About Howard

Howard Bye-Torre has been assisting clients with employee benefit matters relating to health, cafeteria, other welfare plans for 30 years. Howard advises clients on ERISA, federal health care reform (ACA), HIPAA, COBRA, USERRA, FMLA, COVID-19 guidance (including the FFCRA and CARES Act), Medicare, wellness programs, domestic partner issues, mental health parity law, the Americans with Disabilities Act, nondiscrimination rules, federal tax issues, and other state and federal law benefit topics. In addition to his work with ERISA plans, he has extensive experience with governmental and church plans.

Howard is a member of the firm’s COVID-19 Task Force, a cross-practice, cross-jurisdictional team dedicated to coordinating guidance for clients impacted by the global coronavirus pandemic. Howard is Of Counsel with the firm. Previously, he was senior editor at the Employee Benefits Institute of America, Inc. (2007) and equity shareholder with Cox Smith Matthews Incorporated, San Antonio, TX (1985–2007).

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  • Advise large national and regional companies on the significant benefit issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, including mandates and options for group health and cafeteria plans.
  • Updating plan documents, summary plan descriptions, COBRA notices and other employee communications to be in compliance with the provisions of the CARES Act and other federal guidance issued relating to the pandemic.
  • Draft summary plan descriptions, welfare and cafeteria plan and other documents for large national companies.
  • Formation of health care purchasing consortium of five large employers to negotiate discounts for their self-funded health plan participants.
  • Advise on compliance with federal health care reform (ACA), ERISA, HIPAA, COBRA, USERRA, Medicare Secondary Payer, Medicare Part D, ADA, FMLA, and ADEA issues for employers and their group health plans.
  • HIPAA, COBRA and Medicare Part D training for boards of directors, executives and employee benefits and human resources personnel.
  • Drafting and negotiation of contracts (including HIPAA business associate agreements) with plan service providers, such as third party administrators, utilization reviewers, pharmacy benefit managers, HSA banks, investment managers, custodians and PPO and similar provider networks.
  • HIPAA compliance, including breach notification rules and drafting of HIPAA privacy and security policies for group health plans.
  • Representation of clients in all aspects of cafeteria plans, dependent care reimbursement plans and medical flexible spending account plans, including grace period and debit card issues, and issues relating to health savings accounts (HSAs).
  • Representation of two major associations of Washington local governments, local school and other governmental districts, regional transit authorities, a municipally owned water system and a large municipal electric utility in all health and welfare plan matters.
  • Representation of nationwide church group health plan for employees and separate plan for retirees, including plan and other document preparation and state and federal law compliance matters.
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Honors & Activities

Professional Honors and Activities

  • Member, Editorial Board, The Health Lawyer, American Bar Association Health Law Section, 2006–2018
  • Commissioner, Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, American Bar Association, 2016–2019
  • Member, American Bar Association and ABA Health Law Section
  • Member, The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation
  • Member and Fellow, College of the State Bar of Texas, 1993–2010
  • Member, Western Pension & Benefits Council
  • Member, Washington State Bar Association and LGBT Law Section
  • Member, QLaw of Washington

Civic Activities

  • Church organist, Faith Episcopal Church, Poulsbo, WA
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Insights & Presentations

Insights & Presentations

  • “Charming the Snake: Administering the COBRA Premium Subsidy,” Stoel Rives LLP webinar, May 2021
  • Contributor, “DOL Issues Model Notices and FAQs on ARPA COBRA Subsidy,” EBIA Weekly, Thomson Reuters/EBIA, April 2021
  • Happy New Employee Benefits Year: Stimulus Relief for 2021,” Stoel Rives LLP webinar, Jan. 2021
  • “COVID-19 Compliance Update for Group Health Plans,” EBIA webinar, July 2020
  • Employee Benefits COVID-19 and COBRA Update,” Stoel Rives LLP webinar, May 2020
  • Employee Benefits in the Time of COVID-19: Impact of FFCRA and the CARES Act,” Stoel Rives LLP webinar, April 2020
  • “Medicare Check-Up for Group Health Plans”, EBIA National Webinar, April 2020
  • “Top Ten ERISA (and Other) Compliance Issues for Group Health Plans,” Washington Association of Health Underwriters’ 2020 Spring Symposium, Spokane & Seattle, March 2020
  • “What You Need to Know About Balance Billing,” Western Pension & Benefits Council Seattle Chapter Quarterly Meeting, Jan. 2020
  • “HRAs & HSAs: What Employers and Advisors Need to Know,” “Designing and Administering Employee Wellness Programs: Legal Rules and Practical Strategies,” “HIPAA Privacy and Security: Rules and Best Practices for Employer Health Plans and Business Associates,” EBIA Employee Benefits Seminar, Seattle and Chicago, May–June 2019
  • Contributing author, Group Health Plans: Federal Mandates Other Than COBRA & HIPAA, Thomson Reuters/EBIA, 2014–present
  • Contributing author, Self-Insured Health Plans, Thomson Reuters/EBIA, 2012–present
  • Contributing author, Employee Benefits for Domestic Partners: Design, Taxation and Administration, Thomson Reuters/EBIA, 2009–present
  • “Wrap Documents and Bundled Plans” EBIA National Webinar, Aug. 2018
  • Speaker, EBIA Advanced Cafeteria Plan Conference, Seattle, WA, July 2018
  • “Notice Requirements: A Calendar and Checklist for Group Health Plans” EBIA National Webinar, Feb. 2018
  • “New Year’s Resolution: Self-Audit Your Group Health Plan” EBIA National Webinar, Dec. 2017
  • “Medicare and COBRA: Understanding the Interaction and Avoiding Common Mistakes” EBIA National Webinar, Nov. 2017
  • “ACA Developments,” Western Pension & Benefits Council Seattle Chapter Pop-Up Meeting, Nov. 2017
  • “The Interaction of Employer-Provided Group Health Plans with Marketplace Coverage, COBRA, and Medicare,” ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits National Webinar, Feb. 2016
  • “Health Care Reform and More: 2016 and Beyond,” Employers’ Health Coalition of Idaho, Jan. 2016; Washington Counties Insurance Fund Healthcare Reform Seminar, Yakima, WA, July 2015
  • “COBRA, Medicare & the Healthcare Exchange,” Association of Washington Cities Member EXPO, Oct. 2015
  • “Employer Health Plans in the Time of Exchanges: Employer Impacts,” EBIA National Webinar, Oct. 2015
  • “Welfare Plan Issues for Same-Sex Married Couples: The Impact of Windsor and Obergefell,” National Webinar Sponsored by Greater Council of Western Pension and Benefits Governing Board, Oct. 2015; Western Pension & Benefits Council Annual Conference, San Francisco, July 2015
  • “Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses and Domestic Partners: Supreme Court and EEOC Impacts,” EBIA National Webinar, Sept. 2015
  • “Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses: Considerations After Windsor and Obergefell,” EBIA Advanced Cafeteria Plans and Benefits National Conference, Minneapolis, July 2015
  • “What’s an Employee (or Retiree) to Choose? The Interaction of Employer-Provided Group Health Plans with Marketplace Coverage, COBRA and Medicare,” Western Pension & Benefits Council, Seattle Chapter, March 2015
  • “Avoiding Medicare Mistakes: What Plan Sponsors and Advisors Need to Know,” EBIA National Webinar, Feb. 2015
  • “Helping Employees and Patients Navigate New Waters: The Interaction of Marketplace Coverage, COBRA and Medicare” (coauthor), The Health Lawyer, Feb. 2015
  • “COBRA Compliance for Group Health Plans,” “HIPAA Privacy and Security,” “Affordable Care Act,” EBIA In-Person Seminars, 2009–2018
  • “COBRA After Health Care Reform: Impact and Implications for Employer Plans,” EBIA Webinar, July 2014
  • “Health Care Reform: Do You Play - Or Do You Pay?” Association of Washington Business Webinar, May 2014
  • “Health Care Reform: Version 2.0,” Stoel Rives Health Care Reform Seminars, Seattle and Salt Lake City, April and May 2014
  • “Legal Basics for HR Benefits Beginners,” Western Pension & Benefits Council Spring Seminar, Seattle Chapter, April 2014
  • “The Demise of DOMA: Windsor’s Effect on Employee Benefits” (coauthor), The Health Lawyer, April 2014
  • “HSAs, HRAs, and Consumer-Driven Health Care,” EBIA In-Person Seminars, April 2013 and March 2014
  • “Game Change: Understanding Exchanges & 2014 Health Plan Rules,” Employee Benefits Planning Association Seminar, Dec. 2013
  • Contributing author, HIPAA Portability, Privacy & Security, Thomson Reuters/EBIA, 2007–2014
  • “Game Change 2014: Ups and Downs of Health Care Reform,” PUD-MUNI Attorneys Conference, Dec. 2013
  • “Wellness Trends and Updated Rules for 2014,” Washington Public Employer Labor Relations Association, Nov. 2013
  • “HIPAA Privacy Regulations: Protecting and Using Confidential Health Plan Information in the Workplace,” ABA Labor and Employment Law Conference, Nov. 2013
  • “Legal Update: Wellness Program Rules for 2014 - New HIPAA Regulations,” Healthy Worksite Summit, Oct. 2013
  • “Expert Q&A on Employee Benefits After the U.S. Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling,” Practical Law Company, Oct. 2013
  • “Game Change 2014: Preparing Your Health and Welfare Plans,” Western Pension & Benefits Council, Seattle Chapter, Sept. 2013
  • “Supreme Court Invalidates DOMA Impacts for Employer-Sponsored Benefit Plans,” EBIA Webinar, July 2013
  • “Expert Q&A on Employee Benefits After the Supreme Court’s Ruling that DOMA is Unconstitutional,” Practical Law Company, July 2013
  • “Health Care Reform Game Change 2014: Are You Ready?,” Western Pension & Benefits Council, Seattle Chapter, April 2013
  • “Best Practices: Working with LGBTQ Clients - Employee Benefits: Health and Welfare Plan Issues,” WSBA SOGILI Section CLE Seminar, Feb. 2013
  • “New Final Regulations on HIPAA Privacy and Security: HITECH, Breach Notification, Individual Rights, and More,” EBIA Webinar, Feb. 2013
  • “Health Care Reform: Group Health Plan Updates,” Stoel Rives Health Care Reform Seminars, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Minneapolis, and Boise, 2010-2013
  • “Same-Sex Marriage, Registered Domestic Partnerships & Committed Intimate Relationships: What You Need to Know Now - Employee Benefits: Health and Welfare Plan Issues,” WSBA-CLE Seminar, Dec. 2012
  • “Challenges to the Validity of DOMA, Planning for Impacts on Domestic Partner Benefits,” EBIA Webinar, Sept. 2012
  • “Health Care Reform Law Alert: Impact on Employers and Group Health Plans,” Human Resources Council for the Association for Washington Business, Seattle, Aug. 2012
  • “Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act: What’s New in 2012,” ALI-ABA Webinar, Aug. 2012
  • “Domestic Partner Coverage in Light of DOMA Challenges,” EBIA Advanced Cafeteria Plans and Benefits Conference, Seattle, July 2012
  • “Health Care Reform Latest Developments,” Washington State Association of Counties Health Benefits Forum, June 2012
  • “Health Care Reform: Group Health Plan Update Spring 2012,” Western Pension & Benefits Council, Seattle and Portland Chapters, April and May 2012
  • “Health Plans 2012: Healthcare Reform Continues” (coauthor), The Health Lawyer, April 2012
  • “Same Sex Marriage, Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships: Benefits Plan Design and Litigation Issues (Health and Welfare Plan Issues),” ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Teleconference, March 2012
  • Contributor, “Affidavits ‘Falling Out of Favor’ in Proving Domestic Partnership, Speaker Says,” Bloomberg BNA, Pension and Benefits Reporter, March 2012
  • “Ninth Circuit: California’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Violates U.S. Constitution,” EBIA Weekly, Feb. 2012
  • “New W-2 Health Benefits Reporting Requirements,” ALI-ABA Webinar, Jan. 2012
  • Contributor, “Large Employers Advised to Prepare Now For Reporting Aggregated Health Benefits,” Bloomberg BNA, Jan. 2012
  • “Wellness Benefits: Are Employers in Compliance in Today’s Environment?,” ALI-ABA Webinar, July 2011
  • “Health Care Reform: New IRS Guidance on W-2 Reporting of Health Care Coverage” (coauthor), Washington Healthcare News, May 2011, reprinted in Association of Washington Cities Employee Benefit Trust e-newsletter (For Your Health), July 2011
  • “Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act: Where We Are Now,” ALI-ABA Webinar, March 2011
  • “Federal Healthcare Reform Begins for Health Plans” (coauthor), Washington Healthcare News, Dec. 2010
  • “Health Plans 2011: Healthcare Reform Begins” (coauthor), The Health Lawyer, Oct. 2010
  • “Health Plans 2010: Host of New Federal Laws” (coauthor), The Health Lawyer, April 2010
  • “Shopping Abroad for Medical Care: The Next Step in Controlling the Escalating Health Care Costs of American Group Health Plans?,” The Health Lawyer, April 2007

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