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December 14, 2006

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Senator Wants Universal Health Care Plan
Excerpt: "Several business and labor leaders on Wednesday hailed a proposal to provide health care coverage to all Americans through a pool of private insurance plans. A dozen years after Congress rejected a Clinton administration plan for universal health care, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden offered a plan he said would provide affordable, private health care coverage for all Americans, except those covered through Medicare or the military." (AP via The Washington Post; free registration required)

California State Senators Propose Levy on Employers and Employees to Cover Most Uninsured Workers
Excerpt: "A month before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is set to unveil a plan to make healthcare more affordable and accessible, Senate Democrats proposed Tuesday taxing both workers and employers to cover an estimated 4.2 million of 6 million uninsured Californians." (Los Angeles Times via BlueCross BlueShield Association)

Feds Clarify HIPAA Rules for Wellness Rewards
Excerpt: "The Departments of Labor (DoL), Health and Human Resources (HHS), and Treasury have released final HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rules, which allow for companies to provide rewards of up to 20% of coverage costs under qualifying wellness programs." (; free registration required)

Overview: Congress Passes Improvements for HSAs and FSAs (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "The President is expected to sign the bill, HR 6111, shortly. Most importantly, the new law will increase (under some circumstances) the amount that can be contributed to an HSA starting next year." (Aon Consulting)

Overview: Court Rules ERISA Preempts Maryland Health Insurance Law
Excerpt: "In Retail Indus. Leaders Association v. Fielder, a federal judge in Maryland ruled that ERISA preempts the Maryland Fair Share Health Care Fund Act, which was slated to become effective January 1, 2007." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

Overview: New IRS Ruling on Employer-Sponsored Home Buyout Programs
Excerpt: "The relocation industry has been patiently awaiting a favorable ruling on the taxability of home sale/purchase transactions. Revenue Ruling 2005-74 (2005-51 IRB, 11-30-2005), which has been anticipated for more than 30 years, represents an important win for the industry." (The CPA Journal)

Georgia Governor to State Retirees: Don't Be Anxious About Health Benefits
Excerpt: "Gov. Sonny Perdue said Wednesday that Georgia will treat its state retirees 'respectfully' as it wrestles with how to handle an expected multibillion dollar price tag in the coming years for health-care benefits." (AP via

Comments on UnderInsurance: Changes in Financial Burdens for Health Care
Excerpt: "[The] analysis identifies patients at greatest risk of health-related financial burdens that may adversely affect their access and adherence to recommended treatments. [The] study also highlights the high costs associated with nongroup health insurance policies." (JAMA via Physicians for a National Health Program)

AHIP and the Blues Join for Electronic Health Record Effort
Excerpt: "America's Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association say they are forging ahead with their own portable personal health record program." (National Underwriter Life & Health; free registration or paid subscription required)

District Court Judge Imposes Stiff Penalties on Health Net for Discovery Violations
Excerpt: "The primary elements of the case are simple enough. The plaintiff beneficiaries sued their Health Net under ERISA for breach of fiduciary duty and 'other wrongs connected to the way in which Health Net reimburses out-of-network ('ONET') claims.' The critical issues giving rise to the collateral discovery battles involve the use of certain databases, the availability of historical information on the use of the databases, and e-mails concerning such issues." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Survey Shows Patients Want Online Health Records
Excerpt: "A survey released . . . by the nonprofit Markle Foundation finds patients enthusiastic about being able to access their health information online. A vast majority say they would use this information to prevent unnecessary care and take better care of themselves." (Ziff Davis Internet via

Staff Working Paper: Cost and Coverage Estimates for the 'Healthy Americans Act' (PDF)
29 pages. Excerpt: "Employers would be required to 'cash-out' their health plans by terminating their existing health coverage and paying the amount saved to their workers in the form of increased wages. The current tax exemption for employer provided health benefits is eliminated to strengthen incentives for families to seek lower cost coverage." (The Lewin Group)

Wal-Mart Keeps High-Deductible Health Plan Design and Doubles Contribution for 2007
Excerpt: "Retail behemoth Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. says it has doubled its annual health savings account contribution for employees who enroll in one of two HSA-qualified high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) for 2007." (INSIDE CONSUMER-DIRECTED CARE via

Generic Drug Pricing and States: $4 Drug Promotions by Large Chains Affected by State Laws
Excerpt: "In at least 10 states, existing laws termed 'Unfair Practices Acts' ban certain types of 'predatory pricing.' For example, a 1937 Colorado law prohibits retailers from selling 'below cost.' As a result, several national programs have excluded a number of drugs from the sales programs operating in individual states." (National Conference of State Legislatures)

Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated December 12, 2006, for Health and Welfare Plans (PDF)
2 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)

Opinion: European-Style Health Care? Time for a Reality Check
Excerpt: "The good news is that political leaders in many parts of Europe are being forced as a last resort to consider market options and to move away from centralization -- even though they would never dare call it an American solution. [This article will appear in The Press-Enterprise (CA) on Sunday, December 17, 2006.]" (Galen Institute)

Overview: Congress Improves HSA Rules for 2007 (PDF)
7 pages. Excerpt: "The Act's HSA provisions are generally good news for HSA account holders, HSA custodian/trustees, HSA administrators and employer/plan sponsors, but there are nuances of the Act that remain to be addressed." (Alston & Bird LLP)

Survey: The Costs of Long-Term Care -- Public Perceptions Versus Reality in 2006
Excerpt: "How much do age 45+ Americans really know about long-term care (LTC) costs and how to pay for them? Not as much as they think they do. And much of what they think they know frequently turns out to be inaccurate." (AARP)

Sponsored by: Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

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

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Overview: Guidance Issued on 2005 and 2006 Reporting and Withholding Rules Under 409A
Excerpt: "For calendar years 2005 and 2006, an employer is not required to report amounts deferred during the year under a nonqualified deferred compensation plan in box 12 of Form W-2 using Code Y. Likewise, a payor is not required to include such amounts in box 15a of Form 1099-MISC." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

Total Compensation Tool Helps Recruit Essential Talent (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Read how you can demonstrate your total compensation and benefits to recruits with a flexible, on-line tool and differentiate yourself from the competition." (Aon Consulting)

Overview: New Jersey Court Affirms the Rights of Same-Sex Couples
Excerpt: "In Lewis v. Harris, decided October 25, 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples in New Jersey are entitled to the same rights and benefits enjoyed by heterose.xual couples under state marriage laws." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

Year-End Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Checklist
Excerpt: "Employers sponsoring retirement plans and deferred compensation arrangements should be mindful of certain actions that must take place by December 31 of this year, as well as new requirements and opportunities effective at the beginning of the 2007 plan year." (Littler Mendelson P.C.)

When Both Spouses Work, Who Should Retire First?
Excerpt: "Sometimes, a look at your family's monthly budget is all it will take to decide who can retire. If you earn significantly more than your spouse, for instance, you may have to keep working just because it's your income building the household savings." (

Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide for December 12, 2006, on Human Resources & Employment Law (PDF)
1 page. 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)

Opinion: The High Cost of Low Wages
Excerpt: "Consider Costco and Wal-Mart's Sam's Club, which compete fiercely on low-price merchandise. Among warehouse retailers, Costco -- with 338 stores and 67,600 full-time employees in the United States -- is number one, accounting for about 50% of the market. Sam's Club -- with 551 stores and 110,200 employees in the United States -- is number two, with about 40% of the market." (Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation)

Forced Retirement Another Factor in Financial Goals
Excerpt: "In addition to savings and investment considerations in planning for retirement, a new survey suggests Americans should factor in forced retirement when setting their financial goals. According to a press release from Sun Life Financial, its survey found 22% of retirees are forced into retirement before they had planned, on average approximately eight years earlier than expected." (; free registration required)

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Prudential Responds to 'Retirement Revolution' with Innovative, Patent-Pending Guaranteed-Income Product
Prudential Financial, Inc.

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