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April 10, 2006
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Lawmakers Debate Small Business Health Coverage Proposals
Excerpt: "The Senate Finance Committee on [April 6] held a hearing to discuss legislative solutions to help small businesses provide health coverage, including a bill (S 1955) that would allow them to form association health plans under certain conditions, ...." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

S. 1955 Is Not Just An Association Health Plan Bill
Excerpt: "The second, third and fourth parts of a major Senate association health plan bill, S. 1955, could change conventional state health insurance oversight far more than many AHP supporters realize, an opponent says." (National Underwriter Life & Health; free one-time registration or paid subscription required)

The Bold Goal of the Massachusetts Health Insurance Plan Confronts Fine Print
Excerpt: "The new Massachusetts plan to achieve nearly universal health coverage represents an important bipartisan political milestone -- one that people in many other states hope will serve as a model solution for the thorny national problem of the uninsured." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

Opinion: The Massachusetts Bill of Health
Excerpt: "The elected leaders of Massachusetts have come up with a novel solution for the vexing problem of having to pay for health care: abolish the laws of arithmetic. Their new plan is a perfect illustration of what happens when politicians approach a problem unconstrained by reality." (The Wall Street Journal via Cato Institute)

Opinion: Another Massachusetts Miracle? -- State Leadership on Health Care Reform
Excerpt: "[T]he Massachusetts House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that would make the state the first to require all residents to have health insurance coverage. If signed by Governor Mitt Romney and successfully implemented, the Bay State could be the first U.S. state to achieve near-universal coverage. (Hawaii has a universal access law and employer coverage mandate on the books, but hasn't come close to getting all its residents covered.)" (The Century Foundation)

LTD Benefits Not Subject to HIPAA Preexisting Condition Exclusion Rules
Excerpt: "Although the HIPAA portability provisions (including the PCE rules) apply to most group health plans, there are several types of benefits and plans that are specifically excepted from compliance." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Worker Claiming Misclassification as Independent Contractor Not Eligible for Plan Benefits/COBRA
Excerpt: "The worker's allegation in this case that she was eligible for group health plan benefits was critical to the survival of her COBRA claim. Under the IRS COBRA regulations, if an individual is denied or not offered coverage under a plan due to a violation of applicable law, then the individual will be considered to have had the coverage that was wrongfully denied or not offered." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Aetna To Expand Number of Disease Management Programs Offered
Excerpt: "Aetna officials ... announced plans to expand the number of disease management programs offered by the company from six to 30, the Hartford Courant reports. Aetna currently offers disease management programs for asthma, chronic heart failure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, end-stage renal disease and lower back pain." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

AARP Says Drug Prices Shot Past Inflation -- Critics Say Figures Ignore Insurance, Buyers' Discounts
Excerpt: "Wholesale prices for a widely used set of brand-name drugs rose 6% in 2005, far exceeding general inflation, the AARP says in a report out today. 'Drug prices are going up faster than inflation and we need to do more to keep them affordable,' says John Rother, AARP's policy director." (USA TODAY)

Carriers Add Small Extras to Excite Worksite Voluntary Benefits Market
Excerpt: "If voluntary insurance benefits are a way for employers to provide a little extra to employees, benefits manufacturers themselves are trying to sweeten some products to build interest and hopefully foster enrollments." (National Underwriter Life & Health; free one-time registration or paid subscription required)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Solving the Dependent Definition Dilemma in Employee Benefit Plans (PDF)
13 pages. Excerpt: "In this article, the authors set forth action steps employers should take to address this dependent definition dilemma. Also included is a description of the individuals who qualify for tax-favored status as 'dependents' after the WFTRA as well as model plan document language employers can use to describe the dependents their plans cover." (Benefits Law Journal via Aon Consulting)

If SPD and Plan Document Differ, Participants Must Show Reliance in Order to Enforce SPD Terms
Excerpt: "Although the SPD is the document that must be provided to plan participants to inform them of a plan's terms, it might not be the only statement of the plan's terms. Different courts have taken different views of what is required to enforce the terms of an SPD over the terms of other plan documents, with many courts requiring proof that the participant relied on the SPD to the participant's detriment." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Ban on G.ay Benefits Sputters in Juneau
Excerpt: "A measure before the state Legislature would amend the Alaska Constitution's ban on g.ay marriage to also deny health and other spousal benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees. The state Supreme Court ordered the benefits last fall, but efforts to overturn the decision appear to be sputtering in the wake of emotional legislative hearings." (The Anchorage Daily News)

Commentary: CEOs Cut Worker Pensions, Pad Their Own
Excerpt: "Some executives who slash workers' pensions are keeping or even padding their own fat retirement packages. And some even reap bigger bonuses as pension cuts boost profits." (MSN Money)

Audio: In an Age of Employee Benefit Cuts, Some CEO Pensions Total Millions
Excerpt: "According to the Corporate Library, a big-business watchdog firm, the five best-compensated CEOs will bring in an average of $5.5 million a year from their pensions." (Morning Edition via National Public Radio)

C.E.O. Pay Keeps Rising, and Bigger Rises Faster
Excerpt: "Chief executives' pay continued to rise in 2005, although at a slightly slower pace than in 2004. The average total pay for chief executives rose 27 percent, to $11.3 million, according to a survey of 200 large companies by Pearl Meyer & Partners, the compensation practice of Clark Consulting." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

Spotlight on Executive Pay Could Be a Wild Card
Excerpt: "THE power of sunlight as an antiseptic will be put to the test in the coming months, as the Securities and Exchange Commission completes its most significant overhaul in 14 years of the rules governing what companies must disclose about their compensation of top executives." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

Outside Advice on Boss's Pay May Not Be So Independent
Excerpt: "Executive pay has been a subject of criticism for decades. Even though last year's pay figures showed slower growth than in previous years, the fact that executive compensation often has little relationship to the performance of the company has contributed to a growing sense among investors that pay is diminishing shareholder returns." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

Executive Pay -- A Special Report: Off to the Races Again, Leaving Many Behind
Excerpt: "New technology and low-cost labor in places like China and India have put downward pressure on the wages and benefits of the average American worker. Executive pay, meanwhile, continues to rise at an astonishing rate." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

How the Executive Compensation Figures Were Calculated for the New York Times Special Report
Excerpt: "To measure executive compensation, Sunday Business studied 200 large public companies that filed proxies by March 31 for last year. Pearl Meyer & Partners, the compensation practice of Clark Consulting, compiled and analyzed the data from corporate filings." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

Alberta, Can.ada Oil-Sands Boom Has Companies Piling on Perks to Draw Workers
Excerpt: "From air commuting to housing assistance, petroleum firms are sparing little expense while an industry HR group calls for a strategy to keep labor costs from spiraling out of control." (Workforce Management; one-time registration required)

PEO Options to Purchase Clients Must Have Substantial Business Purpose to Avoid MEWA Status
Excerpt: "Responding to an inquiry by the Washington State insurance commissioner, the DOL addressed the issue of whether a professional employer organization (PEO) and its clients would be considered a single employer under the control group rules (and therefore avoid MEWA status and state insurance laws) if the PEO had agreements with the clients under which the PEO had an option to purchase an 80% interest in each client company." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

DOL Audit Issues and Update
in Ohio on April 25, 2006
presented by ASPPA Benefits Council of Greater Cincinnati

Introduction to Retirement Plans
in Illinois on June 13, 2006
presented by McKay Hochman

Introduction to Retirement Plans
in Massachusetts on August 8, 2006
presented by McKay Hochman

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

for Benefit Plans Plus, L.L.C.
in MO

401(k) / Defined Contribution Administrator
for Pension Investors Corporation

Client Relationship Manager
for The Newport Group, Inc. (Lake Mary/Orlando, FL location)
in FL

Manager, Individual Products and Life Insurance
in VA

Retirement Services Manager
for Sage Recruiting
in IA

Conversion Specialist
for Benefit Systems, Inc.
in TX

Pension Administrator
for Benefit Systems, Inc.
in TX

Financial Services Individual Underwriter
for Great-West Financial Services
in CO

Pension Plan Administrator
for Ingham Group
in FL, SC

Actuarial Assistant
for Gucciardi Benefit Resources, a division of Summit Benefit & Actuarial Services, Inc.
in WI

Retirement Services Program Manager
for Microsoft
in WA

Handy Links:

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