TRUSTEE. An important title – full of duty, responsibility and opportunity. What does it mean to be a trustee for a LIUNA health and welfare fund?

The duties of a health and welfare fund trustee are established under federal law and involve overseeing the management of the assets that ensure health benefits for LIUNA members and their families. Trustees oversee the work of fund professionals – administrators, consultants and attorneys – who handle the day-to-day operations of each fund.

While fund assets sometimes total millions of dollars and their prudent expenditure requires thoughtful oversight, there is no school that trains new trustees who accept these important responsibilities. Trustees often “learn as they go” about the development, funding and application of health care benefits. Many trustees learn on-the-job from their peers and on an issue-by-issue basis.

For example, trends in the health care market can have an impact on benefit plan utilization and on costs. The recent rise of retail health clinics (see story this issue) will add a new dimension to health services available to LIUNA members and their families, but also raises important questions about quality of services. As these clinics become more available in regions around the country, fund trustees, working with the fund’s administrator and consultant, will have to decide if they will provide coverage for the services of these clinics.

The Health Care Advisory Committee (HCAC) – a group of administrators, consultants and other health care benefits professionals organized by the LHSFNA to address key issues affecting LIUNA health and welfare funds – identified trustee education as an essential tool for union leaders and signatory employers who will be or are currently health and welfare fund trustees.

The LHSFNA Health Promotion Division has begun work on a Trustee Guide. In this issue of LIFELINES, we open a series of articles that will provide insight into a trustee’s fiduciary position and guidance in health and welfare fund management. Future articles will cover topics such as fiduciary rules, health plan funding, plan options, value of prevention services, short- and long-term care management, cost issues in administration, service provider contracting and management and effective communication and education. We begin with the legislative history that created today’s health and welfare funds.

We welcome your questions and feedback. Respond to