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January 3, 2006
Today's sponsor: BeneCom Associates, LLC

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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)

Cost of Health Insurance Administration in California: Estimates for Insurers, Physicians, Hospitals
Excerpt: "Administrative costs account for 25 percent of health care spending, but little is known about the portion attributable to billing and insurance-related (BIR) functions. [The authors] estimated BIR for hospital and physician care in California." (Health Affairs)

Kiosk Offers Efficiency for Doctors, Less Paperwork for Patients
Excerpt: "Imagine if checking in at the doctor's office were as simple as swiping a card -- like electronic check-in at the airport. That's what an Atlanta company will soon be offering physicians across the nation. Clearwave Corp. is in the final stages of testing small 'kiosks' that could be used to verify a patient's insurance, determine co-pay and deductible amounts and even upload medical records to spare patients from filling out tedious forms." (Atlanta Business Chronicle via bizjournals.com; one-time registration required)

Telemedicine Can Cut Costs and Boost Accessibility of Health Care
Excerpt: "The futuristic ICU monitoring system is the latest in a quiet medical revolution in which health care is increasingly delivered through broadband technologies -- land-based and wireless networks that allow continuous communication of data, voice and video at ultra high speeds. Medical innovations include wristwatches that monitor the heart, cell phones that can prick the finger of a diabetic patient and send the information to a doctor, and ...." (The Kansas City Star; one-time registration required)

Uninsured Patients and Malpractice Insurance Woes Stress Miami Health Care Market
Excerpt: "In June 2005, a team of researchers visited Miami to study that community's health system, how it is changing and the effects of those changes on consumers." (Center for Studying Health System Change)

Lower-Income Workers Will Get Hit Hardest by Higher Health Insurance Premiums
Excerpt: "On workers' 2006 wish list is a pay raise that will exceed the higher costs they're having to pay for health care. On average, forecasters say, they'll get it, even if it doesn't feel like it. But, not surprisingly in our society, lower-wage workers will get hit hardest, with the smallest raises after health care inflation is factored in." (Pamela Yip via The Dallas Morning News; one-time registration required)

Employee Wellness Programs Are Prone to Legal Maladies that Require Careful Monitoring
Excerpt: "Although this area of the law is developing, voluntary wellness programs, if drafted and administered appropriately, likely will pass legal muster. However, some employers inevitably will face legal challenges regarding their wellness programs, including disputes over whether a program is truly voluntary; whether a corporate culture promoting healthy employees unlawfully discriminates on the basis of disability, lifestyle or some other protected criterion; and ...." (Society for Human Resource Management)

Health Insurers to Push Consumer-Driven Plans in Massachusetts
Excerpt: "The Bay State's three largest health insurers all plan to either beef up their roster of cheaper consumer-driven health plans or step up their marketing of the plans in 2006. They're trying to lure employers who are still searching for ways to cut costs by shifting more health care expenses to employees." (Boston Business Journal via MSNBC.com)

U.S. Legislative Tracking Charts - Health and Welfare -- Updated December 29, 2005 (PDF)
31 pages. These charts summarize selected federal legislation that would affect employee benefit programs. The bills included on the charts are based on judgments regarding the prominence of the issue, the likelihood of enactment, and the influence of the sponsors. (Towers Perrin)

Insurers Push Policies for Long-Term Care
Excerpt: "Insurers are ramping up efforts to sell long-term care insurance, offering new products and forging alliances with employers to make the policies more widely available at work." (WALL STREET JOURNAL via St Louis Post Dispatch via BlueCross BlueShield Association)

Eliminating Retiree Drug Benefit In Employer Plans Will Yield Greatest Savings From Medicare Part D
Excerpt: "As anticipated, the new Medicare Part D pres.cription drug benefit will yield the greatest savings for employer-sponsored retiree medical plans that eliminate their pres.cription drug benefits entirely and have retirees pay the Part D premium, according to a study recently conducted by the Society of Actuaries." (Spencer Benefits Reports)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

The FASB Rules on Post-Retirement Accounting Are Changing -- Employee Benefits Could Suffer
Excerpt: "The nation's accounting rulemaker, the Financial Accounting Standards Board, recently announced that it will revamp how companies account for pensions and 'other post-retirement employee benefits' (OPEBs) -- mainly retiree health insurance. In a recent report to clients, analysts at Bear Stearns (BSC ) wrote that they expect this to be 'the most controversial project the FASB has ever undertaken.'" (BusinessWeek)

Other Postemployment Benefits: A Plain-Language Summary of GASB Statements No. 43 and No. 45 (PDF)
30 pages. Excerpt: "As the name suggests, other postemployment benefits (OPEB) are postemployment benefits other than pensions. OPEB generally takes the form of health insurance and dental, vision, pres.cription, or other healthcare benefits provided to eligible retirees, including in some cases their beneficiaries. It may also include some types of life insurance, legal services, and other benefits." (Governmental Accounting Standards Board)

Overview: New Transition Relief for Valuing Private Company Stock under Section 409A
Excerpt: "On December 23, 2005, the Internal Revenue Service provided guidance that allows many privately-held employers to have greater confidence that stock options issued in the past and in the near future will not violate Code Section 409A." (O'Melveny & Myers LLP)

Overview: Separation Pay Exclusions (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "The Proposed Regulations provide that certain types of separation pay arrangements will not constitute deferred compensation and, as such, will not be subject to the rules of 409A. Among the arrangements that are excluded are ...." (Haynes and Boone, LLP)

Legislative Tracking Charts - Human Resources -- Updated December 29, 2005 (PDF)
9 pages. These charts summarize selected federal legislation that would affect employee benefit programs. The bills included on the charts are based on judgments regarding the prominence of the issue, the likelihood of enactment, and the influence of the sponsors. (Towers Perrin)

Legislative and Regulatory Developments for Employee Benefit Plans -- December 2005 Update
Excerpt: "This Perkins Coie Update highlights selected legislative and regulatory developments affecting employee benefit plans. .... The [pension plan] topics covered are: IRS Issues Section 409A Proposed Regulations; Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act; Roth 401(k) and 403(b) Accounts; and, IRS Staggered Remedial Amendment Period for Qualified Plans." (Perkins Coie)

A Preliminary Evaluation of the Tax Reform Panel's Report, Published December 5, 2005 (PDF)
Excerpt: "While one might claim that the payroll tax was beyond the purview of the panel, the panel did propose altering the taxation of Social Security benefits in a way that has a direct effect on the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Thus, some creative efforts to integrate payroll and income taxes or to exempt the first segment of payroll from such taxation would have been relevant." (TAX NOTES via Urban Institute)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Top Tools To Insure A Tobacco-Free Workforce: Why? What? And How?
Nationwide on January 12, 2006
presented by National Business Coalition on Health


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Treasury And IRS Finalize Rules Regarding Roth 401(k) Contributions
(U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service)


Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Financial Transactions Specialist
for ExpertPlan. Inc.
in NJ

Record Keeping Specialist
for AKT Retirement Plan Services LLC
in OR

401(k) Implementation Specialist
for 1st Global
in TX

ERISA Attorney
for JRN Benefits, Inc.
in CA

Retirement Plan Administrator
for Noble Consulting Services, Inc.
in OH

Retirement Plan Consultant
for Pension Benefits Unlimited, Inc.
in CA

Pension Administrator
for R.J.L. Pension Services, Inc.
in FL




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