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 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, State Bar of Texas
  • Member, Washington State Bar Association and LGBT Law Section
  • Member, QLaw of Washington
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Insights & Presentations

Insights & Presentations

  • “Medicare and COBRA: Understanding the Interaction and Avoiding Common Mistakes” Checkpoint Learning webinars, June and August 2023
  • “The End of the Federal COVID Emergencies: What Group Health Plan Sponsors and Their Advisors Need to Know” Checkpoint Learning webinars, April and May 2023
  • “Confused About Federal COVID-19 Emergencies Ending? You’re Not Alone,” (co-author), Daily Journal of Commerce, May 2023
  • “Ending Emergencies and New Transparency: Employee Health Benefits Update,” Stoel Rives LLP webinar, April 2023
  • “COBRA Basic Training: Practical Compliance Strategies” Checkpoint Learning webinars, January and April 2023
  • “Learning the Ropes: An Introduction to Cafeteria Plan Design” Checkpoint Learning webinars, January and March 2023
  • “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, January 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, January 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, August 2018
  • Speaker, EBIA Advanced Cafeteria Plan Conference, Seattle, WA, July 2018
  • “Notice Requirements: A Calendar and Checklist for Group Health Plans” EBIA National Webinar, February 2018
  • “New Year’s Resolution: Self-Audit Your Group Health Plan” EBIA National Webinar, December 2017
  • “Medicare and COBRA: Understanding the Interaction and Avoiding Common Mistakes” EBIA National Webinar, November 2017
  • “ACA Developments,” Western Pension & Benefits Council Seattle Chapter Pop-Up Meeting, November 2017
  • “The Interaction of Employer-Provided Group Health Plans with Marketplace Coverage, COBRA, and Medicare,” ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits National Webinar, February 2016
  • “Health Care Reform and More: 2016 and Beyond,” Employers’ Health Coalition of Idaho, January 2016; Washington Counties Insurance Fund Healthcare Reform Seminar, Yakima, WA, July 2015
  • “COBRA, Medicare & the Healthcare Exchange,” Association of Washington Cities Member EXPO, October 2015
  • “Employer Health Plans in the Time of Exchanges: Employer Impacts,” EBIA National Webinar, October 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, October 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, September 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, February 2015
  • “Helping Employees and Patients Navigate New Waters: The Interaction of Marketplace Coverage, COBRA and Medicare” (co-author), The Health Lawyer, February 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” (co-author), 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, December 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, December 2013
  • “Wellness Trends and Updated Rules for 2014,” Washington Public Employer Labor Relations Association, November 2013
  • “HIPAA Privacy Regulations: Protecting and Using Confidential Health Plan Information in the Workplace,” ABA Labor and Employment Law Conference, November 2013
  • “Legal Update: Wellness Program Rules for 2014 - New HIPAA Regulations,” Healthy Worksite Summit, October 2013
  • “Expert Q&A on Employee Benefits After the U.S. Supreme Court’s DOMA Ruling,” Practical Law Company, October 2013
  • “Game Change 2014: Preparing Your Health and Welfare Plans,” Western Pension & Benefits Council, Seattle Chapter, September 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, February 2013
  • “New Final Regulations on HIPAA Privacy and Security: HITECH, Breach Notification, Individual Rights, and More,” EBIA Webinar, February 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, December 2012
  • “Challenges to the Validity of DOMA, Planning for Impacts on Domestic Partner Benefits,” EBIA Webinar, September 2012
  • “Health Care Reform Law Alert: Impact on Employers and Group Health Plans,” Human Resources Council for the Association for Washington Business, Seattle, August 2012
  • “Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act: What’s New in 2012,” ALI-ABA Webinar, August 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” (co-author), 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, February 2012
  • “New W-2 Health Benefits Reporting Requirements,” ALI-ABA Webinar, January 2012
  • Contributor, “Large Employers Advised to Prepare Now For Reporting Aggregated Health Benefits,” Bloomberg BNA, January 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” (co-author), 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” (co-author), Washington Healthcare News, December 2010
  • “Health Plans 2011: Healthcare Reform Begins” (co-author), The Health Lawyer, October 2010
  • “Health Plans 2010: Host of New Federal Laws” (co-author), 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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