Ascension Health and Ascension Health Alliance
Overall v. Ascension Health
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
Case No. 13-11396
Plaintiff alleged that Ascension Health, a Missouri non-profit corporation that was, as of 2013, the largest non-profit healthcare system in the United States in terms of revenue, improperly claimed an exemption from ERISA protections for its pension plans (“Ascension Pension Plans”). Defendants claimed that the Ascension Pension Plans were exempt from ERISA protections because they were “church plans” and thus not subject to any federal pension regulation.
For multiple reasons, Plaintiff alleged that the Ascension Pension Plans did not satisfy the statutory requirements to properly claim an exemption from ERISA as church plans, including because Ascension Health established the Plans and it is not a church or a convention or association of churches, but rather a nonprofit hospital corporation.
Plaintiff alleged that Defendants also violated ERISA by, among other things:
- underfunding their defined benefit pension plans;
- freezing the accrual of pension benefits for participants in the Ascension Pension Plans effective January 1, 2013; and
- failing to give 45 days’ notice (as required by ERISA) of this reduction in future benefits to Plaintiff and the proposed Class.
The Settlement is now final.
Plaintiff and her counsel are pleased to announce a settlement of the Ascension litigation. The settlement adds significant protections for Ascension pension plan participants which in essence mimic key ERISA protections for the next seven and one-half years (the period commencing on January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2022). In addition, Ascension has agreed to additional funding of the pension plan as well as to provide certain other benefits to the participants. The Court granted final approval of the Settlement on September 17, 2015.