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December 12, 2006


Sponsored by: Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc. (EBIA)

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Door Opens to Changes in Family Leave
Excerpt: "With Democrats winning control of Congress, worker-friendly groups think they may find the leverage to expand the law. Among the goals are extending coverage to workers at smaller firms and allowing parents to use the leave to attend school conferences." (The Washington Post; free registration required)

Federal Agencies Finalize Rules on HIPAA Health Nondiscrimination Rules and Wellness Programs (Press Release)
(U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA))

Text of Updated FAQs on HIPAA Nondiscrimination Provisions and Implementation of Wellness Programs
A DOL press release on December 12, 2006 notes that the EBSA has published an updated Frequently Asked Questions page on the EBSA's web site, but the page does not seem to identify which questions have been updated. The full text of the final rules for complying with the nondiscrimination provisions of HIPAA and for implementation of wellness programs will be published in the December 13, 2006 Federal Register as a joint regulation of the DOL, IRS and HHS. (Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor)

Overview: IRS Guidance on Using Smartcards and Debit Cards to Provide Mass Transit Benefits
Excerpt: "[Revenue ruling 2006-57] confirms that employers do not have to require employees to substantiate how they use smartcards or debit cards that can be used to purchase only transit passes. However, substantiation is required if the smartcard or debit card can be used for other purposes." (Deloitte)

Employee Who Validly Waived ADEA Rights was Precluded from Pursuing Suit Under the Statute
Excerpt: "In rendering its decision, the Eighth Circuit initially explained, 'Congress enacted the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act (OWBPA) in 1990 to clarify the protections afforded older workers under the ADEA." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

Administration Asks Employers for Help Achieving Four Cornerstone Goals for Value-Driven Health Care
Excerpt: "Secretary Mike Leavitt of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on November 17, 2006 called on private employers to 'commit to four steps to improve health care quality and reduce health costs by improving information in the health care sector.' . . . [G]etting private employers involved is critical because they are the largest source of health coverage for Americans, and thus have the potential to effect change in the health care system." (Deloitte)

Average Plan Participants Cannot Understand Health Care Benefits' Summary Plan Descriptions
Excerpt: "'Findings from this study suggest that fundamental improvements are needed in the readability of written SPDs, and that employers and plan administrators should explore the use of alternative methods of communication to plan participants beyond the written SPD,' the researchers concluded." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

Challenge to Factual Basis Set Forth in Removal Notice Rejected
Excerpt: "The recent case of Sumter Regional v. Patten Seed raises the question of what facts must be asserted to support removal of a putative ERISA case to federal court. While the complete preemption doctrine undoubtedly permits removal of an ERISA case notwithstanding the wording of the complaint, what facts must be alleged to invoke federal question jurisdiction?" (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Best Buy Drops Work Time and Place Constraints
Excerpt: "Best Buy Co. is enacting an official policy that says people are free to work wherever and whenever they want, as long as they get their work done . . . ." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Employers Favor Pay-for-Performance Over Holiday Bonuses
Excerpt: "Sixty-six percent of companies will not offer holiday bonuses this year, giving way to a gradual trend toward performance-based compensation, a recent survey revealed." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

COBRA Qualified Beneficiaries Entitled to Coverage Under Employer's New Health Insurance Plan
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: This case caught our attention because it illustrates a common fact pattern not often seen in the reported cases -- namely, how a change in insurance carriers impacts COBRA qualified beneficiaries." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

2006 Form M-1 Includes Self-Compliance Tool for HIPAA and Other Health Care-Related Provisions
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: The self-compliance checklists included as part of the Form M-1 package are very useful compliance tools for group health plans, plan sponsors, plan administrators, and health insurers -- not just for MEWAs." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Recently Announced EHR System Likely To Highlight Problems
Excerpt: "A plan announced last week under which five large U.S. companies that provide health insurance for 2.5 million employees, retirees and dependents will offer an interoperable electronic health record system, 'will create new problems as it solves old ones, and some problems it simply will port over to the digital age,' a Los Angeles Times editorial states (Los Angeles Times, 12/11)." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Seeing Through Transparency: The Managed Care Evolution (PDF)
35 pages. Excerpt: "The year 2006 marked the fifth consecutive Medical Director Colloquy. This year's theme 'Seeing Through Transparency: The Managed Care Evolution' probed, challenged, and stimulated rich discussion among participants and faculty about how health plans, employer groups, clinicians, and consumers gather, assess, and use data to evaluate, select, and pay for health care services." (Managed Care)

WP Abstract: Evaluating Effects of Tax Preferences on Health Care Spending and Federal Revenues
Excerpt: "In this paper, [the authors] calculate the consequences for health spending and federal revenues of an above-the-line deduction for out-of-pocket health spending. [They] show how the response of spending to this expansion in the tax preference can be specified as a function of a small number of behavioral parameters that have been estimated in the existing literature." (National Bureau of Economic Research; paid subscription or individual purchase required to retrieve full-text)

Overview: HSAs Not Covered by ERISA, EBSA Concludes
Excerpt: "In two recently released Field Assistance Bulletins, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has concluded that, provided employers' participation with health savings accounts (HSAs) is minimal, HSAs won't be covered under Title I of ERISA as an employee welfare benefits plan. The EBSA has thus removed a critical impediment to employers that had been leery of offering HSAs to employees." (Alexander Hamilton Institute)

Illinois Task Force Releases Health Insurance Mandate Proposal
Excerpt: "An Illinois state task force on Thursday approved a plan to require all residents to obtain health care coverage through their employers, public health programs or private insurance, the Chicago Tribune reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Health Insurance for All Is Considered in New Jersey
Excerpt: "The plan, which could be introduced as legislation as soon as March but may not be enacted for years, would compel each of the state's roughly eight million residents to sign up for insurance plans. New Jersey residents who do not have coverage would enroll in a plan sponsored by the state." (The New York Times; free registration required)

A Proposal to Cover the Uninsured in California
12 pages. Excerpt: "The lack of health coverage for millions of Californians is a major societal problem. In the absence of federal action, [the authors] propose a state-based approach that leverages existing systems to create near-universal coverage within two years." (Health Affairs)

Oregon Latest to Move Toward Universal Health Care
Excerpt: "Oregon's Senate Interim Commission on Health Care Access and Affordability has approved a draft of a universal health care plan for the state." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Stronger Insurance Regulations Pushed for Colorado
Excerpt: "A high-profile contract dispute affecting thousands of patients and an insurance merger criticized by many doctors have some lawmakers looking to boost the powers of the state's top insurance regulator. Rep. Anne McGihon, D-Denver, said lawmakers are considering updating Colorado's laws around insurance mergers and contract mediation. Under current law, she said, the insurance commissioner doesn't have enough power to protect consumers and doctors." (Denver Business Journal via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Update on the HSA Marketplace from Spencer's Benefits Reports
Excerpt: "The number of employers that offer health savings accounts (HSAs) has more than doubled since 2005, according to the 2006 Spencer Survey of Consumer-Driven Health Plans. In 2006, 28% of employers offered an HSA, up from the 12% that offered the consumer-driven health plan (CDHP) in 2005." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

VEBAS: Possibilities for Employee Benefit Funding
Originally published Summer 2003. Excerpt: "After a brief discussion of the rules governing VEBAs, this article looks at some of the current issues involving their use." (Steptoe & Johnson LLP)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Enrolled Actuaries Report, Fall 2006 (PDF)
8 pages. This edition has short articles on the Pension Protection Act, an Academy challenge to the Wall Street Journal on pension issues, the Value of Defined Benefit Plans, the Webcast Series on New Pension Legislation, and the Stock Option Valuation Practice Notice. (American Academy of Actuaries)

Overview: 409A Reporting and Withholding for 2005 and 2006
Excerpt: "The amount includible in income and required to be reported (and withheld upon, if applicable) is the portion of the total amount deferred under a deferred compensation plan subject to Section 409A as of December 31 of 2005 or 2006 that is not subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture and has not been included in income previously, plus amounts paid or made available under such plan during 2005 or 2006." (Bachelder & Dowling, P.A.)

Protections for Employees Called into Military Service and Employer-Provided Benefits (PDF)
18 pages. Originally published September 2002. Excerpt: "Applicable federal statutes include The Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940 . . . and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 . . . . This article focuses on how those laws apply to the administration of employee benefit programs. This article also identifies some unanswered questions under those laws." (Steptoe & Johnson LLP)

Stock Option Fundamentals
Originally published Autumn 2002. Excerpt: "This column describes the basic structure of three widely used option arrangements -- non-statutory stock options, incentive stock options (ISOs) and employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs), as well as the tax consequences of such plans and recent proposals regarding their accounting and required disclosure." (Steptoe & Johnson LLP)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

2007 Mid-Winter Tour: Advanced IRAs: A seminar for serious IRA professionals
in South Dakota on January 25, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Mid-Winter Tour: Advanced IRAs: A seminar for serious IRA professionals
in Minnesota on January 25, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Mid-Winter Tour: Advanced IRAs: A seminar for serious IRA professionals
in California on January 25, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Mid-Winter Tour: Advanced IRAs: A seminar for serious IRA professionals
in Minnesota on January 25, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Mid-Winter Tour: IRA Essentials
in California on January 24, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Mid-Winter Tour: IRA Essentials
in South Dakota on January 24, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Mid-Winter Tour: IRA Essentials
in Minnesota on January 24, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Mid-Winter Tour: IRA Essentials
in Minnesota on January 24, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Web/Telephone Seminar: Advanced Health Savings Accounts
Nationwide on January 23, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Web/Telephone Seminar: Basic IRAs
Nationwide on January 25, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Web/Telephone Seminar: Introduction to Health Savings Accounts
Nationwide on January 18, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

2007 Web/Telephone Seminar: IRA Reporting
Nationwide on January 16, 2007
presented by BISYS Retirement Services

Investment Adviser Regulation
in District of Columbia on January 26, 2007
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)

Investment Adviser Regulation - Webcast
Nationwide on January 26, 2007
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)

New Rules for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) -- What Changes Are Allowed and How and When Should We Make Them?
Nationwide on January 11, 2007
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc. (EBIA)


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

U. S. Labor Department Proposes Pension Protection Act Revisions to the Form 5500 Annual Report for 2008
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Second Edition of the Governmental Plans Answer Book Published
Calhoun Law Group, P.C.

Survey Finds 84% of Organizations Subject to FMLA Offer Some Type of Paid Family and Medical Leave
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Aetna Behavioral Health Introduces Industry - First Bipolar Disease Management Program
Aetna

Retirement Planning of Federal Workers, All Americans Contrasted
Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc. (EBIA)

IRS Changes Policies for Tax-Free Commuter Benefits
TransitCenter


Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Client Relationship Manager
for Freedom One Financial Group
in MI

Senior Pension Analyst
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA

Sr New Business Account Mgr
for Standard Insurance Company
in OR

Benefits Specialist
for Chugach Alaska Corporation
in AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, TX, UT, WA, WY

Director of Group Insurance Benefits
for Growing Employee Benefits Firm
in IL

Sr Mgr Benefits
for Charles Schwab
in CA

Testing & Reporting Consultant
for Fidelity Investments
in KY




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