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December 7, 2006

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The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is a comprehensive resource for those working with benefit plans. Members enjoy personalized secondary research services, informative publications and online information, as well as discounted educational programs, books and distance learning options. Known as the cosponsor of the CEBS designation, the International Foundation also offers numerous ways to keep current with benefit issues, so you are prepared to answer your participants’ questions.

Text of DOL Official Announcement of Availability of Form M-1 for 2006
Excerpt: "This document announces the availability of the Year 2006 Form M-1, Annual Report for Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements (MEWAs) and Certain Entities Claiming Exception (ECEs). This year's Form M-1 is substantively identical to the Year 2005 Form M-1. The electronic filing option has been retained and filers are encouraged to use this method. The Year 2006 Form M-1 is due March 1, 2007, with an extension until May 1, 2007 available." (Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor)

DOL Makes 2006 M-1 Form Available
Excerpt: "The US Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) will make available [today] the 2006 Form M-1 annual report for multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs)." (; free registration required)

Health Risk Assessments a Major Benefits Trend for 2007
Excerpt: "If the employer you work with is not already using health risk assessments (HRAs) to flag potential health risks in employees, get ready -- the number of U.S. employers offering HRAs is projected to jump 21% in 2007. So if you are involved with wellness and prevention programs in your workplace, get ready for an influx of participants." (Occupational Health Management via Human Resource Executive Online)

Court Permits ERISA Contribution Claim by Claims Administrator Against Insurance Broker
Excerpt: "In a case replete with legal arguments, Via Christi Regional Medical Center, Inc. v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Inc. offers a broad vista of what can go wrong when a self-funded plan chooses to go fully insured." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Dillard's Announces 'Memorandum of Understanding' to Settle ERISA Class Action
Excerpt: "The litigation arose out of Dillard's acquisition of Mercantile Stores in 1998." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Overview: IRS Transit Guidelines Detail How to Implement SmartCards and Debit Cards
Excerpt: "The Internal Revenue Service has ruled on substantiation requirements in four hypothetical situations regarding the use of smartcards and debit cards to provide qualified transportation fringes under section 132(f) of the Code." (Spencer’s Benefits Reports via Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

Cost of COBRA Was 145% of Active Employee Cost, According to Spencer's 2006 COBRA Survey
Excerpt: "Average claims costs for COBRA continuees exceeded costs for active employees by about 45%, according to the 15th nationwide survey of employers' and plan administrators' COBRA experience, conducted by Spencer's Benefits Reports." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

Study Shows IT Security Holds the Key to Compliance
Excerpt: "Automating IT security functions, not consultants or services, along with frequent auditing of data security, improves compliance, an IT Policy Compliance Group study shows." (InformationWeek)

Overview of Lifestyle-Based Analytics
Excerpt: "What is Lifestyle-Based Analytics? It is the analysis of lifestyle-based data, which is widely available through consumer databases. The analysis of this data creates enormous opportunities and advances strategies for detected lifestyle-based diseases before they escalate into advanced stages." (The PRECEPT Employee Benefits Blog)

Outsourcing Could Drive EHR Adoption, According to Study
Excerpt: "Technology outsourcing could be the key to some physicians' adoption of electronic health records, especially those in smaller practices, according to a new study by First Consulting Group, Investor's Business Daily reports." (California HealthCare Foundation)

Employers Offer Employees Electronic Medical Data
Excerpt: "Five of the nation's largest employers plan to soon give their workers a unique health care benefit -- their very own electronic medical record that they can take when they travel, change jobs or see a new doctor." (AP via The New York Times; free registration required)

Vendor to Offer Web-Based EHRs to Doctors in Exchange for Data
Excerpt: "Practice Fusion is poised to announce that it will offer a free, 'completely hosted, community-based model' of online access to EHRs, to be subsidized by the selling of de-identified data to insurance groups, clinical researchers and pharma.ceutical companies, Howard said." (Healthcare IT News)

Employers Largely Committed to Providing Health Coverage; Favor All Employers Share in the Cost
Excerpt: "These are among the conclusions of 'Employers' Views on Incremental Measures to Expand Health Coverage,' a report prepared by researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) and published in the November/December issue of the journal Health Affairs." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

The Medicare Drug Benefit Enters Year Two
Excerpt: "For the coming year, except for the very lowest-priced drug plans, premiums have fallen or risen modestly. The government website for comparing different plans is more complete and much easier to use. Most employers who offered retiree drug coverage have continued to do so. The most troublesome aspect of the benefit remains the 3-4 million seniors -- about 1 in every 10 enrollees -- who appear likely to fall into the coverage gap or 'doughnut hole' this year." (The Century Foundation)

Employers/Blues Address Disparity Between Employee Behavior and Perception of Personal Health
Excerpt: "Findings from a national Employee Engagement Poll are being released today as six national employers work with Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies in a pilot health and wellness research-based initiative - Engaging Consumers@Work - to determine what motivates employees to change their lifestyle behavior." (BlueCross BlueShield Association)

Opinion: The Movement toward Health Care Consumerism will Continue
Excerpt: "[T]he movement toward consumerism is a global phenomenon that will build [without] policy changes in Washington. There is a great deal of energy in the private sector to boost consumerism, with thousands of new companies investing in ideas and technologies to make the delivery of health care faster, better, and cheaper." (Galen Institute)

The 2nd Annual EBRI/Commonwealth Fund Consumerism in Health Care Survey, 2006 (PDF)
48 pages. Excerpt: "Enrollment in consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) remains low, satisfaction continues to lag when compared with more comprehensive health insurance, and CDHPs do not appear to be having an impact on reducing the number of people without health insurance, according to this survey by EBRI and The Commonwealth Fund." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated December 5, 2006, for Health and Welfare Plans (PDF)
4 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

Chicago Group Sounds Pension and Health Funding Alarm for State Workers
Excerpt: "A Chicago business group has sounded major alarm bells about the state's ability to fund retirement and health coverage costs for state workers, claiming that taxpayers will have to pay more than $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and nearly $50 billion in unfunded health coverage expenses." (; free registration required)

Surprises in Severance Packages: New Deferred Compensation Rules Limit Flexible Arrangements
Originally published Spring 2006. Excerpt: "[Plan documents,] which in some cases may be the separation pay contract itself, may need to be amended to incorporate the terms required by Section 409A. As the deadline for the amendments approaches, employers should also seek legal guidance on reaching good faith compliance with the terms of the statute, as enunciated in Notice 2005-1 and the IRS's proposed regulations." (Steptoe & Johnson LLP)

Overview: 409A Reporting May Require 2006 Inclusion with Respect to Discounted Stock Options (PDF)
3 pages. (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP)

Overview: IRS Issues Reporting and Withholding Guidance under 409A (PDF)
3 pages. (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP)

Financial Advisers Help Investors Plan for Retirement Amid Increased Health Care Costs
Excerpt: "Financial advisers are equipping themselves to help clients plan for their futures as increased health care costs and 'corporate cutbacks in retiree health benefits' prompt 'anxiety among investors about their retirement prospects,' the Wall Street Journal reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide for December 5, 2006, on Human Resources & Employment Law (PDF)
6 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)

Taxation of Stock Options and Restricted Stock: The Basics and Beyond (PDF)
14 pages. Excerpt: "This article presents the basic tax rules that apply to stock options and restricted stock, but also goes beyond the basics to discuss certain more complex issues and planning considerations." (Grant Thornton LLP)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Drafting The Blueprint For Women's Retirement Security Symposium
in District of Columbia on December 7, 2006
presented by Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER)

NICSA East Coast Regional Meeting featuring Current Events in the Retirement Arena
in Massachusetts on January 24, 2007
presented by NICSA

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Consumer-Driven Health Plans Slow To Catch On, 2nd Annual Survey Finds
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

Study Shows 401(k) Participants Feel Naïve About Investing: Participants Also Skeptical of Internet-Based Advice and Social Security
The Scarborough Group, Inc.

Spencer's COBRA Survey Finds More Eligible Employees Elect COBRA Coverage, Companies Paying Significantly Higher Claim Costs
Wolters Kluwer

Bridges to Excellence Helps Employers Achieve Bush Administration's 'Cornerstones' for Health Care Purchasing
Bridges to Excellence (BTE)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Supervisor, Technical Analysis System and Compliance Monitoring
in DC

DB Administrator
for Continental Benefits Group, Inc.
in NJ

for Westchester NY Consulting Firm
in NY

Defined Contribution Asst
for Standard Insurance Company
in OR

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