Top 10 ERISA (and Other)Compliance Issues for Group Health Plans



Howard Bye-Torre is an attorney at Stoel Rives LLP in Seattle, WA. Howard has been assisting clients with employee benefit matters relating to health, cafeteria, other welfare plans for more than 25 years. Howard advises clients on ERISA, federal health care reform (ACA), HIPAA, COBRA,
HITECH, USERRA, FMLA, Medicare Part D, Medicare Secondary Payer, wellness programs, same-sex marriage and 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 grew up on a farm in northern Iowa, and has been a professional church organist for 50 years. Howard was an equity shareholder with Cox Smith Matthews Incorporated (1985‑2007) in San Antonio, Texas and senior editor at the Employee Benefits Institute of America, Inc. (2007). He
currently lives in Poulsbo, Washington and is a Disney fanatic.


Legislative Update

Spokane Presentation

Chris is an experienced government relations professional with more than a decade of experience in advocacy, policy analysis and political strategy.  He has an intimate knowledge of the legislative process, a track record of successful engagement with Washington state lawmakers, and a familiarity with legislators, legislative and agency staff, and the broader legislative advocacy community.

Chris has led government affairs teams at multiple prominent organizations including Regence BlueShield and the Washington State Hospital Association, where he most recently served as a Senior Vice President.  In his new role, Chris will lead the association in its mission of ensuring affordable health care coverage for all Washingtonians through a competitive marketplace that preserves consumer choice and quality care, builds on the stability and success of existing coverage programs and supports innovation.

Chris is a seasoned leader who is deeply committed to the success of Washington's insurance market and its ability to deliver affordable coverage.  We're excited to see him take on this new role with his extensive knowledge and experience.

Chris received a master's degree in political management from The George Washington University  and a bachelor's degree in history and political science from Indiana University. 




Legislative Update

Seattle Presentation

A Vancouver resident since 1967, Greg entered the insurance business that same year with Standard Insurance Company, in Portland, Oregon. Don Biggs & Associates hired Greg in 1981 as their life and health insurance specialist.  He currently serves as the President and CEO of Biggs Insurance Services.

A member of the Greater Clark County Rotary Club since 1978, Greg served as President in 1986-1987. He remains active in the Tri-County Association of Health Underwriters and served as President in 1995.  He served for many years on the Washington Association of Health Underwriters Board of Directors and is a past State President.  He is currently the Chair of the Health Insurance Agents PAC Board of Directors.  Greg served on the school board for Portland Christian Schools for 8 years, the last three as Chairman.  He is a National D licensed soccer coach, and coached youth soccer for over 10 years in Clark County.  He recently served on the board of directors for LEAD, International, a ministry serving the poor in West Arica, the board of Heart of Hope, a ministry to children in Romania and on the board of directors of Hope for Youth Ethiopia, an organization working with street boys and girls in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Greg and his wife Karen have been married for 38 years and have four daughters and one son:  Lindy (age 35), Christy (age 33), Mary (age 31), Emily (age 27) and Connor (age 16), and 10 grandchildren.



Corporate Wellness and its role in Health Care

Steffen oversees the development and implementation of customized wellness programs in corporate and community settings to help improve overall functionality and quality of life.

Kreative Solutions has exclusive online educational programs designed by leading professional in the Medical, Fitness, Education and Nutritional fields.  These services are designed to reduce insurance premiums, increase worker moral, reduce work related injuries and increase overall productivity.



Cascade Care and the Public Option

Michael has over two decades of experience successfully delivering on business, policy, advocacy and communications goals and has been at the forefront of domestic and global health reform and technology efforts. He has been nationally recognized leader for his strategic, innovative, transformative work in complex organizational and political environments to successfully build, lead and deliver on business goals.


He is currently chief marketing officer for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange that powers Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s new online health insurance marketplace.  In this role, Michael was instrumental in the creation of the Exchange and responsible increasing enrollment and revenue; overseeing branding, marketing, advertising, public relations and public education; supervising retail locations and fashioning the online customer experience. He also oversees the Exchange’s multimillion dollar grant program that activates more than 2,500 community organizations, health insurance agents, brokers and volunteers statewide. To date the Exchange has more than halved the state’s uninsured rate, enabling residents realize more than $400 million dollars in tax credits and cost-sharing reductions to offset expenses associate with their health insurance coverage.


Prior to joining the Exchange, Michael oversaw stakeholder engagement for the state’s successful Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Program that provided more than $200 million in federal payments to participating professionals and hospitals. Michael also served as a director with both Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the agency’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services where he earned the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service related to advocacy and outreach. He previously served as a deputy for Gov. Gary Locke of Washington providing guidance on numerous issues including transportation, technology, healthcare and the environment. 


Michael frequently presents at national conferences and has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, The Los Angeles Times and other online and print publications. Michael also has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and CBS Nightly News and is often on local television and radio.

Michael received a Bachelor of Arts in government from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. and is also a trained mediator. He currently resides in Olympia with his wife and their three kids.


Paid Family Medical Leave

What you need to know

Rene McDonald has worked at the Standard for 11 years and has a diverse background in employee benefits.  She is an industry expert in Group Disability, EAP and Paid Family Medical Leave.  Rene is the Product Owner for The Standard’s Paid Family Medical Leave offerings, and recently lead a team of over 90 business resources in the launch of Washington Paid Family Medical Leave, from inception to implementation. At both the local and national broker and employer level Rene has developed and presented PFML topics through educational events, webinars and conferences. She also works closely with The Standard’s employee benefits consultants to help strategize and propose best practice solutions for their client’s benefits and compliance needs.  Rene has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Portland State University.


© 2023 by Knoll & Walters LLP. Proudly created with

  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Google+ Social Icon