The Legislature finds and declares the following:
(a) An alternative to insurance programs, health care maintenance organizations, and panel provider organizations was established by Congress in 1974 through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Among the various employee benefit programs established and governed by ERISA are multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWA), which are subject as well to state regulatory and fiscal standards not inconsistent with ERISA. MEWAs permit employer members of trade associations to create trust funds for the purpose of offering and providing health care benefits to their employees. MEWAs can be created as fully insured or self-funded or partially self-funded benefit programs.
(b) The Legislature recognizes that some MEWAs provide an alternative mechanism to traditional health insurance for small employers. It is the intent of the Legislature to ensure the financial integrity of those MEWA programs that are already in existence by requiring self-funded or partially self-funded MEWAs to obtain a certificate of compliance from the Department of Insurance. In order for the Department of Insurance to grant a certificate of compliance, the MEWA must adhere to standards set forth in this act which are not inconsistent with the provisions of ERISA. Further, it is the intent of the Legislature to provide the Department of Insurance with the authority to levy monetary penalties and to revoke certificates of compliance from MEWAs that violate the provisions of this act.
(c) The Legislature has passed significant reforms in the area of small group health insurance. This article, in no manner, circumvents these reforms nor is it intended to be a precedent to do so. Therefore, the small group reform legislation applies to MEWAs to the extent it is not inconsistent with ERISA.
(d) The provisions of this article are consistent with and authorized by ERISA, which confers upon the states limited authority to regulate MEWAs.