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November 12, 2012          Get Retirement News  |  Advertise  |  Unsubscribe
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Employee Benefits Jobs

Senior Employee Education Consultant
for PNC in PA

Retirement Plan Services Representative
for Capital Group Companies in CA

Retirement Plan Services Representative
for Capital Group Companies in IN

National Sales Director - 401(k)
for Mutual of Omaha in ANY STATE, NE

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Webcasts and Conferences

Department of Labor 401(k) and 403(b) Retirement Plan Audits
in California on November 15, 2012 presented by No. Calif. Chapter of Certified Employee Benefits Specialists (ISCEBS)

NBCH 17th Annual Employer Health Benefits Conference
in District of Columbia on November 12, 2012 presented by National Business Coalition on Health

Year–End Action Items for Benefits and Compensation Webinar
Nationwide on November 15, 2012 presented by Winston & Strawn

Common Plan Governance Issues (NY CLE Program)
in New York on November 28, 2012 presented by WEB (Worldwide Employee Benefits Network ), New York Chapter


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[Official Guidance]

Text of Presidential Memorandum Authorizing Emergency Leave Transfer Program for Federal Employees Adversely Affected by Hurricane Sandy
"I hereby direct the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to establish an emergency leave transfer program, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 6391. The program will permit employees in the executive and judicial branches, or an agency leave bank established under 5 U.S.C. 6363, to donate unused annual leave for transfer to employees of the same or other agencies (or the judicial branch) who were adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy and who need additional time off for recovery." (The White House)


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[Official Guidance]

Text of OPM Extension of Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Coverage for Certain Intermittent Employees (PDF)
"In light of the need for agencies to attract and bring emergency workers on board quickly and in recognition of the hazardous conditions those employees often face, OPM has concluded that its current policy of categorically excluding intermittent employees from FEHBP coverage is no longer in the public interest and should be changed. Therefore, OPM is issuing this interim regulation to allow agencies to request FEHBP coverage for intermittent employees engaged in emergency response and recovery work as defined by the Stafford Act. In addition, if OPM grants any such requests, it is reserving the authority to limit FEHBP coverage for intermittent employees only to the periods during which they are in a pay status." (U.S. Office of Personnel Management)

[Official Guidance]

Text of CCIIO FAQ Extending Deadline for Filing 'Blueprint' for Approval of Affordable State-Based and State Partnership Health Insurance Exchanges
"If a state wants to establish a State-based Exchange, when is the Blueprint Application due? What about the Declaration Letter? In order to provide states with more time to create a comprehensive Blueprint Application that is fully representative of their work, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended the deadline for State-based Exchange Blueprint Applications to Friday, December 14, 2012. Declaration Letters for State-based Exchanges remain due on Friday, November 16, 2012." (Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight)

Administration Extends Health Care Benefits to Part-Time FEMA Workers
"The announcement [from the Office of Personnel Management] comes after an online petition requesting the benefits received nearly 100,000 signatures in the 10 days since it was launched. A May Government Accountability Office report found that reservists, who make up 57 percent of FEMA's workforce, do not receive any federal health benefits.... The disaster assistance employees serve two-year appointments and are paid only when deployed." (GovExec.com)

States Get Extension of Time to Work on Health Insurance Exchanges
"The new insurance exchanges will allow households and small businesses to buy a private health plan, and many will get help from the government to pay their premiums. Under the law, states that can't or won't set up exchanges will have theirs run by Washington. But many governors and state lawmakers were on the fence, awaiting the outcome of the presidential election. And the lost time left them fewer options." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Obama Administration Extends Deadline For State Health Insurance Exchanges
"States will have to tell federal regulators that they plan to go ahead by next Friday, but they will have until Dec. 14 to submit plans for state-based, online markets ... Those who want to partner with the federal government to set up the markets have until Feb. 15." (Kaiser Health News)

With Obamacare Now a Reality, Employers Choose Strategies
"Businesses are taking a hard look at what the new law will mean to their bottom line and their employment. A survey by Mercer ... showed that 18 percent of employers with any part-time employees are planning to adjust some hours so fewer employees work 30 or more hours a week ... But making this move can come with risks." (Chicago Sun-Times)

Wal-Mart Employees to Pay More for Health Coverage in 2013
"Wal-Mart Stores Inc's U.S. employees will pay between 8 and 36 percent more in premiums for its medical coverage in 2013, prompting some of the 1.4 million workers at the nation's largest private employer to say they will forego coverage altogether.... Wal-Mart said average costs its employees will bear should only rise about 4.4 percent in 2013, due to the elimination of some high premium plans, its move to offer free heart and spine surgery to most employees at six health care centers, and provision of other services ... That is less than the 9 percent average increase expected for all American workers next year[.]" (Reuters)

Improvements Sought for Federal Health Insurance Law
"The analysts do agree on one thing, even if they don't necessarily agree on how to go about it: Cutting costs through provider payments, rather than through the health care system itself, won't cause health care costs to stabilize." (USA TODAY)

Employers Grapple with Federal Health Care Reform
"[A]s annual open enrollment periods get underway at many companies, both employees and employers face changes in health insurance coverage and requirements over the next two years.... Many of the requirements that will be put in place through 2014 will primarily affect employers. But workers will also see changes affecting how they choose and pay for health insurance." (Boston.com)

Only Half of Workers at Small Employers Offered and Eligible for Health Insurance
"Low-wage workers in small businesses were the least likely to be offered and eligible for coverage: just one-third of workers making less than $15 an hour in small firms were both offered and eligible to enroll in their employer's health plan, compared to 70 percent of small-firm workers making over $15 an hour." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

Insurers Relax Prescription, Out-of-Network Rules Post-Sandy
"New York issued guidelines before the storm hit requiring health insurers loosen their prior authorization requirements for urgent services. Insurers also were advised to ease prescription refill rules so members can obtain prescriptions before they otherwise would be allowed, reported LifeHealthPro. Additionally, New York told insurers to operate a call center and website, which inform members on where and how to receive treatment and list availability of urgent care centers to help avoid overcrowding emergency rooms." (FierceHealthPayer)

Treasury Department Defends Regs Providing Tax Credits for Purchases from Federally-Operated Health Insurance Exchanges
"The Treasury Department, in an October 25 letter to House lawmakers, defended its final regulations to implement a health care tax credit under Sec. 1311 of the [ACA]. Treasury Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Alastair M. Fitzpayne responded to a request from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, D-Calif., to explain whether the credit applies to taxpayers who purchase health insurance through insurance exchanges operated by the federal government." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

Job-Based Health Coverage in California Falls on Hard Times
"A five-year slide has pushed employers, long the dominant health insurance provider in California, into minority status. For the first time since at least 2001, and likely much longer, less than half of Californians younger than 65 received coverage through their own or a family member's employer in 2011." (Ventura County Star)

Courts Penalize Employer for Denial of Intermittent FMLA Leave
"In the case of a telephone company worker under long-term psychiatric treatment, an eight-member jury and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan found that an FMLA case manager made a good faith but 'unreasonable' decision to deny intermittent FMLA leave to [an employee].... The infraction cost Michigan Bell Telephone Company, an AT&T subsidiary, nearly $523,000 in damages and attorney fees.... [T]he 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award of liquidated damages and affirmed the district court's denial of Michigan Bell's motions for directed verdict and new trial." [Hyldahl v. Michigan Bell Telephone Company, No. 09-2087 (6th Cir. Oct. 31, 2012)] (Thompson SmartHR Manager)

Employee's Facebook Pictures Sink FMLA Interference, Retaliation Suit Against Employer
"The [Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals] stated, '[S]o long as the employer honestly believed in the proffered [lawful] reason given for its employment action, the employee cannot establish pretext even if the employer's reason is ultimately found to be mistaken, foolish, trivial, or baseless.'" [Jaszczyszyn v. Advantage Health Physician Network, No. 11-1697 (6th Cir. Nov. 7, 2012)] (Jackson Lewis LLP)

[Opinion]

Did the Election Save Obamacare?
"There are six major flaws in ObamaCare. They are so serious that the Democrats are going to have to perform major surgery on the legislation in the next few years, even if all the Republicans do is stand by and twiddle their thumbs.... ObamaCare is not paid for. At least it's not paid for in any politically realistic way. ... ObamaCare promises what it cannot deliver. ... ObamaCare mandates and subsidies will destabilize entire sectors of the economy. ... ObamaCare creates perverse incentives that threaten the quality of care. ... A weakly enforced mandate will undermine the health insurance marketplace. ... A strongly enforced mandate will strain almost every family budget." (John Goodman's Health Policy Blog)

[Opinion]

Health Policy After the Election
"Any conversation about the government's medium and long-term fiscal situation will necessarily center heavily on health care matters. The rapid rise in health entitlement spending over the past three decades is a primary reason for the pronounced fiscal pressure we are experiencing today, and the problem is about to get much worse over the coming two decades." (HealthAffairs Blog)

Benefits in General; Executive Compensation

45% of Companies Changing Executive Compensation
"Among companies that conducted say-on-pay votes, 61% received at least 90% of shareholder support, while 17% received between 81% and 90% support. Only 2% received less than 50% of shareholder support. Eighty-three percent of companies with less than 70% of support are making changes in their programs, while 48% of those companies who received between 70% and 90% reported making changes." (Pensions & Investments)

Deadline for Correcting 409A Deferred Compensation Arrangements is December 31
"[A]ssume an employment agreement provides for a lump sum severance payment subject to Code section 409A to be made within 90 days of separation, as long as the employee executes a general release of claims. If separation occurs on December 1st, 2012, then the employee can determine the tax year for that payment by choosing whether to deliver the executed release during either 2012 or 2013. This is a Code section 409A documentary failure. Even if an opportunity for tax year manipulation never arises, the employee could face a 20% penalty tax on the deferred sum." (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP)

Same-Gender Marriage: How Does It Affect Employee Benefits?
"On November 6, 2012, three new states (Maine, Maryland, and Washington) were added to the list of those that permit [same-gender] marriage. What is the effect on employer plans covering employees in such marriages?" (Calhoun Law Group)

Cuts in Federal Pay and Benefits Are Among Deficit Reduction Possibilities
"[C]hoices could include increasing health care costs for military retirees, decreasing the government's contribution to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, capping increases in military basic pay and reducing the annual across-the-board pay raise for feds. CBO estimated those changes could reduce the deficit by a total of $38 billion in 2020.... [L]imiting the TRICARE benefit for military retirees and their dependents would save the most money, at approximately $14 billion in 2020, according to the nonpartisan CBO." (GovExec.com)

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