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August 4, 2005
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California Insurance Commissioner to Issue Report on Health Savings Accounts, Assoc. Health Plans
Excerpt: "California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi on [August 3, 2005; see below] plans to issue a report that criticizes health savings accounts and other 'consumer-driven' health plans as contributors to increased health care costs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The 74-page report, prepared by Garamendi's staff members, examines health care costs and the increased number of uninsured residents in California." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Report: Priced Out -- Health Care in California (PDF)
73 pages. Excerpt: "This report is not a neutral presentation of facts. We have expressly analyzed the information we received in the context of our own values and goals for reform. We have made recommendations at the end of each section. This report and the recommendations contained in it are my views and opinions of those of my staff. In no way are the recommendations and opinions expressed in this report intended to represent any particular views ...." (John Garamendi, Insurance Commissioner, California Department of Insurance)

Ex-Chase Manhattan Bank Worker Wins Legal Round in Long-Term Disability Dispute
Excerpt: "A former Chase Manhattan Bank employee should be able to present evidence that the company's human resources department was 'disorganized or dysfunctional' .... US District Judge R. Barclay Surrick of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that plaintiff Joseph Hussey could also present evidence that a large number of Chase employees were eligible to participate in a long-term disability (LTD) plan but many did not become a part of the program." (PLANSPONSOR.com: one-time registration required)

Communication Workers of America Launch Health Care Web Site Giving a Voice to Workers
Excerpt: "A new website ... gives working families the opportunity to directly tell their stories. The site, www.healthcarevoices.org, is a project of the Communications Workers of America. It's a vehicle for workers to speak out about the health care crisis and to tell members of Congress, policy makers, the media and others that despite skyrocketing costs and expenses, the nation's health care system isn't working. [Excerpt from Take Back Healthcare.]" (Communication Workers of America)

Family and Medical Leave Act under Assault: Business Groups Want New Restrictions
Excerpt: "Though American companies have had few problems with unpaid family and medical leaves, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says its top labor law priority this year is weakening FMLA's protections in two ways.First, the corporate lobbyists want a narrower definition of serious illness, to make it harder for parents to take leave to care for children with illnesses that keep them out of school and under a doctor's care for less than five days." (Hearst News Service via Sun-Sentinel)

Commentary on Health Care Costs in Vermont: Fix What Is Broken, but Do No Harm
Excerpt: "[N]early 50 percent of all Vermont businesses currently self-insure and, therefore, are protected by the federal ERISA law that prohibits any state mandates for the provision of insurance or types of coverage. These are but some of the practical constraints affecting the elements of health care reform in '06 and beyond." (Rutland Herald)

U.S. Healthcare Industry HIPAA Compliance Survey Results: Summer 2005
Excerpt: "Summer 2005 marks our sixth consecutive year of tracking and reporting on the status of HIPAA compliance within the healthcare industry. The Summer 2005 Survey also marks a HIPAA milestone: for the first time, the three major HIPAA deadlines have all officially passed." (HIPAAdvisory.com)

Abstract of Working Paper: Health Insurance and the Obesity Externality
Excerpt: "If rational individuals pay the full costs of their decisions about food intake and exercise, economists, policy makers, and public health officials should treat the obesity epidemic as a matter of indifference. In this paper, we show that, as long as insurance premiums are not risk rated for obesity, health insurance coverage systematically shields those covered from the full costs of physical inactivity and overeating." (National Bureau of Economic Research)

PacifiCare Executives Could Earn Millions in UnitedHealth Deal
Excerpt: "The proposed acquisition of PacifiCare Health Systems Inc. by UnitedHealth Group Inc. could be worth nearly $230 million to top executives of PacifiCare, if the deal goes through by Feb. 1, according to documents filed with the state." (AP via The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights)

Health Insurance Coverage Advisers Cry Foul: Stop Calling a Commission Decrease an Increase
Excerpt: "Last week's Adviser item (http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/article.cfm?articleid=3863&pg=ros) detailing recent Sherlock Co. research on broker commissions rankled several readers who take issue with the idea that commissions are increasing." (The Adviser)

Massachusetts Employers and Workers to See Minimum 10% Increase in Insurance Premiums in 2006
Excerpt: "Many Massachusetts companies and their workers likely will see increases in their health insurance premiums of 10% or more beginning in 2006, according to the state's largest insurers, the Boston Globe reports. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state's largest health insurer with 2.75 million members, said it expects to increase premiums 10% to 14% for employers with more than 50 workers." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Aetna Explores E-Prescribing to Influence Prescribing Behavior
Excerpt: "While electronic prescribing programs have been touted as a way to improve rates of formulary compliance and generic substitution, a new study shows that there was virtually no difference between the rates in an intervention group and a control group. But that didn't stop study participant Aetna, Inc. from pursuing a pilot program in another market, where it hopes to demonstrate the benefits of e-prescribing for a variety of stakeholders, ...." (DRUG BENEFIT NEWS via AISHealth.com)

Implementing New Technology for Health Plans: Walk Before You Run
Excerpt: "Today's health plans operate under a wholesale business model in which the employer chooses what to spend, where to spend it, what the network is, and who the providers are. Health plan products traditionally consist of a financing vehicle and a physician network. In a retail business model, however, consumers will drive the decision-making process, and they will demand more choices for their healthcare dollars." (HealthLeaders)

Abstract of Working Paper: Information and Consumer Choice - Value of Publicized Health Plan Ratings
Excerpt: "[The Authors] use data on the enrollment decisions of federal annuitants to estimate the influence of publicized ratings on health plan choice. [They] focus on the impact of ratings disseminated by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), and use our estimates to calculate the value of the information." (National Bureau of Economic Research)

A Consumer Guide to Handling Disputes with Your Employer or Private Health Plan -- 2005 Update
Excerpt: "The Kaiser Family Foundation and Consumers Union ... released an updated guide to help consumers through the process of resolving disputes with their health plans. The resource ... includes information about how consumers can take advantage of their health plans' internal processes to resolve disputes, as well as external review processes as allowed under state laws." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Sen. Grassley Introduces Long-Term Care Legislation
Excerpt: "Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has introduced a bill (S 1602) that is intended to help reduce the cost and increase the accessibility of long-term care for elderly U.S. residents and individuals with disabilities, CQ HealthBeat reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Blue Cross Unit to Have Long-Term Care Plans: Policies to Cover Assisted Living
Excerpt: "Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will start a new company that will offer long-term care insurance policies beginning in July 2006.The company, which doesn't have a name yet, would be a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield and would concentrate on providing long-term care services to individuals. Blue Cross Blue Shield, Michigan's largest insurer, has never offered long-term care policies before." (Detroit Free Press)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Monthly Benefit News & Developments, August 2005 Issue from Milliman (PDF)
2 pages. The edition includes information on the following: Advance Form 5500; Legislative Activity on the Benefits Front; Upcoming Key Dates; Flexible Work; Foreign Pensions; Regulatory Roundup; and, Accounting Items. (Milliman)

Overview: Proposed Regulations for Employee Benefit Plan Electronic Notices, Elections, and Consent (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "The proposed regulations are intended to apply prospectively only and cannot be relied on until they are issued as final regulations. Written or electronic comments must be submitted to the IRS by October 12, 2005 and a public hearing is set for November 2, 2005. In the meantime, the regulations give plan sponsors a good idea of what needs to be done to provide employee benefit plan notices and other communications electronically." (Buck Consultants)

Commentary on a Recent Tax Court Case Involving AMT and Incentive Stock Options
Excerpt: "Please note this recent Tax Court case--Robert J. Merlo, TC Memo 2005-178--in which a taxpayer sought to stave off the ravages of AMT by arguing that the stock was subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture due to the employer's policy against insider trading." (Attorney B. Janell Grenier via Benefitsblog.com)

Tax Bill Introduced to Ease Burden of Phantom Gains for Stock Options
Excerpt: "US Representative Sam Johnson (R-Texas) introduced a bill intended to give a tax break to those who were granted stock options that generated 'phantom' gains that were hit with a high alternative minimum tax (AMT)." (PLANSPONSOR.com: one-time registration required)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Fundamentals of 401(k) Plans
Nationwide on September 22, 2005
presented by SunGard Corbel

Fundamentals of Qualified Plans
Nationwide on September 22, 2005
presented by SunGard Employee Benefit Systems

How Medicare Part D Affects Your Company
in Georgia on August 18, 2005
presented by Worldwide Employee Benefits Network (WEB) - Atlanta Chapter


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

New Study Finds Significant Cost Savings Under Optional Federal Charter for Life Insurance Proposal
(American Council of Life Insurers)

Treasury And The IRS Issue Guidance On Employee-Owned Tools
(U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service)

Keenan Introduces 'Futuris' -- Comprehensive GASB Retiree Health and Welfare Benefit Compliance Program
(Keenan)


Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Defined Contribution Administrator
for third party administration firm in one of the most affordable cities in the country
in OK

Healthcare Consultant
for Employee Benefit Solutions, Inc.
in TX

Supervisor
for Benefit Consultants Group
in NJ

Benefits Coordinator
for EarthLink
in CA

Financial Planner / Investment Specialist
for Diversified Investment Advisors
in WI

Retirement Solutions Proposal Manager
for CUNA Mutual Group
in WI

401 (k) Administrator
for GAP-Pension Inc.
in NJ

Systems Support Manager
for TPA in Atlanta, Georgia
in GA

Account Representative
for Great-West Retirement Services
in CA

Consultant/Senior Recordkeeper
for ATR, Inc.
in PA

Client Services Consultant- St. Louis Regional Office
for American United Life Insurance
in MO

Senior Account Manager
for The 401(k) Company
in TX




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