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June 6, 2006
Today's sponsor: ASPPA • Working for America's Retirement™

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Banner ad for ASPPA • Working for America's Retirement™

Don't miss the 2006 Western Benefits Conference!

The famed Bellagio Hotel is the site of this year's WBC, held July 16-19. Sponsored by the Western Pension & Benefits Conference and ASPPA, there are more than 50 educational sessions on retirement, health, welfare, fiduciary issues and more plus networking activities such as an exhibit hall, golf outing, Sunday reception and entertainment on Monday evening.

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

Many Major U.S. Companies' Retiree Health Benefit Plans Underfunded
Excerpt: "Companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index that offer retiree health benefits have a combined deficit of $321 billion for future obligations, according to an S&P survey released [today], the Wall Street Journal reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

High-Deductible Plans with HSA Accounts Might Cost More in Some Cases
Excerpt: "The Wall Street Journal [today] examined how high-deductible health plans with health savings accounts could end up costing consumers more in some cases than high-deductible plans without HSAs. According to the Journal, deductibles for high-deductible plans with HSAs and without the accounts 'can look similar but ... work very differently.'" (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Multimedia Tutorial on Consumer-Directed Health Plans
29 narrated slides; begins with basics but becomes quite sophisticated by the end of the program. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Employers Should Be Cautious About Health Coverage of Inactive Employees During Non-FMLA Leaves (PDF)
At pp. 2 and 3 of 4-page document. Excerpt: "[M]any employers do not realize that allowing employees to remain enrolled in their group health plans following expiration of the FMLA leave, or allowing employees that are ineligible for FMLA leave to take such leave and remain in the group health plan as active employees, will often create a serious problem with the plan's insurance company or stop loss carrier ..." (DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C.)

Towers Perrin U.S. Legislative Tracking Charts - Health and Welfare -- Updated May 31, 2006 (PDF)
32 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)

Company Perks for the Rank and File Worker
Excerpt: "Once thought to be solely the domain of trendy Silicon Valley companies, untraditional employee perks -- from free laundry to the services of a gourmet chef -- are popping up in some more traditional places." (MSNBC.com)

Many Insurers Not Yet Ready to Process Provider Identifier
Excerpt: "With just a year left before the compliance deadline, health plans still are finalizing strategies and lining up vendors to help them process the National Provider Identifier (NPI) created by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), according to a consultant." (MANAGED CARE WEEK via AISHealth.com)

New Colorado Law Bans Balance Billing
Excerpt: "The Centennial State is making health insurers responsible for protecting members who try to stay in network against big, unexpected medical bills." (National Underwriter Life & Health; free one-time registration or paid subscription required)

Group Proposes Standards for Health Care/Insurance Coverage Reform
Excerpt: "A majority of Americans participating in a dialogue on healthcare called for public policy to ensure universal health coverage and new safeguards against catastrophic healthcare costs, the Citizens' Health Care Working Group said. The group, created by Congress to conduct a public discussion of the nation's health system, released six interim recommendations." (Modern Healthcare; one-time registration required)

Overview: Supreme Court's Sereboff Opinion Clarifies 'Equitable Relief' under ERISA (PDF)
Pages 3-4 of 5. Excerpt: "Plans with valid reimbursement provisions now have clear precedent from the Supreme Court permitting them to enforce such provisions when the funds that they seek to recover are identifiable and owned by the beneficiary." (Trucker Huss)

Legislator Seeks 'Transparency Revolution' for Consumer-Directed Health Care
Excerpt: "A leading legislative architect of health savings accounts (HSAs) is laying the foundation to take consumer-based health care to the next level. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who co-authored the HSA provision in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, now has designs on making health care costs more transparent for consumers." (Society for Human Resource Management)

Maryland Companies Feel Burden of State Health Insurance Increase
Excerpt: "The price of Maryland's small business health insurance package rose by 5.5 percent last year, the second-straight year in which the plan's cost remained above a state-set limit. The rising cost of health insurance for small companies in Maryland, described in a mid-May report by the Maryland Health Care Commission, which regulates the state-designed benefit package, is bad news for companies that continue to struggle with soaring health care bills." (Baltimore Business Journal via bizjournals.com; one-time registration required)

The Drug Effectiveness Review Project Table of Contents of Articles, June 2006
The articles are: Emerging Lessons From The Drug Effectiveness Review Project; The Drug Effectiveness Review Project: An Important Step Forward; The DERP: Is It An Effective Methodology?; Evidence-Based Coverage Decisions? Primum Non Nocere; Bringing The DERP To Consumers: 'Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs." (Health Affairs)

States Shying Away from Pharmacy Benefit Management Pricing Regulation
Excerpt: "This year has seen at least a dozen states reject legislation that would have required PBMs to provide transparent pricing, while only one, Mississippi, has passed legislation regulating PBM pricing. In 2004 and 2005, such measures seemed to have much more political traction." (Employee Benefit News)

Colorado Governor Vetoes 2 Health Care Mandates
Excerpt: "Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has vetoed one bill that would have required a state agency to publicize the names of employers whose workers receive health care benefits through public health care plans, along with a second bill that would have required insured group health care plans to cover, in some cases, employees' grandchildren." (Business Insurance)

Participate In Spencer Survey About COBRA And Consumer-Driven Health Care
Excerpt: "Spencer's Benefits Reports is collecting national information for its 2006 Health Coverage Survey, including consumer-driven health care (CDHC) and COBRA continuation of coverage. Survey forms are available online (visit http://www.zoomerang.com/survey.zgi?p=WEB2254P5QYGQ4 to complete the survey). All employers interested in CDHC and all employers with 20 or more employees and subject to COBRA should complete the survey." (Spencer's Benefits Reports)

Verizon Bias Suit Deal Sets Record -- Pregnancy Case Yields Payout of $48.9 Million
Excerpt: "Verizon Communications Inc. will pay almost $49 million to 12,326 current and former female employees as part of a landmark class-action lawsuit alleging pregnancy discrimination. .... Nynex and Bell Atlantic were accused of violating federal law by denying women pension and other benefit accruals when they spent time on pregnancy or maternity leave." (The Washington Post; one-time registration required)

Health Care Costs Transparency Movement Gathering Momentum
Excerpt: "The prices hospitals charge to various health plans, and by extension their patients, vary widely for the same procedures -- a detail underscored by a high-profile antitrust lawsuit filed by McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in Eugene against Peace Health Medical Group in Eugene." (The Portland Business Journal via bizjournals.com; one-time registration required)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Text of U.S. Chamber of Commerce Comments on FASB Exposure Draft on Pension, Postretirement Acct'g (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "[W]e caution against requirements that create undue burdens without providing better or more useful information. Moreover, we are concerned about proposed changes that may cause plan sponsors to reconsider plan design based simply on the accounting changes. To this end, our comments focus on three main areas: the change in the measure of liability; the change of the measurement date; and the transition period and effective date." (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

Comments to FASB on Proposed Statement Amending FASB Statements No. 87, 88, 106, and 132(R) (PDF)
5 pages. The letter discusses the Proposed Statement of Financial Accounting Standards: Employers' Accounting for Declined Benefit Pension and Other Postretirement Plans, an Amendment of FASB Statements No. 87, 88, 106, and 132(R)." (Milliman)

Milliman's Monthly Benefit News and Developments, June 2006 (PDF)
2 pages. The newsletter provides a summary of the previous month's legislative, regulatory, and judicial information on employee Benefits. (Milliman)

Working Paper Abstract: Love or Money? Health Insurance and Retirement Among Married Couples
Excerpt: "This paper examines the role of employer provided health insurance in the retirement decisions of dual working couples." (National Bureau of Economic Research; paid subscription or individual purchase required to retrieve full-text)

Overview: Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act Final Regulations (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "It is important to note that USERRA does not preempt more generous state laws. USERRA establishes a minimum standard for employment and reemployment rights and supersedes any state or local law, contract, agreement, policy, plan, or practice that reduces, limits or eliminates any right or benefit provided under USERRA." (Gabriel Roeder Smith & Company)


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