3 peeks inside the Trump DOL pick’s benefit plans

Mercer consultants helped Andrew Puzder get CKE employees covered

Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., and President-elect Donald Trump nominee to be secretary of labor. (Photo: Screen capture) Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., and President-elect Donald Trump nominee to be secretary of labor. (Photo: Screen capture)

Andrew Puzder isn't just President-elect Donald Trump's pick to be the next secretary of labor.

He's also the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., a Carpinteria, California-based fast-food restaurant company that owns, operates or franchises about 3,300 restaurants in 42 states and in 28 countries.

Related: Trump said to pick DOL head: Andrew Puzder

Each of the restaurants has about 25 employees and a general manager, Puzder told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee at a January 2015 hearing on the Affordable Care Act.

As labor secretary, Puzder would oversee the Employee Benefits Security Administration. The EBSA has teamed with the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services to implement many of the major ACA health insurance rules and programs, and it has also been active in implementing many other federal health benefits laws, regulations and requirements, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. 

Democratic-leaning health policy groups have reacted with alarm about the possibility that Puzder will be Trump's labor secretary nominee because Puzder has been known for lobbying hard, and successfully, against health benefits laws and other laws that might hurt large restaurant companies.

Puzder earned a bachelor's degree in history from Cleveland State University in 1975 and a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1978. He got involved with CKE by doing legal work for the company's founder, Carl Karcher. He became the company's president and chief executive officer in 2000.

In the early 2000s, Puzder was active in the fight against a California effort to require large employers to pay for health coverage for their workers or contribute to a new state health coverage system for uninsured workers.

Related: Fate of universal health measure In California hinges on absentee ballots     

Since the Affordable Care Act became law, Puzder has been active in speaking out on issues such as the ACA definitions of terms such as "full-time worker."

Puzder testified at the Senate ACA hearing held in January 2015 that Congress should approve a bill that would define a full-time worker as a worker who works 40 hours a week to minimize the impact of ACA requirements on low-income workers who would rather have cash than health benefits.

Puzder argued at the time that he thought his company's workers would rather get paid to work more hours than to get access to what the government defines as affordable minimum essential coverage. CKE complied with the ACA coverage offer requirements, but "people aren't signing up, at least at my company," Puzder testified.

A private equity firm controls CKE, but Puzder continues to serve as the company's top executive.

Like other companies, CKE files information reports about its benefit plans on Form 5500. 

The Chicago office of Mercer Health and Benefits LLC, an arm of Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc., is listed as the entity that set up CKE's benefit plans in 2015. That means that if Puzder reads the materials his benefits advisors send his company, and at least occasionally sits in on benefits presentations, he may have been getting some of his ideas about benefits trends from Mercer consultants.

Here's a look at other items of interest from the 2015 Form 5500 filing and related schedules. The filing was pulled from ALM's FreeERISA Form 5500 information database.:

(Image: Thinkstock)

CKE started 2015 with a total of 1,760 active health and benefit plan participants. (Image: Thinkstock)

1. Health

CKE reported on its 2015 Form 5500 that it started the year with a total of 1,760 active medical and dental plan participants.

The company and its employees paid $13.5 million in premiums, $159,498 in ordinary commissions and $17,130 in advisor bonus payments for a package of coverage from San Francisco-based Blue Shield of California. California Blue Shield, which is separate from California's Blue Cross company, also provided vision and drug benefits. The Blue Shield plans covered about 2,310 people at the end of the year.

CKE also offered health coverage, dental coverage and an employee assistance plan program for two people from a unit of Bloomfield, Connecticut-based Cigna Corp. Cigna received $6,360 in premiums and no commissions for that coverage.

Allstate Benefits, which is part of American Heritage Life Insurance Co. of Jacksonville, Florida, received $247,560 in premiums for providing a package of benefits that included health insurance along with dental coverage, vision benefits, life insurance, temporary disability insurance, and accidental death and dismemberment coverage. Robyn Piper, a San Diego broker, received $40,973 in compensation related to that arrangement. 

Related: RB Lewis agency may have shaped Trump’s health ideas

(Image: Thinkstock)

In 2015, CKE workers got their paycheck protection insurance from Life Insurance Co. of North America. (Photo: Thinkstock)

2. Disability

In 2015, CKE used Mercer to get short-term and long-term disability insurance from Life Insurance Co. of North America, a unit of Cigna.

CKE and its employees paid $180,404 in premiums and $21,156 in commissions for the long-term disability insurance plan, which covered 974 people at the end of the year.

The company and its employees paid $161,492 in premiums and $18,950 in commissions for the short-term disability insurance plan, which covered 465 people.

Related: Witness Blasts ACA Menu Board Mandate

Dental instruments (Image: Thinkstock)

CKE provided 2,154 employees dental coverage from Cigna. (Image: Thinkstock)

3. Non-medical health

In 2015, a unit of Hartford-based Aetna Inc. received $96,000 in payments for an employee assistance program that served about 8,000 workers.

A dental plan from Cigna that covered 2,154 people at the end of the year generated $752,784 in premium revenue and $1,178 in general agent payments.

CKE offered vision coverage from Vision Service Plan, a unit of Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. The plan covered 864 people. Vision Service Plan received $167,236 in premium payments.

CKE also offered accidental death and dismemberment coverage from Cigna's Life Insurance Co. of North America unit and a legal assistance plan from Hyatt Legal Services, a unit of New York-based MetLife Inc.

The AD&D plan produced $68,658 in premiums and $502 in commissions.

The legal services plan served 113 people. It generated $34,490 in plan payments. It generated $3,291 in commissions, $635 in supplemental compensation, and $38 in non-monetary compensation.

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