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February 13, 2006
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Complete Benefits Law Guidance from Law Journal Press

The nation's workforce and health care system are constantly evolving and so are the legal issues. Law Journal Press helps you handle any benefits law question with up-to-date, authoritative books on all aspects of the field. Get legal and practical advice from leading experts on everything from COBRA to ERISA, "contingent" employees to family and medical leave, and more. Browse our product listings for detailed information and special offers.

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

Blog: Denial of Death Benefits Upheld
Excerpt: "A plan's insurer reasonably exercised its discretion under a welfare plan's terms to deny life insurance benefits that could not legally be provided under state law, according to a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision affirming a district court ruling dismissing a survivor's claim. [Morrison v. Marsh & McLennan, CA6, 04-2011, 2/10/06]" (BeneBlog)

Ninth Circuit Holds that Life Insurance Plan Participant's Beneficiary Designation Was Invalid
Excerpt: "Calling the matter 'a cautionary tale for ERISA administrators,' the Ninth Circuit commented that plan administrators 'disserve both plan participants and beneficiaries when they accept a beneficiary designation that does not unambiguously identify the beneficiaries.' In any event, ERISA plans must remain on guard against competing claims to benefits payable at death." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

State of Washington Law Prohibits Se.xual Orientation Discrimination
Excerpt: "It is not clear what effect--if any--the amendments will have on welfare and fringe benefits that implicate marital status, such as provision of health insurance coverage for employees' spouses." (Perkins Coie)

Boston Globe Examines Use of Electronic Health Records by Doctors
Excerpt: "The Boston Globe on [February 10] examined a 'widening technology gap' between large physician networks that use electronic health records and smaller, independent practices that cannot afford to install them." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Population Health Management: Achieving Results in a Challenging Environment, Part II (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "A strong health management program can foster patient advocacy, information sharing, and general follow-up for those receiving care in a busy medical practice where these services may not always be available otherwise." (Buck Consultants)

Population Health Management: Achieving Results in a Challenging Environment, Part I (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "This paper examines Population Health Management in two parts. This first part examines in depth many of the health care costs that Population Health Management is designed to manage." (Buck Consultants)

Overview: Development in ERISA Preemption Battle Over Maryland Fair Share Health Care Fund Act
Excerpt: "As many of you already know, the Retail Industry Leaders Association ('RILA') filed a challenge to Maryland's Fair Share Health Care Fund Act -- the so-called Wal-Mart bill -- in U.S. District Court last week. You can access the complaint filed [at]." (Attorney B. Janell Grenier via

Colorado Bill Would Require Large Employers to Contribute Percentage of Payroll for Health Benefits
Excerpt: "A bill (HB 1316) that would require large Colorado employers to contribute 11% of their payrolls toward health benefits or pay the difference to the state's Medicaid program was introduced in the state Legislature on Wednesday, the Denver Rocky Mountain News reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Consumer-Driven Health Plans Moving in Slow Lane
Excerpt: "We've all heard that consumer-driven health plans -- high-deductible plans that shift more cost to employees and are cheaper for employers -- are the next big thing in health care coverage. But it turns out they've hit some bumps along the way, according to a recently released study from Mercer Health and Benefits, a division of Mercer Human Resources Consulting in New York." (Boston Business Journal via; one-time registration required)

Surveys Confirm Savings In Consumer-Driven Health Plans
Excerpt: "Two recent surveys indicate significant savings are possible for participants in consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) and for the employers that sponsor the plans." (Spencer's Benefits Reports)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Underwater Stock Options and Repricing Strategy (PDF)
16 pages. Excerpt: "This article updates the discussion of repricing strategy in Underwater Stock Options and Repricing Strategy: Is Your Company Drowning in Confusion? and examines the impact that changes to the accounting rules under FAS 123(R)and to the tax rules under Code Section 409A have upon the repricing decision. The article also reviews the current usefulness of repricing alternatives." (National Center for Employee Ownership via Janich Law Group)

'Brain Drain' Coming with Wave of Retirements
Excerpt: "Eugene Steuerle, an Urban Institute economist who has written about phased retirement, expects more employers to offer phased retirement once the government acts. The U.S. economy can ill afford outdated rules designed to get rid of older workers who are 'our largest untapped pool of human talent,' he said." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Individualized Benefit Statement Referenced in Plan SMM
Excerpt: "The practice of providing personalized benefits descriptions at open enrollment is fairly common. This decision shows some of the perils of providing inaccurate information (something that even the most careful plan administrator cannot absolutely avoid). Besides the clear lesson of being extra careful with individualized information, it might be wise to avoid incorporating benefit statements by reference into more formal documents, ...." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Overview: SEC Proposes Overhaul of Executive Compensation and Related Party Transaction Rules (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "The proposed rules modify the group that comprises the 'named executive officers' for whom disclosure is required. Under the current rules, the 'named executive officers' are the chief executive officer and the four most highly compensated executive officers other than the chief executive officer." (Seyfarth Shaw LLP)

Text of Secretary of Labor's Amicus Curiae Brief on Beck V. Pace Int'l Union Filed December 15, 2005 (PDF)
23 pages. Excerpt: "This case involves an action under Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1101-1169, for an alleged breach of fiduciary duty in violation of 29 U.S.C. 1104. The Secretary of Labor is authorized to bring civil actions to redress breaches of fiduciary duty under 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(2)." (U.S. Department of Labor)

Hewitt Washington Report Special Edition -- State of the Union Address and HR Issues
Excerpt: "On January 31, 2006 President Bush delivered his fifth State of the Union Address. He presented his 2006 domestic policy agenda, which addresses health care reform, as well as other HR issues related to Social Security and immigration." (Hewitt Associates)

Ownership Society Redux -- First, Individual Social Security Accounts, Now, Health Savings Accounts
Excerpt: "A rerun of last year's debate would show that health savings accounts are harder to defend than personal retirement ones. They are shockingly regressive: Furman's study shows how a poor family might get a subsidy of $150 while a rich one might get more than $4,000." (The Washington Post; one-time registration required)

New edition of Beyond Stock Options
The NCEO presents excerpts from the new (fourth) edition of Beyond Stock Options: Phantom Stock, Restricted Stock, Stock Appreciation Rights, and Other Equity Alternatives. In the fourth edition, each chapter, and each of the plan documents for SARs, phantom stock, and performance units, has been revised to account for developments such as the new deferred compensation rules and new accounting rules. The book includes a CD with annotated model plans. (National Center for Employee Ownership)

New edition of Selected Issues in Equity Compensation
The NCEO presents excerpts from the new (third) edition of Selected Issues in Equity Compensation. In the third edition, every chapter has been revised to bring the book up to date with legal and accounting developments. The book covers stock options and ESPPs. (National Center for Employee Ownership)

New edition of The Stock Options Book
The NCEO presents excerpts from the new (7th) edition of The Stock Options Book by Alisa Baker. The new edition incorporates changes made in prior updates and supplementary materials, and covers the latest developments in the equity compensation field. There are new chapters on stock-related legislation, case law, and accounting. The book covers stock options and ESPPs. (National Center for Employee Ownership)

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

The Other Important April Deadline: HIPAA Security
(Benefit Partners, Inc.)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
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401(k) Plan Administrator
for Stanley Benefit Services, Inc.
in NC

HR Benefits Specialist
in VA

401k Administrator - PA
for Vanguard
in PA

Data Project Administrator - PA
for Vanguard
in PA

Employee Benefit Plan Consultant - PA
for Vanguard
in PA

Client Transition Manager (Conversion)
for Pentegra Retirement Services
in NY

401(k) Administrator
for Creative Retirement Systems
in OH

Retirement Plan Design, Document and Compliance Specialist
for Employee Fiduciary Corporation
in AL

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Editor and Publisher: David Rhett Baker, J.D.