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February 25, 2009

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]
EBSA Creates Page with Links Relevant to COBRA Changes

Although the page currently doesn't contain information likely to be new to you, it shows off a new 'subscribe to this page' feature offered by the DOL, which presumably will alert you to changes on the page. (Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor)


[Guidance Overview]
Observations on the New COBRA Provisions; Certain Clarifications Needed, and Effects on Plan Design

Excerpt: "The law specifically requires that the individual (or a person other than the employer of the severed employee) pay 35% to get the 65% credit. What if a severance arrangement includes an employer subsidy for COBRA? It would be pretty stupid for an employer to pay money that could have been paid by the government. Renegotiation of subsidized severance arrangements, possibly with a taxable cash-out or a deferral of the subsidy to 2010, may make sense for arrangements in effect now." (George L. Chimento of Davis, Malm & D'Agostine, P.C.)


[Guidance Overview]
Overview of COBRA Changes in Stimulus Bill, with Comments by Buck (PDF)

6 pages. Excerpt: "ARRA is meant to be a fast-acting stimulus to the economy. In keeping with that goal, the new COBRA provisions are effective almost immediately, and plan sponsors must quickly map out a compliance strategy." (Buck Consultants)


[Guidance Overview]
Slidedeck of Presentation on COBRA Provisions in the Stimulus Law (PDF)

31 pages. (Lambert & Carney Benefits Group, LLC)


[Guidance Overview]
How the New Healthcare Privacy Law Affects Banks' Products

Excerpt: "Pepper Points - The changes to HIPAA brought by the HITECH Act are aimed at enhancing privacy and security and thereby improving the chain of trust in a nationwide health information technology (HIT) infrastructure, including electronic health records and health information exchanges. As trust increases, more covered entities and patients will use HIT, leading to the creation and delivery of new medical banking services." (Pepper Hamilton LLP)


[Guidance Overview]
Introduction to Point/Counterpoint Articles on Sereboff

Excerpt: "In the Winter 2009 issue of NASP Subrogator Magazine, you will find the articles collectively written by Adam V. Russo, (pointing on) and Daran Kiefer, (counterpointing on) issues of Sereboff. 'Introduction to Point on Sereboff: The Best Recovery Option After Sereboff- Know Where the Money Is!' by Adam V. Russo [and] 'Introduction to Counterpoint on Sereboff: Can You Recover Under ERISA When The Settlement Money Is Spent - ERISA Recovery in a Post Sereboff World' by Daran Kiefer, Kreiner & Peters Co., L.P.A., Cleveland, OH." (Passion for Subro)


'Comparative Effectiveness' in Stimulus Bill: A Warning Shot in the Healthcare Fight
Excerpt: "The comparative-effectiveness issue was supposed to help lay the groundwork for the broader reform effort. But it became a lightning rod for conservative commentators who labeled it a step toward socialized medicine, a line of attack that has doomed every health overhaul effort since World War II." (Los Angeles Times)


Coca-Cola Will Again Seek Approval of Retiree Captive Plan
Excerpt: "The Coca-Cola Co. will continue to seek regulatory approval of its innovative plan to fund retiree health care benefits through a special trust and its captive insurance company following a Labor Department ruling last week that the arrangement does not qualify for fast-track approval. In a filing last month with the Labor Department, Coca-Cola requested expedited approval of a potentially groundbreaking approach to fund retiree health care benefits. Under its plan, the company would use assets now held in a voluntary employees beneficiary association to purchase medical stop-loss policies from Prudential Insurance Co. of America to pay claims over the expected lifetimes of about 4,000 retirees and dependents. Coca-Cola established the VEBA, recently valued at $187 million, in 2006." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Health Care Costs Are Top Challenge, Obama Says
Excerpt: "They are 'the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far,' and work is already under way to go 'line by line' through the federal budget to cut wasteful and inefficient programs, the president says." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Lack of Insurance Harms Health, Requires Urgent National Action
Excerpt: "The evidence shows more clearly than ever that having health insurance is essential for people's health and well-being, and safety-net services are not enough to prevent avoidable illness and premature death, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine. Loss of employer-based coverage due to the current economic downturn is exacerbating the situation. The report calls on the president and Congress to begin efforts immediately to achieve health coverage for all. [The target page links to the audio of the Briefing, the News Release, the Report in Brief, the Project Web Page, and the Full Report.]" (National Academy of Sciences)


Kaiser Health Care Public Opinion Tracking Poll -- February 2009
Excerpt: "The first Kaiser Health Tracking Poll of 2009 finds the public is increasingly worried about the affordability and availability of care, with many postponing or skipping treatments due to cost in the past year and a notable minority forced into serious financial straits due to medical bills. [The target page has links to the News Release, Key Findings, Chartpack, and Toplines.]" (Kaiser Family Foundation)


U.S. Institute of Medicine Sees More Americans Losing Health Insurance
Excerpt: "More Americans will lose their health insurance as the economy weakens, health care becomes more expensive and fewer employers offer coverage, the U.S. Institute of Medicine said in a report on Tuesday. The institute, an independent research organization that advises U.S. policymakers, said safety-net services such as charity care and hospital emergency rooms cannot be relied upon to meet the needs of people without insurance. An institute panel urged the White House and Congress to take urgent steps to ensure all Americans have coverage. The government says 45.7 million Americans, or 15 percent, had no public or private health insurance in 2007." (Reuters)


CMS Releases Report on Projected National Health Expenditures, 2008-2018
Excerpt: "The Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services annually produces projections of health care spending for categories within the National Health Expenditure Accounts, which track health spending by source of funds (for example, private, Medicare, Medicaid) and by type of service (hospital, physician, prescription drugs, etc.). The latest projections begin after the latest historical year (2007) and go through 2018." (U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)


Effect of Limiting or Eliminating the Tax Exclusion for Employment-Based Health Insurance
Excerpt: "In testimony on February 10 to the Senate Budget Committee, Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), reviewed issues related to the policy goals of simultaneously pursuing health insurance coverage expansion and improving the cost-effectiveness of both the health care system and health insurance." (Wolters Kluwer)


Paid-Leave Benefits: Vacations, Holidays, and Personal Leave: Access, Quantity, Costs, and Trends (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "'Program Perspectives on Paid-Leave Benefits' presents BLS data on paid-leave benefits received by workers, such as holidays, vacations, and personal leave. This is the second issue of 'Program Perspectives,' a new publication in which BLS programs showcase their latest data." (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Employers Don't Want to Pay for Hospital Errors
Excerpt: "A new survey by the Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) finds employer support for non-payment of 'never events' preventable hospital errors and hospital-acquired infections. According to a press release, more than 60% of employers surveyed said they should pay for conditions that arose after the covered patient was admitted to a hospital, if the facility was not at fault. However, once employers became aware that Medicare had identified conditions which should never happen to a patient and will not pay for services related to such situations, close to 80% of health care purchasers agreed that their health plans should adopt the same payment policies as Medicare related to those conditions, the announcement said." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Court OKs Delphi Retiree Benefits Cutback
Excerpt: "A U.S. Bankrup.tcy Court judge gave Delphi Corp. permission to cut health care and insurance benefits for about 15,000 white-collar retirees. According to a Reuters news report, U.S. Bankrup.tcy Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York cited Delphi's need to conserve liquidity and said that the company had waited for a sufficient time before seeking to suspend the benefits. Lawyers for the salaried retirees had argued that parts of the U.S. Bankrup.tcy code limited the ability of a debtor to modify retiree benefits, but Delphi countered that those benefits are provided 'at will.' Drain ruled that the code only applied when retirees could prove they have a guaranteed right to those benefits, Reuters said." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General



Rep. Hilda Solis (D-California) Confirmed as Secretary of Labor
Excerpt: "Solis, 51, had come under fire from Senate Republicans, who thought she was unresponsive to many of their questions during her confirmation hearing, a situation that was compounded by her work as treasurer for American Rights at Work, a pro-labor group." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)




Newly Posted Events


(Post Yours!)

Automatic Enrollment & QDIAs - New Rules, New Opportunities Recorded Webcast
Nationwide on February 25, 2009
presented by National Institute of Pension Administrators

Distinguished Lecture Series in Employee Benefits Law
in Illinois on March 3, 2009
presented by The Center for Tax Law and Employee Benefits at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago

Fiduciary Lessons Learned from Scoundrels and Thieves
Nationwide on March 5, 2009
presented by Fiduciary360 (fi360)

PPA: One Year Later Recorded Webcast
Nationwide on February 25, 2009
presented by National Institute of Pension Administrators

Quarterly Participant Statements and Other Employee Notices Under PPA Recorded Webcast
Nationwide on February 25, 2009
presented by National Institute of Pension Administrators

The Final Roth Distribution Regulations Recorded Webcast
Nationwide on February 25, 2009
presented by National Institute of Pension Administrators

VEBAs and Pre-Funding Retiree Health Benefits Webcast Presented By Benefits Expert, Lance Wallach
Nationwide on March 18, 2009
presented by Financial Research Associates



Newly Posted Press Releases


(Post Yours!)

MassMutual Retirement Services 2008 Plan Data Shows Participants 'Staying the Course'
MassMutual Retirement Services

U.S. Department of Labor Sues Former Officer of SCT Yarns For Violating ERISA Rules
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Defined Contribution Plan System Must Be Preserved
American Benefits Council

Employers Support Non-Payment for Hospital-Acquired Infections
Midwest Business Group on Health



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