behold… the A-Z of benefits alphabet soup:


ACA: Affordable Care Act is a comprehensive health care reform enacted in 2010 intended to make health insurance affordable.

ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This governs if, when and how you can make accommodations for employees with disabilities.

AD&D: Accidental Death and Dismemberment. A type of insurance policy.

ADEA: Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Outlines what constitutes discrimination on the basis of age.



BC/R: Benefits Cost/Ratio

BLS: Bureau of Labor Statistics



C&B: Compensation and Benefits.

CMS: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. These are the folks responsible for overseeing the government-led insurance programs.

COBRA: Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. Program under which you can maintain your group insurance coverage, but pay for it yourself.

CO: Compliance officer.

COLA: Cost of Living Adjustment. Type of pay increase typically given to public employees to adjust for the increased cost of living.



DCAP: Dependent Care Assistance Program.

DOL: Department of Labor. This is the federal government body responsible for all things related to employment.



EAP: Employee Assistance Program. This program provides counseling and other services to employees.

EBSA: Employee Benefits Security Administration. This agency within the DOL provides information and assistance on private sector, employer-sponsored retirement benefit and health benefit plans

EDI: Electronic Data Interchange. HIPAA’s rules on electronic transactions.

EEOC: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These are the folks at the center of many employment disputes, so knowing and understanding their rules is vital.

EIC:  Earned Income Tax Credit.

EOB: Explanation of Benefits. These papers are issued by insurance companies to members to explain what portion of their medical expenses are covered.

EOI: Evidence of Insurability. This is the form sometimes required by insurers before they will issue a policy. Previously known as evidence of good health.

ERISA: Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. This act essentially provides protections for employees participating in voluntarily established pension and health plans in most private industries.



FICA: Federal Insurance Contribution Act.  This is pay withholdings for Social Security and Medicare.

FLSA: Fair Labor Standards Act is federal law establishing minimum wage, overtime pay eligibility, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments.

FMLA: Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. Program under which workers can take an absence from work (typically unpaid) for various qualifying life events.

FSA: Flexible Spending Account (or Arrangement). A system under which participants can defer a portion of their pre-tax paycheck to pay for certain medical and/or dependent care expenses.

FUTA: Federal Unemployment Tax Act. Most employees pay both a federal and state unemployment tax that provides for unemployment compensation for workers who have lost their jobs.



GINA: Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. This law prohibits from discriminating against employees based on differences in their DNA that may correlate with health issues.

GTL: Group Term Life. A common type of insurance offering that provides basic life insurance coverage to a group of employees, often times with the option for them to purchase additional coverage.



HCTC: Health Coverage Tax Credit. This system HCTC acts as partial reimbursement for premiums paid for qualified health insurance coverage – paying up to 72.5 percent for qualified plans – for eligible individuals and their families.

HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This law protects people from having their health data shared improperly with non-authorized persons or parties.

HMO: Health Maintenance Organization. This type of insurance creates a network of doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers who agree to accept a certain level of payment for services.

HRA/HSA: Health Reimbursement Arrangement/Health Savings Accounts



I-9: This form is required under the IRCA (Immigration Reform and Control Act) and requires employees to state their eligibility to work in the US.

IPS: Investment Policy Statement (The IPS must be in writing and strictly followed) — It is estimated that only about 40% of plans in the 20 to 40 million range have proper IPS’s and even fewer follow them correctly.

IRC: Internal Revenue Code of 1986. We’re currently on the 26th revision of this register of the nation’s various tax codes. Certainly, a cover-to-cover read (said no one ever)!



JGTRRA: Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. An act passed by Congress intended to improve the economy by reducing the taxes collected, giving the population more money to spend.



LTD Plan: Long-Term Disability Plan. A plan that provides a partial income-replacement benefit to a worker who is unable to work because of a disability.

LOA: Leave of absence. Time taken from work for a reason not covered by sick leave, paid vacation, paid time off, or paid holidays.



MEWA: Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement. A special funding arrangement under which medical or other welfare benefits are provided to companies with two or more employers.

MHPA: Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. Requires health insurers to not lower the cap on mental health care spending below that of other health benefits.

MSA: Medical Savings Account. Like an FSA, but to be used specifically for medical expenses.

MSP Rules: Medicare Secondary Payer Rules. Laws that require Medicare to be the secondary payer in most instances where a group health plan or private insurance carrier also offers insurance coverage.



NAIC: National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

NE: Non-exempt employee.

NHCE: Non-Highly Compensated Employee. Workers who have compensation below a particular level.

NMHPA: Newborns’ and Mothers’ Health Protection Act of 1996.  A federal law that affects the length of time a mother and newborn child are covered for a hospital stay in connection with childbirth.



OSHA: Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These are the folks responsible for enforcing a safe and healthy work environment.



PDA: Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

PEO: Professional Employer Organization.

PHI: Protected Health Information. This is the definition used by HIPAA to define the type of patient information that falls under the jurisdiction of the law.

POP: Premium-Only Plan. A type of plan under Code Section 125 that permits employees to pay for their share of insurance premiums with pre-tax dollars.



QDRO: Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This is a special court order that grants a person a right to a portion of the retirement benefits his or her former spouse has earned through participation in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

QMCSO: Qualified Medical Child Support Order. This allows a non-employee, custodial parent (the parent who has the child/children the majority of the time) to obtain health insurance under the plan the non-custodial parent has via his or her employer.



SBJPA: Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996. This piece of legislation increased the minimum wage requirements, simplified pension rules, and adjusted taxes for small businesses.

SMM: Summary of Material Modifications. Plan sponsors must distribute this summary of plan changes to insurance participants and beneficiaries.

SPD: Summary Plan Description. A plan summary that must be furnished to insurance participants and beneficiaries.

STD: Short-term disability. A type of benefit that provides income to you if you are unable to work due to an accident or illness.



TPA: Third-Party Administrator. An organization that processes insurance claims or certain aspects of employee benefit plans for a separate entity



UCI: The Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program provides unemployment benefits to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own (per the individual state’s definition), and meet other state eligibility requirements.

USERRA: Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. This legislation is designed to protect the civilian employment of active and reserve military personnel in the US called to active duty.



VEBA: Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association. This is a provision under the tax code that provides a funding vehicle for health and welfare benefits.



W-2: Income tax form issued by employers.

W-4: Federal income tax withholding form.

Featured BLOGS

  • How To Navigate Employee Rewards

    Recognition and employee rewards are key to increasing engagement in the office. Not only that, but this can motivate your employees to become more productive and efficient. Thanking someone, whether verbal or written, would go a long way, but what other tangible or thoughtful rewards can you give to employees? Plus, how do you start a rewards or recognition program? Identifying How and When To Give Employee Rewards Companies may choose to give employee rewards depending on the occasion or situation. Here are some instances that employers give rewards: Job well done Great work performance Milestones While you may expect

  • How To Navigate a Non-Linear Reporting Structure

    Although it is not ideal, a Gallup survey suggests that 84 percent of US employees report to multiple managers. In past years, most businesses followed a hierarchal structure, whereby employees report to one person, who reports to the next in line, and so on up to the CEO. However, companies today operate in a more project-based environment, with teams spanning multiple departments on an as-needed basis.  While the matrixed workplace does have its perks, namely that someone can work across departments and have accountability and oversight on various projects, it can present its challenges. Probably the biggest pitfall occurs when