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September 18, 2008

Here are the Web's best new links about compliance and cost aspects of plan operation, design and policy.


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[Guidance Overview] Results When Ex-Employee Filed Suit Against Dollar General for Retaliation Claim Under FMLA
Excerpt: "FMLA is a confusing area of administration for employers, but all should be clear on this point: all forms of retaliation because of FMLA are illegal. Supervisors should be wary of making negative comments about FMLA. Those words constitute prime evidence of retaliation. Proposed regulations have put FMLA even more in the forefront. As Dollar General learned, it takes just one disgruntled employee to put an employer in the courtroom, costing them dollars and cents." (Infinisource)


[Guidance Overview] Three New Colorado Laws Aim to Increase Accountability of Colorado Health Insurance Companies
Excerpt: "Insurance companies, as well as employers, plan sponsors, plan administrator, third-party administrators and others dealing with health and disability plans will need to become familiar with these new statutes -- two of which are already in effect. Developments in how these statutes are implemented, enforced and eventually interpreted by the courts will shape the impact of these laws." (Faegre & Benson LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Reminder: Deadline for Medicare Part D Creditable Coverage Notices Approaches (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Medicare Part D notices of creditable coverage must be provided to Medicare-eligible individuals prior to November 15 of each year. Many employers satisfy this requirement by including the notice in enrollment materials or in separate mailings in the fall. In preparing materials for distribution this fall, employers should be aware of revised model notices provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)." (Buck Consultants)


[Guidance Overview] ERISA Preemption and State Apprenticeship Laws
Excerpt: "The Sixth Circuit decided an important ERISA preemption case . . ., Associated Builders & Contractors, Saginaw Valley Area Chapter v. Michigan Dep't of Labor & Economic Growth, No. 07-1639 (6th Cir. Sept. 16, 08) ,concerning the continuing validity of state apprenticeship laws in light of ERISA. . . . The Employee Retirement Income Security Act does not preempt a Michigan law that sets ratio and equivalency requirements for apprentice electricians, the Sixth Circuit rules in lifting an injunction issued in 1992 that barred the state from enforcing the apprenticeship laws." (Workplace Prof Blog)


Health Information Technology: HHS Has Taken Important Steps to Address Privacy Principles and Challenges, Although More Work Remains (PDF)
27 pages. Excerpt: "[In January 2007] GAO recommended that HHS define and implement an overall privacy approach for protecting [personal health information exchanged within a nationwide health information network]. For this report, GAO was asked to provide an update on HHS's efforts to address the January 2007 recommendation. To do so, GAO analyzed relevant HHS documents that described the department's privacy-related health IT activities." (U.S. Government Accountability Office)


Tennessee Insurer Launches Online Doctor Comparison Tool
Excerpt: "On Monday, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee launched an online tool that will provide about two million Tennessee members with physician cost and quality information . . . . The Web site, based on physicians' insurance claims data, offers consumers information on doctors' compliance with eight performance measures, such as regular eye screenings for patients with diabetes and annual Pap tests for women. The online tool also includes physician cost information (Bregel, Chattanooga Times Free Press, 9/16)." (California HealthCare Foundation)


Health Plans Continue to Eye Retail Clinics to Build Market Share and Reduce the Costs of Care
Excerpt: "Walk-in retail clinics, launched in Minnesota eight years ago, continue to carve a niche as providers of basic, uncomplicated health care. Despite recent missteps, slower than anticipated growth and opposition from physician groups, the clinics are becoming an established member of the nation's health care delivery system, and health plans increasingly are contracting with them." (AISHealth.com)


A Federal Perspective on Health Care Policy and Costs (PDF)
29 pages. CBO Director Peter Orszag's September 16, 2008, presentation to the Center for Public Health, Stanford University. (U.S. Congressional Budget Office)


After GASB 45: Solving the Unfunded Liability Problem in Retiree Health Care
Excerpt: "After analyzing new survey data from the 50 states and a large sample of local governments, Dr. Richard Kearney and Dr. Robert Clark conclude that an incremental approach to managing retiree health care costs has certain advantages. They stress the importance of examining the complex legal, accounting, and tax questions that are involved with some alternatives. This issue brief examines the major policy alternatives state and local governments are exploring: cost containment, cost sharing, efficiencies, future cost shedding, prefunding mechanisms, selling assets, and wellness and preventive illness programs." (Center for State and Local Government Excellence)


Credible Tools Lacking for Health Care Cost and Quality 'Transparency'
Excerpt: "[R]esearchers studied health care plans' progress in providing information on hospital and physician cost and quality to consumers to help them make cost-effective provider choices. As plan sponsors push consumers to assume greater responsibility for health care treatment costs through higher deductibles, coinsurance, and other out-of-pocket dollars, cost and quality transparency has become another major competitive tool for health care plans." (Wolters Kluwer)


Warning Sounded About Impact on Employers of Colorado Ballot Measures
Excerpt: "Five ballot initiatives on Colorado's November general election ballot could have a substantial impact on employers in the state, according to a client alert from a law firm specializing in workplace law. . . . Amendment 56 - proposes to amend the Colorado constitution to require that employers with 20 or more employees provide major medical health-care coverage to employees. . . . Employers could satisfy their burden under Amendment 56 either by offering insurance coverage to employees directly, or by paying into a proposed Health Insurance Authority empowered to contract with health insurers to provide coverage." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Federal Judge Blocks Retiree Health Care Charges at Caterpillar
Excerpt: "A federal judge in Nashville has blocked efforts by Caterpillar to charge Caterpillar Logistics Services (CLS) retirees for their health care. According to a news release by lawyers for the workers, U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger issued a preliminary injunction forcing Caterpillar to provide the CLS retirees with the same health coverage package as they do for other employees retired before January 1, 1992." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Pharmacy Benefits Managers Promote Low-Cost Generics, Adherence to Drug Plans
Excerpt: "Pharmacy benefits managers have begun offering tools to help consumers find low-cost generic drugs, adhere to drug regimens and increase consumer choice, all of which can help increase profit margins, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, PBMs generally experience greater profit margins and members typically spend less when they use generic drugs, especially when ordered by mail. In addition, consumers who maintain their drug regimens help increase PBMs' revenues because they refill prescriptions more frequently." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Mental Health Parity Bill To Be Included in Tax Legislation Scheduled for Vote This Week
Excerpt: "Lawmakers will try to move mental health parity legislation by attaching it to a tax bill that will be addressed by the Senate this week, CongressDaily reports (Edney, CongressDaily, 9/17)." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Covering the Uninsured: Options for Reform - The First in a Series of 2008 Election Briefs on Key Health Policy Issues
Excerpt: "The first brief provides key facts on the nation's uninsured population, why people are uninsured and why being uninsured is a problem. The brief then presents broad policy options for covering the uninsured population and offers some questions to help evaluate the proposals by presidential candidates Senators McCain and Obama. (A detailed side-by-side, http://www.health08.org/sidebyside.cfm, of the candidates' proposals on health reform, the Foundation's polling, http://www.health08.org/polls.cfm, on the topic, and video clips, http://www.kaisernetwork.org/healthcast/h08/soundbites/healthreform, of the candidates discussing health reform are available online.)" (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] Journal 'Health Affairs' Disputes McCain's Health Care Claims
Excerpt: "Senator John McCain's top domestic policy adviser, former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, recently said in a conference call with reporters that Mr. McCain's health care proposal would 'put 25 to 30 million individuals out of the ranks of the uninsured, into the ranks of the insured.' In an article released Tuesday, a panel of prominent health economists concludes that Mr. Holtz-Eakin's projection is off by, well, 25 to 30 million." (The New York Times Politics Blog; free registration required)



Sponsored by: ALM

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(Please visit our sponsors. We try to make sure their products and services will be of interest to you. Thanks! --Editor)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] IRS Examples of Excluding Recurring Part-Year Compensation in 457 and 409A Deferred Comp Rules
Excerpt: "The possibility of exceeding the 457 and 409A compensation limits occurs when nine or ten months of compensation is paid over a 12-month period and extends into another tax year." (Wolters Kluwer)


[Guidance Overview] Impact of the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 on Employee Benefit Plans (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "The IRS has yet to issue guidance clarifying the provisions of the HEART Act and their impact on employee benefit plans, although it has identified this guidance as a high priority. Since plan amendments incorporating the mandatory provisions of the HEART Act are not required until the last day of the plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2010, you can wait for further guidance from the IRS before amending your plans. Nonetheless, you must be careful to operate your plans in accordance with the provisions of the HEART Act that are effective retroactively or that will take effect as of January 1, 2009." (Harter Secrest & Emery LLP)


Wall Street Turmoil Tainting Stock Option Plans
Excerpt: "Stock options long have been a core part of the compensation packages of many mid- to high-level employees in financial services. But the recent turmoil on Wall Street may make options a hard sell to potential recruits -- at least for the next several months, compensation experts say." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Still-Rising Gas Prices Encourage Employers to Think Outside the Box
Excerpt: "As gas prices nationwide climb north of $4 per gallon, most consumers cringe as they fill up. Although Louis Basso, president of The Alcott Group, a New York-based HR consulting firm, regrets he can't take away 'the whole pain' of rising prices for his employees, he's trying to do all he can to help. 'This is going to be our second round with offering our employees help with gas prices,' he says. About a year and a half ago, when gas prices hit $3 a gallon, the company, which employs 43 workers, gave each employee $100 via payroll to help ease the burden. [Originally published August 1, 2008.]" (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Health Savings Accounts
Nationwide on November 10, 2008
presented by Lorman Education Services

HRAs and HSAs for Rookies: Basic Training in Consumer-Driven Health Care
Nationwide on October 16, 2008
presented by EBIA / Thomson Reuters

Recognizing and Addressing COBRA
Nationwide on November 14, 2008
presented by Lorman Education Services



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Pension Rights Center Calls for Increased 401(k) Fee Disclosure
Pension Rights Center



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