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Benefits in the News

Older News | October 20, 2014

arrow icon SSI Monthly Statistics, September 2014 (Released October, 2014)
U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA]

Reports include the following data for September 2013-September 2014: [1] Recipients (by type of payment), total payments, and average monthly payment; [2] Recipients, by eligibility category and age; [3] Recipients of federal payment only, by eligibility category and age; [4] Recipients of federal payment and state supplementation, by eligibility category and age; [5] Recipients of state supplementation only, by eligibility category and age; [6] Total payments, by eligibility category, age, and source of payment; [7] Average monthly payment, by eligibility category, age, and source of payment; [8] Awards of SSI Federally Administered Payments; and [9] All awards, by eligibility category and age of awardee.
arrow icon Text of Comments by ERIC to IRS on Draft Forms 1094-C and 1095-C and Corresponding Instruction (PDF)
The ERISA Industry Committee [ERIC]
10/20/2014 [Opinion]

9 pages. "Simplified reporting and/or additional time should be provided for large companies to gather and report the information on Forms 1094-C and 1095-C.... Treasury should clarify when the company is required to report covered individuals, employees, and/or non-employees ... Treasury should clarify that employees in the initial measurement period (and related administrative period) should not be included in the reporting.... Treasury should not require companies to provide information about their total number of employees ... Additional guidance is needed regarding the 'Qualifying Offer' Method.... Treasury should not require companies to identify all of the members of an Aggregated ALE Group .... The rules for reporting employees working for more than one ALE within an Aggregated ALE Group should be simplified."
arrow icon Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans to Meet November 3-4
Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor

"The purpose of the open meeting on November 3 and the morning of November 4 is for the Advisory Council members to finalize the recommendations they will present to the Secretary. At the November 4 afternoon session, the Council members will receive an update from the Assistant Secretary of Labor for [EBSA] and present their recommendations. The Council recommendations will be on the following issues: [1] PBM Compensation and Fee Disclosure, [2] Outsourcing Employee Benefit Plan Services, and [3] Issues and Considerations around Facilitating Lifetime Plan Participation. Descriptions of these topics are available on the Advisory Council page of the EBSA Web site[.]"
arrow icon Participant Must Reimburse Plan Even When State Law Precluded Tort Claim for Medical Benefits
Bloomberg BNA

"The appeals court in this case agreed that 'the language of the plan plainly does not limit the plan's ability to recover its expenditures for medical expenses to an award for medical expenses only.' Regarding the claim that state law prevented the participant from claiming medical expenses in his tort personal injury action, the court stated that regardless of the state statute, the language of the plan requiring reimbursement to the plan is 'clear and controlling'[.]" [Board of Trustees of the Nat'l Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan v. McLaughlin, No. 14-1308 (3d Cir. Oct. 1, 2014) (unpublished)]
arrow icon Time for ISS to Decide: Is Stock Price Movement a Measure of Performance or Not?
Towers Watson
10/20/2014 [Opinion]

"There is [an] internal inconsistency with ISS's position on standard time-vesting stock options. How can one fundamentally distinguish between: [1] Stock options (not performance-based pay according to ISS), which deliver value based exclusively on stock price movement and continued service, and [2] Stock awards tied to relative total shareholder return (TSR) (performance-based pay according to ISS), which also deliver value exclusively based on stock price movement and continued service. In fact, one could argue that stock options are the more performance-based vehicle since they deliver no compensation with negative stock price performance, which is often not true for relative TSR awards. To say that one vehicle is performance-based pay and the other is not is inconsistent."
arrow icon Bankruptcy Judge: Trump Can Stop Paying for Healthcare and Pensions of Union Employees of Trump Taj Mahal Casino
Press of Atlantic City

"A federal bankruptcy court judge ruled Trump Entertainment could stop paying for healthcare and pensions of UNITE HERE Local 54 workers at Trump Taj Mahal, saving the casino for now, but potentially stripping these benefits from thousands of resort casino employees. Trump Entertainment officials have said they needed to cut $14.6 million in costs including $5 million healthcare expenses."
arrow icon Re-Thinking Company Stock
Michael Barry
10/20/2014 [Opinion]

"[A] lot of the ESOP rules found their way into ERISA because of notions about employee ownership that few people nowadays would share. Most would argue that, as a retirement savings investment, company stock is even worse than non-company stock, because of the not-inconceivable possibility that you might lose your job just when the stock loses all value -- think of the Enron-employee company stock investors. So why is this special treatment of company stock allowed at all? Partly just because of inertia.... Fifth Third was a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court. There are grounds for hope that the federal judiciary as a whole, and not just the nine Justices of the Supreme Court, may at some point get it and stop allowing these cases."
arrow icon Shareholder 'No' Votes on Pay Show Uptick

"Broadridge Financial Solutions and PwC's Center for Board Governance found that while the percentage of shares voted in support of pay plans was 89% -- the same as in 2013 -- support levels slipped for the plans of mid-, small-, and micro-cap companies. Among mid-caps, the percentage of plans that failed to attain majority support doubled from 3% to 6%, while, among small caps, the equivalent percentage increased to 4% from 0%. Overall, 123 plans failed to win majority support in 2014, compared to 104 last year."
arrow icon The Fiduciary Duty to Hire Expert Advisers (PDF)
Thomas Peller of Fidelity Investments, via Journal of Deferred Compensation

34 pages. "When should fiduciaries obtain advice? And, if advice is needed, how is the fiduciary obligated to obtain and use the advice? ... Laws that tell fiduciaries when to seek advice need to be broad enough to apply to a tremendously wide variety of circumstances but narrow enough to provide meaningful guidance. [This article] begins with an overview of the threshold skill level people must have to become plan fiduciaries ... [then] explains when fiduciaries are obligated to obtain advice ... [and] reviews the three specific steps courts expect fiduciaries to follow when they obtain and use expert advice."
arrow icon The Retirement Readiness Challenge: Five Way Employers Can Improve Their 401(k)s (PDF)
Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies

Contains results of the 15th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey survey of U.S. business employers and workers. "95 percent of employers that offer a 401(k) or similar plan agree that their employees are satisfied with the plan ... In stark contrast, only 80 percent of workers who are offered such a plan agree that they are satisfied with their employers' plans ... 74 percent of employers believe their employees prefer not to think about or concern themselves with retirement investing until they get closer to their retirement date; yet only 38 percent of workers feel this way; and, 63 percent of workers would like more education and advice from their employers, yet only 38 percent of employers believe this to be the case. Only 23 percent of employers have surveyed their employees on retirement benefits[.]"
arrow icon Analysis of Specific Changes Proposed for Modifying Social Security
Office of the Chief Actuary, U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA]

"Listed [on this page] is a broad range of policy options that would address Trust Fund solvency and other issues related to Social Security benefits and financing.... For each provision ... [the Office of the Chief Actuary] provide[s] an estimate of the financial effect on the OASDI program over the long-range period (the next 75 years) and for the 75th year. In addition, [they] provide graphs and detailed single year tables. [They] base all estimates on the intermediate assumptions described in the 2014 Trustees Report."
arrow icon Courts Redefine ERISA's Church Plan Exemption (PDF)
Stephen Rosenberg, of The Wagner Law Group, via Plan Consultant

"At least one court, in a thorough analysis of the issue, has concluded that the broad interpretation of the exemption should continue ... A small sampling of other courts has now gone the other way, finding that a benefit plan can only fall within the exemption, and therefore not have to comply with ERISA, if the plan itself was established by a church or similar religious entity. There is no clear answer to the question of which of these courts is correct, because the language of the statute is not crystal clear."
arrow icon Behind Private Equity's Curtain
The New York Times; subscription may be required
10/19/2014 [Opinion]

"From New York to California, Wisconsin to Texas, hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees are relying on their pensions for financial security. Private equity firms are relying on their pensions, too. Over the last 10 years, pension funds have piled into private equity buyout funds. But in exchange for what they hope will be hefty returns, many pension funds have signed onto a kind of omerta, or code of silence, about the terms of the funds' investments."
arrow icon Latest ACA FAQ Provides Additional Guidance on Applying Cost-Sharing Limit to Reference-Based Pricing
Thomson Reuters / EBIA
10/19/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"The new standards preserve the flexibility to exclude certain amounts from the out-of-pocket maximum. But plan sponsors and insurers anticipating improved cost-effectiveness from a reference-based pricing design should not overlook the additional complexity these standards are likely to create for themselves or their service providers (e.g., implementing a formal exceptions process and tracking the availability of providers willing to accept the reference price for each procedure)." [FAQs About Affordable Care Act Implementation (Part XXI)]
arrow icon HPID Application Process No Longer Requires Authorizing Official's Approval
Thomson Reuters / EBIA

"Eliminating the need for formal approval by a company executive will likely come as a relief for those tasked with submitting HPID applications. But the process still entails over 20 steps, so this simplification is not cause for procrastination -- if anything, it demonstrates that the HPID requirement is very much on CMS's radar."
arrow icon Payments to 401(k) Plan Following Misappropriation of Funds Are Restorative Payments, Not Plan Contributions
Thomson Reuters / EBIA
10/19/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"In [Private Letter Ruling 201440027], the IRS has concluded that an employer's proposed payments to a 401(k) plan to replace losses resulting from fraudulent activity will constitute restorative payments, not plan contributions. The proposal followed a DOL investigation that uncovered misappropriation of plan funds and related false statements (in violation of ERISA) over a period of nearly five years by an individual employed by a plan service provider, ultimately leading to criminal charges against the individual."
arrow icon Cities Could Save Pensions in Bankruptcy
Orange County Register
10/19/2014 [Opinion]

"Stockton never asked to adjust pensions (it wants to pay pension bills in full and give bondholders just pennies on the dollar). And the gargantuan [CalPERS] -- which has long (and some say arrogantly) argued that pension obligations are sacrosanct, even in federal court -- says, 'The real precedent ... is that even if municipalities are allowed to impair pensions in the rare situation of bankruptcy, cities like Stockton can make the smart decision to protect the pension promises for their public employees.' They could. But that doesn't mean a bankruptcy judge will agree."
arrow icon Plan Controls Respond to PBM Spreads, Generic Cost Spikes
Thompson SmartHR Manager

"Rebates and discounts between [pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)] and drug makers can reduce drug prices for plans. Several kinds of rebates exist: [1] the drug maker rewards the PBM for putting its product on formulary; [2] the drug maker rewards the PBM for allotting a certain percentage of market share to the product in relation to comparable agents produced by competing manufacturers; and [3] the drug maker pays the PBM for market intelligence on prescribing patterns ... But when rebates disappear trouble can start."
arrow icon Wellness Programs Violate ADA, Claims EEOC in Lawsuits
Winston & Strawn LLP

"In the complaints, the EEOC emphasized that the wellness program requirements were not 'job related and consistent with business necessity.' This is the standard for many complaints under the ADA. However, if this becomes the standard for wellness programs, what wellness programs could possibly pass this test?"
arrow icon ISS Proposes New Approach to Evaluating Equity Plan Proposals
Winston & Strawn LLP

"The Scorecard proposal leaves many questions unanswered. ISS requested comments on the proposal and specifically asked for feedback on two issues. [1] Are there certain factors outlined above in our proposed scorecard approach that should be more heavily weighted when evaluating equity plan proposals? ... [2] Do you see any unintended consequences from shifting to a scorecard approach? ... ISS expects to release final 2015 policies on or around November 7[.]"
arrow icon California Judge Rules That There's Nothing Sacred About Pension Promises
10/19/2014 [Opinion]

"The Stockton ruling is a harsh reminder of how frail the retirement system in the U.S. has become. Scores of both private and public pensions are underfunded, and Social Security is scheduled to become insolvent in 2033. The system is not going to disappear. But change will come and almost certainly result in benefit cuts for some."
arrow icon Federal District Court Dismisses Stock Drop Case Against UBS

"U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan ... first noted that to establish standing, a participant must show a personal injury was suffered due to the breaches alleged to have been committed by plan fiduciaries. He rejected plaintiff Debra Taveras argument that a plan participant need not show a direct, individualized injury to establish standing." [In re UBS ERISA Litigation, No. 08-cv-6696 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2014)]
arrow icon Stable Value Continues Its Dominance in Defined Contribution Plans

"Stable value funds have $721 billion in assets and are found in about half of all defined contribution plans ... The portfolios have been positioned to take advantage of a rising interest rate environment with lower than average durations, as compared to the recent past. [The authors] see rates increasing gradually over the course of 2015 and expect to see the asset class responding in a positive fashion."
arrow icon To Cut Healthcare Costs, Companies Emphasize Employee Wellness
Columbus CEO

"When companies can demonstrate that their wellness plan has encouraged a significant percent of employees to receive annual physicals, address potential health concerns and embrace healthier lifestyles, they often will experience lower increases in their health insurance costs, he says. Companies will have more leverage negotiating their health insurance costs when they have about 70 percent participation[.]"
arrow icon HSAs and the Coming 'Cadillac' Tax (PDF)
Fidelity Investments

"Employers are waiting for clarification of whether certain items are included when determining the cost of benefits, such as the employee contributions to HSAs.... While your organization has likely already felt the pressure to slow the rate of your health care costs, this upcoming tax forces a necessary review of your strategy for the next five years. Now is the time to evaluate tactics that will provide better results over the long haul, and to consider a multi-year approach aimed at positioning your program best in the new environment."
arrow icon How to Pick the Right Health Plan for 2015
The Wall Street Journal; subscription may be required

"The vast majority [of employees] end up 'auto-enrolling' -- that is, staying in the same plan year after year ... That might not be the best strategy this time around ... [M]any employees will receive enrollment materials for the first time, due to an ACA provision requiring large companies to offer health coverage to a wider pool of workers."
arrow icon Will Employers Favor Private Exchanges Over Healthcare Coverage Sponsorship?
Health Affairs

"It remains to be seen whether private exchanges can outperform conventional self-funding arrangements over time. New data from private exchanges ... claim 5-plus percent health plan cost savings, but we don't know whether those numbers will be seen across the sector, or whether they'll be sustainable."
arrow icon New DOL Guidance Places Conditions on Employers Using Reference Pricing and Narrow Networks
HR Policy Association
10/19/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"[E]mployer plans should: [1] Have procedures to ensure there are an adequate number of providers that accept the reference price ... [2] Have procedures to ensure that an adequate number of providers accepting the reference price meet reasonable quality standards; [3] Have an easily accessible exceptions process, allowing services rendered by providers that do not accept the reference price to be treated as in-network; and [4] Disclose through the plan's Summary Plan Description, or similar document, information on the pricing structure, the list of services the pricing structure applies to, and the exceptions process."
arrow icon The October 31 IRA Trust Deadline: The Who, What, When and Why
Slott Report

"There is still one more IRA deadline to meet for this month.... It applies to: [1] IRAs with a trust as the beneficiary; [2] The IRA owner died in 2013.... A copy of the trust or a list of the beneficiaries and their entitlements must be provided to the IRA custodian.... Most individuals who name a trust as the beneficiary of their IRA do so with the understanding that the required distributions from the IRA will continue to be made to the trust using the age of the oldest trust beneficiary. This will NOT happen unless the October 31 deadline is met."
arrow icon Retirement Plan Reporting and Disclosure Requirements, Updated October 17, 2014 (PDF)
Internal Revenue Service [IRS]
10/20/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"This Retirement Plan Reporting and Disclosure Requirements Guide was prepared by the IRS as a quick reference tool for certain basic reporting and disclosure requirements for retirement plans under the Internal Revenue Code and provisions of [ERISA] administered by the IRS. The Guide is not intended to be an exhaustive list. It should be used in conjunction with the DOL Retirement Plan Reporting and Disclosure Guide."
arrow icon A Tax Advantage to Retiring Single
The Wall Street Journal; subscription may be required

"[F]ederal tax laws favor retired folks who are single if they have income outside of Social Security benefits -- a statute that prompts some couples to divorce at retirement. You will be taxed on as much as 85% of your Social Security benefits if your combined income exceeds certain limits."
arrow icon IRS and DOL Publish Rules on E-Filing (PDF)
Buck Consultants at Xerox
10/19/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"Public access and electronic confirmation will substantially eliminate any challenge to a claim that a statement or notice was filed. Conversely, it will be impossible for a plan administrator to claim that a statement or notice was filed unless it has, in fact, been filed.... Plan sponsors filing at least 250 forms using the form count in IRS' rule are likely already filing the Form 5500 and Schedule SB and MB electronically under the DOL's EFAST program. The effect of the final regulations will be to spur more electronic filings of Form 8955-SSA."
arrow icon Trends in Employment-Based Health Insurance Coverage
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS]

"Employee access to employer-provided health insurance declined from 1991 to 2000, chiefly because of relatively low rates of access among part-time workers.... From 1991 until 2012, the access rate for all workers declined from 77.3 percent to 70.2 percent. There was little change among full-time workers, whose access rates fell from 87.8 percent to 86.4 percent (although they were higher at some points during the period examined). The drop among part-time workers, however, was much steeper -- from 28.8 percent to 23.7 percent."
arrow icon Text of Eleventh Circuit Opinion: Definition of Plan Term Found Only in Extrinsic Documents Does Not Render Plan Document Ambiguous (PDF)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

"[B]ecause the Plan defines 'Normal Retirement Date' in reference to Meadowcraft's 'published or accepted personnel practices,' it was necessary for the district court to examine extrinsic evidence of Meadowcraft's personnel practices to determine the Normal Retirement Date. This does not mean the contract was ambiguous. Courts routinely examine extrinsic evidence to determine the meaning of contract terms even while holding that the contract is unambiguous." [Snow v. Boston Mutual Life Ins. Co., No. 13-15067 (11th Cir. Oct. 16, 2014)]
arrow icon To 'SHOP' or Not: Finding the Right Exchange Path for Your Small Business
Society for Human Resource Management [SHRM]

"Most smaller companies (approximately 64.8 percent) do not offer health insurance to employees, and although SHOP offers tax credits, they're only available to businesses with a high percentage of low-income workers who would likely be eligible for Medicaid or significant subsidies on the individual exchanges. In these cases, a business may be doing its employees a disservice by offering health insurance, because providing employer-sponsored insurance prevents employees from receiving subsidies on the individual exchange."
arrow icon Now That Almost Every Large Employer Has One, EEOC Targets Wellness Programs (PDF)
Winston & Strawn

"According to the EEOC, wellness programs are becoming more popular, and 94 percent of employers with more than 200 workers offer one, as well as a majority of all employers.... [A]fter the initiation of the Orion suit, the EEOC reiterated that voluntary wellness programs are completely legal and encouraged, 'but they have to be actually voluntary.... Having to choose between responding to medical exams and inquiries -- which are not job-related -- in a wellness program, on the one hand, or being fired, on the other hand, is no choice at all.'"
arrow icon Four More New Jersey Cities Enact Paid Sick Leave Laws (PDF)
Proskauer Rose LLP
10/17/2014 [Guidance Overview]

5 pages. "Four New Jersey municipalities -- Passaic, Paterson, Irvington, and East Orange -- recently enacted ordinances requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees ... The Ordinances will take effect in January 2015 ... Under the Ordinances, an 'employer' is any individual or entity except the federal, state, or city government. Equally broad is the term 'employee,' which includes any individual who works in the particular municipality for at least 80 hours ... Employers must provide a written notice of rights under the law to each employee individually as soon as practicable when an Ordinance goes into effect, and thereafter to each new hire at the time employment commences."
arrow icon Text of PBGC Technical Update 14-2: Effect of HATFA on 4010 Reporting
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC]
10/17/2014 [Official Guidance]

"If a 4010 filing contains actuarial information for 2013 based on segment rates that differ from those the plan ultimately uses, ordinarily the filing would need to be amended. PBGC appreciates that it would be unduly burdensome to require such amendments. Therefore, 4010 filings need not be amended solely to revise actuarial information that changed because of a decision to use HATFA rates for the 2013 plan year of a plan reported in the filing.... PBGC reserves the right to request that a filer submit revised actuarial information for 2013 reflecting the rates the plan ultimately uses for 2013, in the event PBGC decides it needs the information for its monitoring and enforcement activities. If PBGC requests such information, it will provide sufficient time to comply with the request."
arrow icon ERISA Language in Your Real Estate Lending Documents: When You Need It, When You Don't
Commercial Observer

"[M]odern loan documents often contain pages of mysterious language on that federal law, which sets the rules for many pension plans. Why would a law on pensions affect real estate loans?"
arrow icon Europe's Pensions Regulator Criticized for Costly New Rules
The Wall Street Journal; subscription may be required

"Europe's pensions regulator has come under fire ... for pressing ahead with what some pensions managers say are excessively burdensome new rules. But Gabriel Bernardino, chairman of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority, told the U.K.'s National Association of Pension Funds ... that he wasn't prepared to compromise on his priorities despite strong disagreement from some parts of the pensions industry.... He conceded, however, that European authorities had not gone about ensuring transparency in the correct way.... Mr. Bernardino said: 'We definitely agree that we have made a mistake in putting an emphasis on providing more and more information that people don't read.'"
arrow icon What Are EBSA's Plans for Regulating Brokerage Windows?
Todd Berghuis, for Ascensus
10/17/2014 [Opinion]

"Despite backing down in FAB 2012-02R, EBSA left the door ajar for possible future action.... The DOL's Semiannual Regulatory Agenda released in May of this year listed 'Standards for Brokerage Windows -- PreRule' as a priority. This agenda item was fulfilled with EBSA's August RFI. A reading of the 39 questions and their subparts does not give comfort to those who fear that EBSA is committed to restricting the use of brokerage windows, one way or another."
arrow icon Public and Union Employers Attack Upcoming 'Cadillac Plan' Excise Tax
Employee Benefit News

"The truth for most employers is that the Affordable Care Act's feared excise tax is coming in 2018. In the public sector, major employers such as the City of Boston are utilizing vendor and plan management strategies, with the help of union negotiations, to control their health plan costs.... 'If you're trying to change the employer/employee contribution mix, that is not going to affect your excise tax liability,' [Kathryn L. Bakich, Segal's national health compliance practice leader] said ... That's 'because you're looking at the value of the plan -- not who pays the premiums.'"
arrow icon A Look at the HPID Application Experience
Verrill Dana LLP
10/17/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"Small health plans that report annual receipts of $5 million or less (not to be confused with sub-health plans) will have an additional year to obtain an HPID. HPIDs must be used in all standard transactions beginning November 7, 2016. Self-insured health plans may authorize a third-party administrator to obtain an HPID on its behalf, but the HPID will belong to the health plan and it remains the obligation of the health plan to ensure the HPID is obtained by the deadline."
arrow icon Text of PBGC Submission of Information Collection Request to OMB; Request for Public Comments on Proposed Changes to Schedules MB and SB of Form 5500
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC]
10/17/2014 [Official Guidance]

"Based on a recommendation made by practitioners, PBGC is proposing to modify the Schedule MB to require plan administrators of all multiemployer plans to report on line 4 the funded percentage for monitoring the plan's status. Currently, only plan administrators of multiemployer plans in critical or endangered status are required to report this information ... The Schedule MB and instructions would also be modified to add a new question in line 8b that would require large multiemployer plans (500 or more total participants as of the valuation date) to provide in an attachment a projection of expected benefit payments to be paid for the entire plan (not including expected expenses) for each of the next ten plan years starting with the plan year to which the filing relate ... PBGC is proposing to modify the Schedule SB instructions to simplify the alternative age/service scatters that cash balance plans with 1,000 or more active participants have an option to report on an attachment to line 26."
arrow icon Text of PBGC Submission of Information Collection Request to OMB; Request for Public Comments on Continued Collection of Certain Information About Termination of Single-Employer Plans and Missing Participants
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [PBGC]
10/17/2014 [Official Guidance]

"PBGC is proposing to require that a plan administrator of a plan terminating in a standard termination (or a distress termination that closes out in the private sector) must submit with the post-distribution certification the following information: [1] The most recent plan document. [2] Proof of benefit distributions for lump sums paid and annuities purchased, including an accurate list of annuity providers, with the group contract numbers and contact information for each annuity provider, and a list of participants entitled to an annuity from each annuity provider. These new information requirements will help PBGC address inquiries from individuals who claim they are owed benefits from terminated plans and, where appropriate, pay benefits to individuals entitled to them or to direct them to insurers that are holding annuities for them."
arrow icon Text of OPM Final Regs: Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Modification of Eligibility to Certain Employees on Temporary Appointments and Certain Employees on Seasonal and Intermittent Schedules
Office of Personnel Management [OPM]
10/17/2014 [Official Guidance]

"This final rule modifies eligibility by authorizing enrollment in a FEHB health plan for certain non-Postal Federal employees on temporary appointments and certain non-Postal employees working on seasonal and intermittent schedules.... This final rule allows newly eligible employees (employees on an appointment limited to 1 year and employees working on a seasonal or intermittent schedule) to initially enroll under the FEHB program with a Government contribution to premium if they are expected to be employed on a full-time schedule and are expected to work for at least 90 days ... Enrollments for employees newly eligible pursuant to this rule will be accepted during a 60-day period after the employing office notifies employees of their eligibility to enroll in a FEHB health plan."
arrow icon Health Savings Accounts Under the ACA: Challenges and Opportunities for Consumer-Directed Health Plans
Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

"Recent evidence suggests that high-deductible health plans in the employer market have played a significant role in moderating premium-cost increases over the last several years -- 'bending the curve' for employer health care spending. If HSA-eligible plans are structured correctly in ACA exchanges, such plans could play a similar role in the non-group market (as the number of enrollees with individual coverage grows quickly over the next few years)."
arrow icon The Hidden Risk in the World's Best Pension System
Bloomberg Businessweek

"Compared with defined-benefit plans in the U.S. -- rare, underfunded, and governed by accounting standards derided by almost every economist -- the Dutch pension system looks even better. It does have a weakness, though, one that's often overlooked, even though it may be the only aspect of the Dutch system that's likely to be adopted here: In the Netherlands, annual cost-of-living increases depend (PDF) on the health of the pension's balance sheet. If returns fall, benefits don't increase. If the fund performs badly enough, pensioners may even suffer benefit cuts."
arrow icon CMS Offers Some ACOs $114 Million for 'Upfront' Costs
HealthLeaders Media

"Administered through the CMS Innovation Center, loan eligibility targets ACOs that joined the Shared Savings Program in 2012, 2013, or 2014, and new ACOs joining the Shared Savings Program in 2016."
arrow icon Target Date Funds: Are They Right for You?
AFS 401(k) Retirement Services

"The Pros: TDFs can be great for those of you who don't have the time, interest, or ability to actively review, select, and pick your own retirement funds.... The investment mix chosen by the managers of these funds is not chosen with the goal in mind to outperform the markets.... Target-date funds take the guess work out of this for you and ensure your investment mix stays on track.... The Cons: TDFs are usually built for the 'average investor'.... TDFs are more complicated than they seem ... TDFs are usually proprietary."
arrow icon IRS Simplifies Tax Relief for Individuals in Canadian Retirement Plans (PDF)
Groom Law Group
10/17/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"The Revenue Ruling provides that 'eligible individuals' who did not previously make an election ... to defer current U.S. income taxation on the undistributed income of a Canadian retirement plan will be treated as having made the election in the first year in which the individual would have been entitled to elect the benefits ... with respect to the plan.... However, the individual must still report on their U.S. Federal income tax return any income that has accrued in the plan when it is distributed."
arrow icon IRS Releases Highly Anticipated Cash Balance Plan Regs
McDermott Will & Emery
10/17/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"The Final Regulations ... retain an exclusive list of permissible interest rates (including fixed rates, variable rates and combinations of rates) that meet the market rate of return requirement.... The Proposed Regulations set forth specific correction procedures for each noncompliant feature of a noncompliant interest crediting rate. If the noncompliant interest crediting rate has more than one noncompliant feature, then each noncompliant feature must be separately addressed ... The Proposed Regulations only permit modification of the noncompliant features of the interest crediting rates, while requiring maintenance of any compliant features."
arrow icon Tibble v. Edison: What Will It Mean for Plan Sponsors and Fiduciaries?
Milliman Retirement Town Hall

"[S]ponsors focus on implicit administration fees when usually 70% or more of the plan's total cost comes from the expense ratios of the plan's investment options. One important best practice is to ensure that any revenue sharing embedded in a fund's expense ratio is used to benefit the participants invested in that fund ... This is referred to as 'fee-leveling' and while it is becoming a best practice there are still a large number of sponsors who don't understand the issue and simply don't know the solutions."
arrow icon Proposed Approach for Applying the 'Look-Back' Method When the Section 4980H Measurement Period Changes
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP
10/17/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"The [IRS] recently issued Notice 2014-49 which describes a proposed approach for determining an employee's full-time or part-time status for purposes of the employer shared responsibility rules under section 4980H ... when: [1] the employee's job within the controlled group of companies changes, and [2] a look-back methodology is used to determine full-time or part-time status for both the old job and the new job, but different look-back methodologies are used for the old and the new job. The approach proposed in Notice 2014-49 may also be used when an employee's job is affected by a merger, acquisition or other corporate transaction."
arrow icon HPID Advisory Update
Alston & Bird LLP
10/17/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"CMS confirmed that individual, fully insured, employer group health plans/policies are subhealth plans (SHPs) controlled by the health insurance company that issued and controls the plans/policies.... CMS stated that neither health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) nor health savings accounts (HSAs) are required to obtain an HPID because they are 'individual accounts directed by the consumer to pay health care costs.' ... [W]hile this guidance may appear to be welcome news for employers with only fully insured plans and health FSAs or HRAs (whose only potential HPID enumeration responsibility would be because of the health FSA or HRA), it is not consistent with HIPAA's definition of health plan[.]"
arrow icon Draft of 2015 Instructions for Information Returns, Including New IRS Form 5498-A, Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract Information (PDF)
Internal Revenue Service [IRS]
10/17/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"New Form 5498-A, Qualified Longevity Annuity Contract Information, is used to report the status of longevity annuity contracts held by defined contribution plans, IRAs, and eligible governmental plans, to participants. See Form 5498-A and its instructions for more information."
arrow icon Health Plan Identifiers: November 5, 2014 Deadline
10/17/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"A 'controlling' health plan (CHP) is defined as a health plan that controls its own business activities and policies or is controlled by a non-health plan, and if it has a sub-health plan, it controls that plan's activities.... This 'control' test, which is used to identify CHPs, does not appear to produce sensible (much less predictable) results when applied to single-employer self-insured group health plans. Since the terms of these plans are established by their sponsors and they are invariably administered by either their sponsors or by a third party, it seems possible to conclude that every single program or coverage ... could qualify as a separate CHP[.]"
arrow icon Process for Renewing Individual Coverage for 2015 Through FFM
Health Affairs

"FFM Consumers will receive one of six notices. Consumers who visited the marketplace in 2014 and were determined eligible for coverage, but who did not enroll, are being sent a notice urging them to return to the marketplace and enroll when the open enrollment period begins. Consumers who enrolled for 2014 but have not been receiving tax credits -- because they were not eligible, did not apply, or were determined eligible for tax credits but declined assistance -- are urged to return to the marketplace and reenroll in coverage."
arrow icon The Millennial Retirement Plan
10/17/2014 [Opinion]

"Sixty percent of American millennials, the approximately 85 million of us born from 1980 to 1999, expect to retire at age 65 or earlier ... [We] fancy ourselves a new breed. We think freely. We never unplug. We invented Pinterest. So even if we did have the financial wherewithal to retire in 40 years, should we want to? ... Does it make us happier to officially transition to a new phase so late in life? Perhaps retirement, this august institution that came of age in the era of World War II, has reached its own retirement date."
arrow icon California Health Plans on Notice: Drug Lists Will Be Standardized
HealthLeaders InterStudy

"[A] new law in California ... will eventually require all plans in California to use a standard formulary.... The new law ... requires the two insurance state regulators ... to devise a standard formulary by Jan. 1, 2017. Within six months after the template is developed, all insurance plans in California, not just those on the exchange, will have to conform to that template and post regular formulary updates."
arrow icon Administration Signals Doubts About Calculator That Allows Health Plans Without Hospital Benefits
Kaiser Health News

"Treasury Department officials are preparing to reverse course on an official calculator that permits plans without hospital coverage to pass the health law's strictest standard for large employers ... HHS designed the calculator, but Treasury is charged with enforcing the minimum-value standard.... Preliminary results from a member survey by the American Staffing Association show that 46 percent of the temp and recruiting firms that responded are considering such coverage for next year[.]"
arrow icon Potential for Consumer Confusion in Marketplace Renewal Process
The New York Times; subscription may be required

"Insurers expressed concern about consumers who choose to leave one health plan and sign up for another offered by a different insurance company. The federal government is not planning to send a notice to the first insurer terminating the consumer's enrollment. As a result, consumers may receive bills or invoices from both companies. And conceivably, insurers said, if premiums are paid from bank accounts by electronic funds transfer, the money could be deducted twice."
arrow icon What Are the Costs and Risks to Administrators When District Courts Remand Benefit Denials Back to Them?
Stephen Rosenberg of The Wagner Law Group

"[Two recent cases] form an interesting counter to the preference of administrators and their lawyers to seek a remand, rather than an outright reversal, when a district court finds problems with an administrator's benefit determination. They stand for the proposition that administrators may be able to seek that relief, but if they get it, they will have to pay attorney's fees to the participant and will not have an opportunity to test the remand order on appeal until the entire benefit dispute has been conclusively resolved once and for all at the district court level."
arrow icon ISS Releases 2015 Draft Policies

"ISS is proposing to use an equity plan scorecard composed of three categories: Plan Cost; Plan Features; and, Grant Practices. In some respects, it appears that ISS is simply reshuffling some of the existing components of its equity plan proposal policy.... ISS also indicated that the Equity Plan Scorecard would have its factors and weightings keyed to company size and status ... ISS also indicates that its options overhang carve-out policy would no longer be available. Likewise, companies would no longer be able to make a burn rate commitment as they had in the past to avoid a negative ISS vote recommendation when their burn rate exceeded their industry burn rate cap."
arrow icon A Closer Look at Our Public Sector Pension Envy
10/17/2014 [Opinion]

"Critics say public sector plans are unaffordable and unfair, and should be wound up. But would it really be cheaper and fairer to do so? ... Private and public sector goals are different.... Large, well-run defined benefit plans are efficient.... The only way a defined contribution plan can lower costs is by decreasing benefits."
arrow icon White House 'Financial Capability' Council Bypasses Retirement Planning
American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries [ASPPA]
10/17/2014 [Opinion]

"One of the Council's stated goals is to 'identify and test promising and tested approaches for increasing planning, savings and investing for retirement by young people.' Unfortunately, other than a passing reference to President Obama's MyRA program, retirement planning was omitted from the two-plus hours of discussion."
arrow icon Federal District Court Approves $1 Million Settlement in COBRA Notice Class Action Lawsuit
Thompson SmartHR Manager

"A federal district court gave preliminary approval to a $1 million settlement agreement that would resolve a class action lawsuit alleging that an employer/plan administrator, in farming out its employees to clients, violated COBRA's initial and election notice rules, as well as its premium subsidy rules. The settlement would consist of a $375,000 payout to nearly 70 class members, as well as a separate payout of nearly $625,000 for attorney's fees and other costs. The plaintiffs' law firm contends that each class member could receive approximately $5,000, thus possibly making this 'the largest average per person recovery in any reported COBRA class action.'" [Slipchenko v. Brunel Energy, Inc., No. H-11-1465 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 30, 2014)]
arrow icon Farewell to Company Stock, or Not? (PDF)

12 pages. "[T]he best litigation defense is having a documented, conscientious process for evaluating company stock. Process is an important defense for fiduciaries. Documentation should reflect the deliberation and process followed by the fiduciaries in making a decision about company stock.... Unlike other investment options in the plan, company stock has no obvious benchmark. Hiring an independent fiduciary allows a disinterested professional to evaluate the stock, and it eliminates the concern with inside information."
arrow icon IRS Issues Final and Proposed Hybrid Plan Regs
Proskauer Rose LLP
10/16/2014 [Guidance Overview]

"The new regulations confirm that a cash balance plan may credit interest based on the actual rate of return on the aggregate assets of the plan, provided that plan assets are diversified to minimize volatility.... The regulations clarify that a participant's right to future interest credits under a hybrid plan as determined under the plan terms, to the extent not tied to future service with the employer, is a protected benefit under Code Section 411(d)(6).... The IRS had previously requested comments regarding whether hybrid plans should permit participants to 'direct' the 'investment' of their accounts to track certain pre-selected investment options ... [E]ven though this issue is not settled, hybrid plans should not introduce a self-directed interest crediting method that was not in place on September 19, 2014."
arrow icon Majority of Companies Taking Immediate Steps to Minimize Exposure to Excise Tax on 'Cadillac' Health Plans
Aon Hewitt

"Aon Hewitt's soon-to-be-released survey of 317 U.S. employers found that 40 percent expect the excise tax to affect at least one of their current health plans in 2018 and 14 percent expect it to immediately impact the majority of their current health benefit plans. Surprisingly, a quarter of employers said they still have not yet determined the impact of the tax on their health plans, and more than one-third reported that their executive leadership and finance teams have limited or no knowledge of the implications of the tax for their organizations. Of those employers that have determined the impact, 62 percent say they are making significant changes to their health plans for 2015[.]"
arrow icon Managed Services Help Recordkeepers Evolve Their Operations and Grow Revenue
SunGard Financial Systems
10/16/2014 [Opinion]

"Managed services, including IT outsourcing (ITO) and business process outsourcing (BPO), can help retirement administrators overcome these challenges. As a result, ... spending on outsourcing will double through 2015, reaching more than $116 billion: an increase more than twice as fast as traditional IT investments.... [T]his will drive significant change in the way firms approach their operations."

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