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January 4, 2006
Today's sponsor: Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

National Health Benefits Conference, January 26-27, 2006, Clearwater (Beach), Florida

"Employer Strategies to CONTAIN COST and Improve Quality" will provide you with actionable information for your workplace through: cutting-edge employer case studies, national thought leaders, interaction with the best of your peer group, and premium suppliers, consultants and innovators.

The sessions are exemplary, the cost is moderate and the setting is ideal. Please join us in warm, sunny and beautiful Clearwater Beach, Florida...judged the best municipal beach on the entire Gulf of Mexico coastline. Click above for more information.


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

The Time Is Ripe to Consider Options that Help Employees Find Summer Child Care
Excerpt: "The effort of finding summer child care often spills over into the workplace. According to a survey by employee assistance program provider ComPsych, 38 percent of working parents spend more than 12 hours planning summer care for their children, and another 30 percent spend five to eight hours. Nearly all of those hours are invested during the workday, the only time summer camps are open for calls and questions." (HR Magazine)

Assessing Recent State of California Efforts: Health Care for the 'Hard-to-Insure'
Excerpt: "Chapter 794, Statutes of 2002 (AB 1401, Thomson), directed the [California] Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) to evaluate the effectiveness of the measure in providing heath care coverage to individuals who are otherwise unable to obtain health benefits (the 'hard-to-insure')." (Legislative Analyst's Office)

States Hope to Widen Health Insurance Coverage
Excerpt: "'Michelle's Law' would require health insurance companies that cover college students under their parents' plans to continue the coverage if a student takes a medical leave of absence. .... A [New Hampshire] state House committee unanimously recommended the bill in November, and the House will vote on it today. Other states have taken a broader approach by allowing young adults to remain on their parents' plans longer, regardless of whether they are in college." (Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel via BlueCross BlueShield Association)

Provider ID is the Next HIPAA Mountain
Excerpt: "Hospitals and payers have faced many challenges implementing the transactions, privacy and security rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Now comes the national provider identifier rule, with a May 23, 2007, compliance date." (Health Data Management)

Spreading the Pitney Bowes Approach to Health Care
Excerpt: "Pitney Bowes and a small but growing band of imitators (more than 30 companies at last report) have begun a revolution in the design and management of employer-sponsored health benefits with the objective of realizing much greater value from these benefit plans, for both themselves and their employees." (Employee Benefit News)

Health Plans Increase Their Use of Online Enrollment Tools
Excerpt: "As employers boost enrollee cost sharing, members are growing more interested in how much they'll have to pay in out-of-pocket expenses for one health plan vs. another or one treatment option vs. another. A few insurers have rolled out new customized tools that allow prospective or actual customers to calculate expected out-of-pocket costs." (MANAGED CARE WEEK via AISHealth.com)

A Review of the Most Influential Trends in Workforce Management in the Coming Year
Excerpt: "Reining in health care costs, dealing with new legal compliance issues, fighting the war for talent--employers, and their HR departments, need to keep up with the latest trends in workforce management." (Workforce Management, 2006 Vendor Directory)

Consumer-Directed Health Plans Could Fuel Growth of Flat-Fee Clinics
Excerpt: "Flat-fee, convenience-focused clinics, such as MinuteClinic, RediClinic and Take Care Health Systems, already have set up shop inside retail outlets and pharmacies in several states and are rapidly expanding into others. All three companies expect tremendous growth in 2006 -- fueled in part by increased enrollment in consumer-directed health (CDH) plans." (INSIDE CONSUMER-DIRECTED CARE via AISHealth.com)

Top 10 Managed Health Care Trends for 2005 and 2006
Excerpt: "Here's a summary of the HealthLeaders-InterStudy analysis staff's picks for the biggest stories of 2005--and what promises to catch headlines in 2006." (HealthLeaders News)

Health Care Economics Make Definition of 'Cost' Problems Difficult
Excerpt: "Aside from suggestions to change the system around the edges, the 'reform' world remains divided into two camps: Those who think the government should run a much larger share of health care, and those who think individuals should have the dominant role. One side preaches the merits of a 'single payer' health-care system, while the other argues for 'health care savings accounts.'" (Wisconsin Technology Network)

Employee Cost for Health Plans Varies
Excerpt: "The new year means the start of a new benefits year for many employees. The luckiest employees will see no increases in health insurance costs. Others face higher monthly premiums, higher co-pays for office visits and drugs, deductibles where there used to be none, co-insurance on top of deductibles and new 'consumer driven' health plans that couple high deductibles with health savings accounts." (Richmond Times Dispatch via BlueCross BlueShield Association)

White Paper: Generics -- The New Push for Profit! (PDF)
7 pages. Excerpt: "The purpose of this paper is to expose the tactics a PBM uses to make up for the lost revenue associated with full disclosure of rebates. We will primarily focus on two areas-- Retail Generics and Mail Order Generics-- because the tactics in each area will vary." (Pharmacy BenefitDirect via BenefitsLink.com)

Sam's Club to Launch New Small Business Health Insurance Plan
Excerpt: "Sam's Club, a division of Wal-Mart, has announced plans to offer health insurance to member small businesses beginning Jan. 4, the Wall Street Journal reports. Sam's Club previously offered small-group health insurance plans to members in 12 states and a discount program on health care services from UnitedHealth Group's Health Allies in all states. The new offerings will be available in all 600 stores nationwide." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Opinion: Health Care Consumers Don't Know What They Don't Know
Excerpt: "Experts in academia have been taking a close look at health literacy in America and have concluded that this is one area where even relatively well-educated people will have trouble finding their way. Several recent studies have underscored a disturbing confusion among patients when it comes to figuring out medical information. And for tens of millions of Americans who aren't well educated, the task of sorting through the information may well be far beyond their capability." (Managed Care magazine)

HealthLeaders-InterStudy Special Report: Publicly Traded Health Plans Beefed Up Membership in 2005
Excerpt: "Nearly all of the publicly traded health benefits companies tracked by HealthLeaders-InterStudy increased their membership in 2005, with the strongest growth recorded by health plans serving Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries." (HealthLeaders News)

How Cuts in Retiree Health Benefits Fatten Companies' Bottom Lines
Excerpt: "The loud message comes from one company after another: Surging health-care costs for retired workers are creating a giant burden. So companies have been cutting health benefits for their retirees or requiring them to contribute more of the cost. Time for a reality check: In fact, no matter how high health-care costs go, well over half of large American corporations face only limited impact from the increases when it comes to their retirees." (Wall Street Journal via Coalition for Retirement Security)

The Top 10 Funding Issues for Health Savings Account Owners and Employers
Excerpt: "Although the tax advantages of an HSA can be attractive, there are specific rules regarding funding the HSA that both account owners and employers should be aware of to maximize tax advantages and avoid tax penalties. Below is a discussion of 10 of the most significant funding issues that affect both HSA account owners and employers who offer an HSA option." (Employee Benefit News)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Overview Update: 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. In short, the guidance in Notice 2006-4 provides that: ...." (O'Melveny & Myers LLP)

Wooing SOX-Savvy Auditors Poses New Challenge for Companies
Excerpt: "When non-compliance with a federal law could mean fines and jail time for a company's CEO and CFO, it stands to reason that a high priority would be recruiting cream of the crop employees with the skills to keep their employer on the right side of the law. Which is why, when it comes to a company's compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley, top-notch benefits management plays a big part." (Employee Benefit News)

Podcasting -- A New Frontier for Benefit Communications
Excerpt: "Podcasts aren't just for employees, either. Ameriprise, a Minneapolis-based financial planning company, is offering podcasts on retirement and financial education, geared toward plan sponsors. The podcasts are taken from a symposium in October, featuring industry experts talking about trends in the retirement benefits arena. Ameriprise plans to release segments of the symposium on a weekly basis." (Employee Benefit News)

Overview: Changes to Section 409A Made by the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act
Excerpt: "The Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005 (H.R. 4440), which was signed into law on December 21, (P.L.109-135.) contains some provisions amending section 409A slightly. [The target page contains] some helpful info regarding the changes made: ...." (Attorney B. Janell Grenier via BenefitsBlog.com)

Transcript: Practitioner's Forum Discussion on Proposed Regs on Nonqualified Deferred Comp Plans
Excerpt: "The following is a transcript of an informal discussion of employee benefit practitioners held in Washington, D.C., on November 21, 2005. The topic involved the proposed new restrictions on nonqualified deferred compensation plans that would apply if a plan sponsor maintains an 'at-risk' qualified pension plan." (BNA's Tax Management)

To Fund or Not to Fund: That Is the Question for Deferred Compensation Plan Sponsors
Excerpt: " Unlike qualified plans, no requirement exists that companies fund their nonqualified deferred compensation plans. In fact, one of the more difficult decisions for those more accustomed to the qualified plan design arena is that a nonqualified plan can have a trust representing millions of dollars of benefits and still be 'unfunded.'" (PLANSPONSOR.com; one-time registration required)

Article Abstract: When Are Releases of Claims for ERISA Plan Benefits Effective?
Excerpt: "This Article proposes the following principles determine if a release may deprive an individual of the right to a court review of the denial of a claim to an ERISA plan benefit entitlement: ...." (John Marshall Law Review via Social Science Research Network)

New Year's Resolutions for the Benefits Professional
Excerpt: "It's high time that our organizations appreciated the host of complex elements involved in managing a suite of benefit plans. This must be the year for long-overdue recognition of the unique balance of qualitative and quantitative skills we use every day! There are reasons why the Princeton Review lists our job as one of the 'Top 10 Careers For People Who Want To Keep Learning,' right? (http://www.princetonreview.com/cte/articles/plan/tenjobs.asp )" (Employee Benefit News)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

PenServ - Silver & Bronze Academy
in Texas on June 20, 2006
presented by PenServ, Inc.

PenServ Diamond I & II
in Florida on August 1, 2006
presented by PenServ, Inc.

Roth 401(k) Tools and Technology Demonstration
Nationwide on January 4, 2006
presented by ERISA Expertise LLC


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Watson Wyatt Appoints Ted Nussbaum Director of Group and Health Care Consulting in North America
(Watson Wyatt)

Segal Announces New President & CEO
(The Segal Company)

New AMT Assistant Debuts on IRS.gov
(Internal Revenue Service (IRS))

Arizona Employers Partner with Gilsbar, Inc. to Control Health Plan Costs
(Gilsbar, Inc.)


Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Pension Analyst/Administrator
for Snyder Cohn
in MD

Senior DC Plan Administrator - Signing Bonus!!
for Berlin Ramos & Company
in DC, MD, VA

Plan Administrator for Retirement Plan & ERISA Specialists
for Small Chicago TPA & law firm
in IL

Pension Administrator
for Jordan & Andrews
in CA

Pension Professionals
for Associated Pension Consultants
in CA

401(k) Junior Administrator
for Benefit Equity Inc.
in CA

TPA Relationship Manager-Western Region
for Transamerica
in CA

Group Account Manager
for McGraw Wentworth
in MI

Sr. Copywriter
for Transamerica
in CA

Pension Administrator
for Third Party Administrator/CPA Firm
in MD

Pension Administrator I
for Flynn, Shojinaga & Associates, Inc.
in CA

Junior Pension Plan Administrator
for Robin S. Weingast & Associates, Inc.
in NY




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Copyright 2005 BenefitsLink.com, Inc.; except that you may reprint this newsletter in full (including this sentence) without obtaining our permission.

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