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April 3, 2006
Today's sponsor: The International Foundation

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Celebrate National Employee Benefits Day and Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

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Today, April 3, the International Foundation encourages you to take pride in the critical role you play to ensure benefits coverage for plan participants. As a trustee, administrator, advisor, broker or benefits manager, your duties are complex and carry significant gravity. By continually providing the best in benefits education, we hope that the International Foundation has been able to make your duties as a fiduciary a little easier. For more on National Employee Benefits Day, visit

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

Cuts in Benefits for G.M. Retirees Approved
Excerpt: "The General Motors Corporation, the world's largest private provider of health care, won a federal judge's approval [March 31st] to proceed with $1 billion in cuts in the benefits of its retired workers." (Bloomberg News via The New York Times; one-time registration required)

Committee Ends Stalemate on Health Plan Bill
Excerpt: "A bill that could make it more affordable for small businesses to offer health care to employees has finally made it out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The legislation, which has the support of President Bush, enables business and trade associations to band their members together and offer affordable group health insurance on a national or regional basis." (Long Island Business News via The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights)

Overview: Involuntary FMLA Leave Still Requires Notice of Serious Medical Condition
Excerpt: "The court observed that the FMLA's informational burden would not work if employees could subsequently tag leave as FMLA-qualified for purposes of litigation without having provided adequate notice to the employer at the time of the event." (Pensions & Benefits Weblog)

Small Businesses Interested in Tennessee Plan to Insure Workers, but Coverage Levels Uncertain
Excerpt: "Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) on Wednesday told small-business representatives that his plan to provide health insurance for as many as 185,000 residents over the next three years 'will only work if small business sees it as a solution,' the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Spencer's Benefits Reports Begins Collecting Data For Health Coverage Survey
Excerpt: "Spencer's Benefits Reports, is now collecting information for its 2006 Health Coverage Survey, including consumer-driven health care (CDHC) and COBRA continuation coverage. Survey forms are available online (visit to complete the survey)." (Spencer's Benefits Reports)

No COBRA Rights When Employee Relied on New Employer to Submit Election Form and Pay for Coverage
Excerpt: "COBRA requires timely election of coverage and payment of premiums. As the court noted, the employee's dispute in this case was really with his new employer, which allegedly failed to carry out its agreement to submit a COBRA election form and premium payments on behalf of the employee." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

'Presumption of Receipt' -- When Did Qualified Beneficiary Know about COBRA Notice Violation
Excerpt: "The terminated employee in this case had surgery the day after his group health plan coverage ended. He was not offered an opportunity to elect COBRA and consequently sued for reimbursement of his medical expenses and for statutory penalties." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

HCPro Inc. Provides Free Guidance on HIPAA's Final Enforcement Rule
Excerpt: "The wait is over for the final enforcement rule for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The final rule, which took effect on March 16, was published in the February 16 Federal Register. Organizations looking for help in interpreting the new rule now have a free resource available to them. HCPro Inc. is providing a free, 10-page special report ...." (HealthLeaders News)

Deciding Factor: How Much Health Care is Discretionary?
Excerpt: "Defining discretionary health care is no easy task, but it may be imperative for 'consumer' health plans seeking to get patients more involved" (Managed Care Magazine)

More Employers Won't Cover Lifestyle-Linked Health Claims
Excerpt: "Like to parachute? Ride bulls? Race cars or smoke? No problem. Just don't count on your employer's health insurance. As health insurance costs continue to climb, many employers are finding creative ways to reduce costs while still providing employees benefits." (The Wichita Eagle)

New Type of Health Plans Target the Young and Healthy
Excerpt: "Pathways is a plan where employers with 2 to 99 employees can pay a low fee, usually $30 to $50 per employee, for a basic health plan. Then employees can choose to either stick with the plan that is paid for entirely by the employer or to contribute money to get a more complete plan. Sound is an individual insurance product, which is administered by UniCare, specifically targeting people aged 21-years-old to 34-years-old." (Dallas Business Journal via; one-time registration required)

Legislation Will Seek to Make Health Care Pricing Clear in Kansas
Excerpt: "Kansas health care providers would be required to make their rates public for common medical procedures in a bill discussed by a state legislative committee on March 21." (Kansas City Business Journal via; one-time registration required)

Medical Insurance Can Be Elusive and Temporary -- Safety Net May Require Compromise and Sacrifice
Excerpt: "A good job used to mean good health insurance. Since 2001, employees' share of health insurance costs has risen 58% for family coverage, 63% for single coverage. Working people who can no longer afford the bite out of their take-home pay become uninsured. And more companies are dropping health benefits altogether." (Los Angeles Times; one-time registration required)

U.S. Legislative Tracking Charts - Health and Welfare -- Updated March 30, 2006 (PDF)
28 pages. Excerpt: "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)

Retirees File Suit to Enforce Free Lifetime Health Benefits
Excerpt: "Retirees of Caterpillar Inc. have filed suit against the company to enforce promised health care benefits under collective bargaining agreements." ( one-time registration required)

Opinion: The Health of a Nation
Excerpt: "Health Savings Accounts allow people to save money tax-free to pay their out-of-pocket health costs, as long as they have high-deductible health policies to cover catastrophic expenses. Enrollment in these accounts has grown rapidly since their introduction in 2003, with more than three million people now contributing to them." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

Employees Getting More Help in Quest for Work/Life Balance, According to Survey
Excerpt: "A new survey from OfficeTeam reports that over half of employees say their employers are 'very supportive' of their efforts to achieve work/life balance." (Business & Legal Reports, Inc.)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Overview: Proposed Pension/OPEB Accounting -- Old Transition Balances
Excerpt: "Shorthand, proposed new GAAP for employers' accounting for pensions and other postemployment benefits would move unrecognized balances currently disclosed in financial statement footnotes up to the sponsor's balance sheet, effective for fiscal years ending after 12/15/2006." (Pensions & Benefits Weblog)

FASB Issues Proposed Accounting Changes for Pensions and OPEB
Excerpt: "The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has issued the long-awaited draft of proposed rules requiring employers to recognize the overfunded or underfunded positions of defined benefit pension plans and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) in their balance sheets." ( one-time registration required)

Overview: Massachusetts High Court Rules on Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages
Excerpt: "The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled on March 30 that the state's marriage evasion statute adopted in 1913 is constitutional and bars issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples from out-of-state if their home state's laws forbid same-sex marriages." (Thanks to John Mouser of DPA, Inc. for recommending the link!) (Arthur S. Leonard via Leonard Link)

Survey Results: Domestic Partner Retirement Benefits -- Public Employee Plans in the 50 States
Excerpt: "Survey Question: How many states in the U.S. now extend retirement benefits to domestic partners?" (National Conference of State Legislatures)

Overview: SEC Chairman Cox Comments on Proposed Executive Pay Disclosure Requirements
Excerpt: "Last week SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, in a speech before the Council of Institutional Investors, commented on the new executive pay disclosure requirements issued by the SEC at the end of January. ... [The target page presents] an excerpt from his speech pertaining to the proposed disclosure rules for perks and retirement benefits: ...." (Attorney B. Janell Grenier via

U.S. Legislative Tracking Charts - Human Resources -- Updated March 30, 2006 (PDF)
10 pages. Excerpt: "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)

Stock Appreciation Rights: The New Stock Options?
Excerpt: "Sometimes referred to as 'phantom stock' ..., SARs offer exactly the same fundamental economic arrangement that stock options do. That is, they offer employees none of the current value of the company, but a share in any value growth that occurs after receiving an award." (Leading Companies Online Magazine)

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

PBGC Announces Online Database Of Appeals Board Decisions
(Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC))

FASB Issues Exposure Draft to Improve Accounting For Postretirement Benefit Plans, Including Pensions' Proposed Statement Would Increase Transparency and Completeness of Financial Statements
(Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB))

U. S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao Appoints 2006 ERISA Advisory Council and Leadership Posts
(U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration)

Caterpillar Retirees File Class Action Lawsuit To Protect Promised Healthcare Benefits
(Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP)

$865MM in CEO Compensation While Shareholders Suffer $640BN In Losses
(The Corporate Library)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Compliance Manager - AZ
for Vanguard
in AZ

Defined Contribution Administrator
for Pension Plan Professionals, Inc.
in FL

Compliance Administrator
for BISYS Retirement Services
in PA

Administrative Assistant
for Professional Plan Administrators, Inc.
in CA

OmniScript Writer
for Wells Fargo
in MN

Health Law Associate (Employee Benefits/Tax)
for McDermott Will & Emery LLP
in IL

Plan Implementation Specialist
for The Newport Group, Inc.
in FL

Retirement Services Specialist
for Administaff
in TX

Trading Associate
for Sentinel Benefits Group
in MA

Handy Links:

Copyright 2006, Inc.; except that you may reprint this newsletter in full (including this sentence) without obtaining our permission.

Published by:, Inc.
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Editor and Publisher: David Rhett Baker, J.D.