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July 10, 2006
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IRS & Treasury Officials' Views on Cafeteria Plan Election Change Issues and HSA Contribution Limits
Excerpt: "The Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) of the American Bar Association [reports] on the May 2006 Q&A session between JCEB representatives and officials from the IRS and Treasury Department. Highlights include ... informal, nonbinding comments about cafeteria plan election change issues and HSA contribution limits." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Overview: Proposed Regulations Update and Clarify Rules on Dependent Care Assistance Expenses (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "[A]lthough the proposed regulations were promulgated under Code section 21, the proposed rules update and clarify the types of expenses that may be reimbursed under a under Code section 129 DCAP. [The target document] is a brief summary of some of the more notable provisions included in the proposed rules." (Groom Law Group)

Overview: Texas Appeals Court Finds No ERISA Preemption
Excerpt: "Federal courts are not alone in addressing ERISA issues. State courts are regularly called upon to determine whether state-law claims are preempted by the wide sweep of ERISA. This 2005 state-court case out of Texas [Stiles v. Memorial Hermann Healthcare System] provides a good example." (erisa on the web; posted by John Wood)

Vacation Policies Gaining Flexibility: Companies Respond to Workers' Demands for More Time Off
Excerpt: "On average, employers are giving 11 vacation days after one year of employment, according to a Hewitt survey. Companies also are being more flexible with vacation polices by allowing workers to buy or sell vacation days for more or less income in a given year...." (Sun-Sentinel)

Foreign Housing Bill Statutory Language (PDF)
2 pages. (U.S. Congress via American Benefits Council)

Legislative History of Foreign Housing Bill (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "A U.S. citizen or resident living abroad may be eligible to exclude from U.S. taxable income certain foreign earned income and foreign housing costs.552 This exclusion applies regardless of whether any foreign tax is paid on the foreign earned income or housing costs." (U.S. Congress via American Benefits Council)

CalPERS May Run Health Benefits Fund Covering Care Programs
Excerpt: "Already a colossus in the investment arena, the California Public Employees' Retirement System is seeking legislative approval for a new investment fund that would boost the agency's financial clout.Motivated by a change in accounting rules, city and county government leaders are pressing CalPERS to set up a fund in which their agencies would annually invest tens of millions of new dollars to cover future health benefits for retirees." (The Sacramento Bee)

IRS Guidance on COBRA and HCTC Implications of Retiree Health Benefits Renegotiated in Bankrup.tcy
Excerpt: "In [a Private Letter Ruling], the IRS considered whether coverage under a retiree health plan was 'coverage under a COBRA continuation provision' for purposes of the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC)." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Overview: HHS Posts Interactive Decision Tool for PHI Disclosures in Emergencies
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: The decision tool was developed to assist federal, state, and local emergency preparedness and recovery planners with a specific need for planning for people with disabilities, but it can be useful to a wider audience, including group health plans and their third-party administrators (TPAs)." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Opinion from David C. Goodman: Too Many Doctors in the House
Excerpt: "[T]he most serious problems facing our health care system -- accelerating costs, poor quality of care and the rising ranks of the uninsured -- cannot be solved by more doctors. In fact, that approach, like prescribing more drugs for an already overmedicated patient, may only make things worse." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

RI Gov. Signs Legislation to Lower Health Insurance Premiums for Small Businesses, Employees
Excerpt: "The insurance premium legislation will create a new commission to develop a health insurance plan that will be exempt from state coverage mandates governing other Rhode Island plans. The commission hopes to craft a plan that combines lower premiums with basic coverage." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Executive Summary: Hewitt's 2006 Health Care Expectations Survey (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "Several trends emerge from the survey responses, yet the responses are often in conflict. For example, three-fourths of surveyed organizations feel that offering employees tools and programs to better manage their health can result in moderate to significant savings. Yet employers are not using all available tools." (Hewitt Associates)

San Francisco May Get Universal Health Care
Excerpt: "Mayor Gavin Newsom wants San Francisco to become the first city in the nation to provide coverage for a growing and increasingly costly segment of the population: adults with no health insurance or other means of paying for doctor visits, surgeries, catastrophic illness and pres.cription drugs." (USA TODAY)

Opinion: Can Health Care Consumerism Improve Care While Bringing Down Prices?
Excerpt: "Former Secretary of State Colin Powell keynoted the Society for Human Resources Management annual conference in Washington in late June. He gave a far-reaching and entertaining presentation. He focused on one subject that was a surprise to me, given his background: He aggressively advocated moving to direct individual health consumerism as a way to solve the problem of rising health-care costs." (Dallas L. Salisbury via Human Resource Executive Online; one-time registration required)

Benefits As Burdens: U.S. Courts Wrangling over Retiree Health Benefits' Cuts
Excerpt: "Across the country in contract disputes and bankrup.tcy filings, federal courts have been pulled into the wrangling over how promises of lifetime benefits can be broken, or whether they existed at all. And the courts have not been uniform in their answers. Some predict that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually have to step in to smooth out the wrinkles." (The National Law Journal)

Little-Known HSAs Are a Good Plan for Some
Excerpt: "Proponents [of Health Savings Accounts] say they encourage consumers to shop for medical care and drive down costs. Opponents say they only benefit the young, well-off and healthy, and may discourage people on tight budgets from seeking care." (The Baltimore Sun; one-time registration required)

Family-Duty Bias Suits Increasing, According to Report
Excerpt: "The number of lawsuits alleging that employees were discriminated against because of their family responsibilities has significantly increased in the last decade, according to a new report." (Business Insurance)

Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated as of July 5, 2006, for Health and Welfare Plans (PDF)
26 pages. This Federal Legislation Quick Guide provides short updates on federal legislation that is currently under active consideration by Congress or has recently been enacted into law regarding health and welfare benefit plans. (Hewitt Associates)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Participant Must Exhaust Plan's Claims Procedures before Filing Fiduciary Breach Claim
Excerpt: "Other Circuits ... take a different approach and do not require exhaustion of administrative procedures for ERISA statutory claims, such as allegations of fiduciary breach. Plans operating in the Eleventh Circuit (and in other Circuits that require exhaustion, including the Seventh) may wish to draft their claims procedures to be more explicit about the need to exhaust the plans' administrative procedures even for claims other than simple benefit claims." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

FASB May Change COLI Valuation Rules
Excerpt: "The Financial Accounting Standards Board has released draft abstracts of 2 proposed guidelines that could affect business users of life insurance." (National Underwriter Life & Health; free one-time registration or paid subscription required)

G.ays at The Boston Globe Told to Marry or Lose Benefits
Excerpt: "Globe staffers have been told that health and dental benefits for g.ay employees' domestic partners are being discontinued. G.ay couples who want to keep their benefits must marry by Jan. 1. " (Boston Herald)

Stock Option Awards Grew for Top-Earning Washington Executives, Declined for Others Last Year
Excerpt: "The Washington Post's annual ranking of local executive pay was topped by four chief executives who received more than $30 million each:....' [The target page provides links to the other articles in the Post's Executive Pay Package special.] (The Washington Post; one-time registration required)

Contribution of Sick and Vacation Pay to Gov't Defined Contribution Plans, 2006 Update (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Unless specified elsewhere, the proposed regulations when finalized will formally go into effect for limitation years beginning on or after January 1, 2007. Plans are, however, allowed to immediately adopt the provision allowing sick and vacation leave pay to be deferred into a 457(b) plan within 2-1/2 months following severance of employment." (National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators Inc.)

Overview: Participation in Tax Shelters by Tax-Qualified Retirement Plans or VEBAs
Excerpt: "The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 (signed into law on May 17, 2006) imposes a $20,000 excise tax on each entity manager of a tax-qualified retirement plan that approves the plan as (or otherwise causes the plan to be) a party to a prohibited tax shelter transaction at any time during the taxable year and knows or has reason to know that the transaction is a prohibited tax shelter transaction." (Thelen Reid & Priest LLP)

Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated as of July 5, 2006, for human resources and employment (PDF)
7 pages. This Federal Legislation Quick Guide provides short updates on federal legislation that is currently under active consideration by Congress or has recently been enacted into law regarding human resources and employment law. (Hewitt Associates)

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

National Council on Aging Names Stuart Spector as Senior Vice President
(National Council on Aging (NCOA))

Startek Unveils Contact Center Support For Consumer-Driven Health Plans
(StarTek, Inc.)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Pension Administrator
for Primark Benefits
in CA

401 (k) Administrator
for Compliance/Administration Company
in NJ

Retirement Plan Coordinator
for American Funds, a part of The Capital Group Companies, Inc
in TX

Benefit Analyst/Consultant (Travel Required)
for CCA Strategies
in CO, GA, IL, MA, TX

Retirement Services Specialist
for Heard, McElroy & Vestal, LLP
in LA

401(k) Plan Administrator
for Witt Mares Pension Designs
in VA

Employee Benefits Recordkeeper/Tester Analyst
for Wachovia
in MN

Senior Compliance Officer
for Bank of America
in CT, IL, MA, MO

Field Service & Underwriting Manager
for Standard Insurance Company
in TX

Retirement Plan Wholesaler
for Benefit Consultants Group
in DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA

Pension Administration Analyst Exp
for Hewitt Associates
in GA

Pension Administration Analyst-Entry
for Hewitt Associates
in GA

Actuarial Analyst - Experienced
for Hewitt Associates
in IL

Pension Assistant
for R.J.L. Pension Services, Inc.
in FL

Plan Administrator
for Acuff & Associates, Inc.
in TN

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