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November 3, 2006
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Businesses May Move Health Care Overseas
Excerpt: "United Group Programs, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that sells self-insurance policies to small businesses, is already offering a plan that sends patients to Bumrungrad International hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. UGP says the plan will save employers more than 50 percent on major medical costs and slash employees' out-of-pocket expenses to zero." (AP via The New York Times; one-time registration required)

CMS Might Seek to Promote Health Care IT Through Regulation, Acting Agency Administrator Says
Excerpt: "Acting CMS Administrator Leslie Norwalk . . . in a keynote speech to the World Healthcare Innovation and Technology Congress said that without the enactment of legislation to promote health care information technology, CMS 'might have to help forward health IT on a regulatory basis,' CQ HealthBeat reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Bush Orders Federal Agencies to Rate Quality of Health Care
Excerpt: "The executive order requires four federal agencies to use health information technology that meets interoperability standards, measure quality of health care providers, develop practices that encourage high-quality care and give patients information about the prices of common treatments and procedures and the quality of services provided by doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers." (Employee Benefit News)

Mixed Reaction Greets First 'Harmonized' Health IT Standards
Excerpt: "[Alan] Mertz, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association, told AHIC that 'some of HITSP's work is fundamentally flawed.' He accused the panel of being unduly influenced by vendors and predicted its standard for delivering laboratory results to doctors would not be adopted widely." (Government Health IT)

Progress in Synchronizing Standards and Easing Regulations to Help Health Systems Promote Heath IT
Excerpt: "The now-disbanded [Commission on Systemic Interoperability], which convened in January 2005, laid out 14 recommendations for the federal government to take to ensure a connected system of health information." (AISHealth.com)

Overview: TRICARE Amendment Affects Employer Group Health Plans
Excerpt: "On October 17, President Bush signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (the 'Act'). The Act contains several changes to TRICARE the health plan that covers United States military personnel. One of these changes prevents employer group health plans from discriminating against TRICARE eligible employees, while another change may affect cafeteria plans with cash-out options." (Kilpatrick Stockton LLP)

Plan's Determination that Participant's Incomplete Beneficiary Change Form Is Enforceable Is Upheld
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: Competing claims of potential beneficiaries raise the risk of double-payment liability and are magnets for litigation. While interpleader may provide protection to a plan that faces conflicting claims, plans might avoid some beneficiary disputes by having clear procedures in place for accepting or rejecting beneficiary designation forms and responding to participant inquiries." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Seventh Circuit Approves 'Contractually Based Recoupment' As Means of Overpayment Recovery
Excerpt: "After the district court granted summary judgment for GM, the plaintiffs appealed. Thus, the issue before the Seventh Circuit was whether ERISA 502 precluded enforcement of the recoupment provisions or permitted such extra-judicial remedies." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Federal Institute Recommends Changing How Doctors Are Paid
Excerpt: "When it comes to providing health care to seniors, the federal government is not a smart shopper. That's according to a report by the Institute of Medicine, which recommends dramatic changes in how doctors are paid for their care, a recommendation which could be a boon to the health IT industry." (Ziff Davis Internet via eWEEK.com)

Opinion: The U.S. Medical System Is Headed for Multiple Organ Failure
Excerpt: "The spiraling cost of healthcare is well known: $7,100 per person this year, projected to increase to $12,000 in 2015 and compounding at more than double the rate of inflation. Already, medical care gobbles up one-sixth of the GDP. Even so, we ask ourselves, how better to spend our money than on the best healthcare in the world?" (Los Angeles Times; one-time registration required)

Mice, Red Wine and Escalating Health Care Costs
Excerpt: "Lest you are asking what [mice and red wine] has to do with benefits, many experts now describe pension 'problems' as tiny compared to a looming health care crisis - one that could wreak financial havoc across companies, big and small." (Pension Risk Matters)

Employers and Insurers Push Generics Harder
Excerpt: "The concerted push comes in part because the availability of generics is fast reaching a critical mass -- and as health-care costs continue to soar, employers and insurers are eager to take full advantage of the generics' lower prices." (The Wall Street Journal via pharmasentry.com)

CVS and Drug Benefit Manager Caremark To Merge -- Deal May Lower Prices
Excerpt: "The new company would be called CVS/Caremark Corp. and become what analysts said would be the biggest private-sector buyer of prescription drugs, responsible for filling or managing more than 1 billion prescriptions a year." (The Washington Post; one-time registration required)

CVS-Caremark Rx Merger Raises Questions for Employers
Excerpt: "Customers of Caremark, which works for employers to manage prescription drug benefits and filled 530 million prescriptions last year, will likely experience some disruption as the merger is completed over the next year, benefit managers and consultants say. The 30 million customers of PharmaCare, the pharmacy benefit manager already owned by CVS, will also face a host of changes as it moves its operations to Nashville, Tennessee, where Caremark is headquartered." (Workforce Management; one-time registration required)

A Pro-Con Exchange on the Medicare Drug Benefit Between Rep. McDermott & Grace-Marie Turner
Excerpt: "For a change of pace, Health Policy Matters this week features a 'pro-con' exchange on the new Medicare drug benefit between Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and me. The paired articles were published over the last several days in newspapers around the country, including The Sacramento Bee, The Kansas City Star, The Charlotte Observer, and Sunday Gazette-Mail.' (Galen Institute)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

PPA Technical Corrections Unlikely This Year (PDF)
1 page. Excerpt: "The Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA), signed on August 17, 2006 by President Bush, is in need of numerous technical corrections to both clarify Congressional intent and fix clerical errors. Although technical corrections bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate, neither contain any provisions correcting PPA." (Buck Consultants)

Employee Benefits News Scan, October 2006 (PDF)
5 pages. This edition covers the following: IRS Issues Transition Relief for Indian Tribal Government Plans; IRS Issues Final Rules on Use of Electronic Media for Plan Notices and Elections; FASB Issues Statement on Accounting for Defined Benefit Pension and OPEBs; and, Census Bureau Reports 46.6 Million Americans Lacked Heath Insurance in 2005. (Gabriel Roeder Smith & Company)

Policy Backgrounder: Work and Retirement (PDF)
23 pages. Excerpt: "This paper examines several ways to increase the labor supply of older Americans and update Social Security to keep pace with changing life expectancies and labor market conditions. The reforms would give seniors greater freedom and flexibility to time their retirement, provide employers with incentives to retain older workers and increase incentives for older Americans to stay in the workforce longer." (National Center for Policy Analysis)

AARP Honor Roll: Diverse Group of Employers Use Flexible Work Options to Retain 50-Plus Workers
Excerpt: "To capture and retain older workers, employers will have to offer flexible work options and benefits. As AARP's CEO Bill Novelli points out about the companies on the list, 'These dynamic employers recognize the importance of creating a mutually beneficial work environment. Flexible arrangements can be a big part of that positive environment, enabling workers to balance both work and family obligations.'" (Employee Benefit News)

Alaska Seeks High Court Ruling on Implementing Same-Sex Benefits
Excerpt: "The State of Alaska is asking the state's highest court to review an order requiring changes in its proposal to provide same-sex benefits for domestic partners of state employees and retirees. The Superior Court issued an order Monday directing the state to rewrite the regulations." (The Anchorage Daily News)

State and Local Government Employment Costs Up 1.4 Percent from June to September
Excerpt: "Benefit costs for state and local government workers increased 1.5 percent in the September quarter, unchanged from the gain in June." (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Communicating with Participants in a Wired World: Multiemployer Fund Web Sites (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "The latest issue of Segal's NewsLetter which discusses multiemployer fund office Web sites, . . covers the following topics: Developing a Web site strategy (informational or transactional), Evaluating an existing Web site, and Developing a design and structure and drafting content." (The Segal Group, Inc.)

2006 Rewards of Work Study -- The Fourth Sibson Has Conducted Since 1997 (PDF)
6 pages. Results from Sibson's 2006 Rewards of Work (ROW) Study will be released as a series of brief reports. The first of the 2006 ROW Study reports summarizes the key findings about how employees perceive a broad range of rewards. (The Segal Group, Inc.)

Research Project Abstract: Labor Force Participation and Economic Resources of the Early Baby-Boomer
Excerpt: "[The authors] propose to forecast the retirement patterns and resources of the Early Baby-Boomers by estimating forward-looking dynamic models of labor force participation, wealth accumulation and pension and Social Security benefit claiming for older workers using seven waves of HRS-data." (Regents of the University of Michigan)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Current Issues with 401(k) Plans
Nationwide on May 1, 2007
presented by McKay Hochman Co., Inc.

Default Investments - The DOL Regulations
Nationwide on March 20, 2007
presented by McKay Hochman Co., Inc.

Overview Of Form 1099-R eSeminar
Nationwide on December 11, 2006
presented by McKay Hochman Co., Inc.

Participant Disclosure and Communications
Nationwide on April 18, 2007
presented by McKay Hochman Co., Inc.

Why Go Broke? Retirement Planning for the 21st Century Worker
in Pennsylvania on November 15, 2006
presented by U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

U.S. Labor Department Sues D.C. Attorney for Alleged Violations Involving 2 Pension Plans of Bankrupt Tennessee Company
(U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA))


Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Retirement Plan Administrator
for Valley Forge Pension Management, Inc.
in PA

Employee Benefit Attorney With at Least 5 Years Experience
for Chang, Ruthenberg & Long PC
in CA

Employee Benefit Attorney With ESOP Experience
for Chang, Ruthenberg & Long PC
in HI

Client Services Director
for JPMorgan Retirement Plan Services
in MO

Cafeteria Plan Administrator
for FlexSource, LLC
in IL

Paralegal
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA




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