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December 22, 2006


Sponsored by: Benefit Software Inc.

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Health Plan SPD Readability too Advanced for Average Participants, According to Study
Excerpt: "The average health care summary plan document (SPD) that contains information about eligibility, benefits and participant rights, is written at a college freshman reading level - possibly too high for the average participant, according to a recent study." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Standards Group To Adopt and Maintain EHR Data Format
Excerpt: "Health Level 7, a health standards development organization, will adopt and maintain an electronic health record data format that was funded and developed by the California HealthCare Foundation, Health IT Strategist reports (Robeznieks, Health IT Strategist, 12/20)." (California HealthCare Foundation)

List of HSA improvements
Excerpt: "[The target page lists and explains seven] technical improvements to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) [that] were included within H.R. 6111, The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006." (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

Health Savings Accounts -- Possible Improvements
Excerpt: "As the availability and use of health savings accounts (HSAs) have grown, various proposals are evolving to help make them more attractive to small businesses and individuals, as well as to ease their use in larger employer settings and create an even better product." (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)

Overview: President Signs Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 Which Affects Health Savings Accounts
Excerpt: "Employers who offer HSAs will want to review the effect of the new legislation on their plan designs and plan communication materials. Since the provisions described in this Alert are generally effective January 1, 2007, employers will want to act quickly to inform employees of any changes that will affect them." (Faegre & Benson LLP)

Opinions: One Author Makes Case for Shift to a Consumer-Driven Health System; Another Says Get Real
Excerpt: "By coupling a high-deductible policy with a tax-free health savings account, policy makers believe that Americans will become more efficient and discerning consumers of healthcare." (Medical Economics and Rockridge Institute via Physicians for a National Health Program)

Consumer-Directed Health Plans: Potential Effects on Health Care Spending and Outcomes (PDF)
100 pages. Excerpt: "This [CBO study] examines in detail the potential effects of consumer-directed plan designs, analyzing the impact they might have on the use of health care, the prices and quality of health care services, and the health of enrollees. The report also explores the incentives for enrollment in consumer-directed plans and the potential effect of that enrollment on markets for health insurance." (U.S. Congressional Budget Office)

Overview: DOL, Treasury & HHS Issue Final HIPAA Nondiscrimination Rules (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "The final nondiscrimination rules generally restate the interim final rules, but clarify questions that plans had asked regarding source-of injury exclusions, carryovers under health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), the interaction of state extension of benefits laws with HIPAA's nonconfinement rule, and the interaction of HIPAA's rules with other federal laws, such as the ADA." (Groom Law Group)

Overview: DOL, Treasury & HHS Issue Final Wellness Program Rules (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "The final wellness program rules retain the same overall structure of the proposed rules, but add an additional factor that wellness programs must meet to be permissible, add more examples to demonstrate programs that meet the requirements, and clarify when a program is subject to these rules." (Groom Law Group)

Linking Providers Via Health Information Networks (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "[P]olicy makers, providers and insurers are looking to health information technology (IT) as a powerful method of improving a health care system marked by persistent quality deficiencies and high costs." (Alliance for Health Reform)

Bush Plan to Advance Healthcare IT Makes Progress
Excerpt: "Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt announced [December 20] that more than 100 companies have signed up to participate in the Administration's plan to advance healthcare through the use of information technology." (Healthcare IT News)

E-Health Records Banks Bills To Be Introduced Again
Excerpt: "Bills to establish independent e-health record banks regulated by the federal government will be introduced again in the new Congress, and backers are more optimistic about action on the bills the second time around." (Government Health IT)

Iowa Businesses Advocate Pooling for Lower Health Insurance Premiums
Excerpt: "The Iowa Association of Business and Industry plans to lobby lawmakers in the upcoming 2007 legislative session to allow businesses to join together to form health insurance purchasing pools, the Des Moines Register reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

The Crisis in Health Care Cost in the United States -- An Actuary's Perspective
Excerpt: "Is there really a crisis in healthcare cost here in the United States? Or is it more a crisis in health insurance cost? Is the problem genuinely of crisis proportion, or might it be more accurately described as a problem with healthcare access or health insurance availability? That is the subject to be explored in this article." (Society of Actuaries)

United Steelworkers Retirees Seek to Enforce Medical Benefit Promise
Excerpt: "United Steelworkers (USW) retirees and their union have filed a class action lawsuit against Continental Tire North America, Inc. (CTNA) to force it to uphold its obligations to thousands of retirees, spouses, and surviving spouses to provide lifetime retiree medical benefits." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Sponsored by: Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

16th Annual National Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

16th Annual Nat'l Health Benefits Conference & Expo - Jan. 25-26, Tampa

"The Biggest Cost Problem Facing American Employers"..." the topics & speakers were wonderful, this Conference can't be beat"

Leading Employers & Best Practices from: Bank of America - IBM - State of MN - AOL - IAP World Services - Schneider Transportation - FPL - MO State Univ - Perkins’ Restaurants - San Mateo Co. - HEB Retail - Martin Co. Schools - and many more. Actionable Advice: info@HBCE.com • 941-484-1430 • www.HBCE.com


(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: Interim Guidance, 2005 and 2006 Reporting & Withholding Requirements under Section 409A (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "The Internal Revenue Service ('IRS') has issued Notice 2006-100, which provides interim guidance to employers and payors on their reporting and wage withholding requirements for calendar years 2005 and 2006 with respect to deferred compensation and amounts includible in gross income under section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code . . . ." (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP)

Overview of Guidance Issued on Reporting and Wage Withholding under Code § 409A
Excerpt: "While this guidance provides some welcome relief (e.g., the requirement that 2005 deferrals not be reported is extended to 2006), there is a premium placed on compliance for other purposes (e.g., the waiver of certain late filing and payment penalties). This client advisory explains the key features of this recent guidance and the steps that plan sponsors need to take in response." (Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo P.C.)

Chart: Cost of Benefits for State and Local Government Employees, September 2006
Excerpt: "A major component of benefit costs is paid leave, including vacations, holidays, sick leave, and other leave such as personal leave, military leave, and funeral leave. The average cost for paid leave was $2.98 per hour worked for state and local government employees in September 2006." (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

20th Annual Cincinnati Employee Benefits Conference
in Ohio on June 14, 2007
presented by Cincinnati Bar Association

Benefits Conference of The South
in Georgia on September 20, 2007
presented by ASPPA (American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries)

SWBA/IRS Plan Administration Skills Workshop
in Texas on February 2, 2007
presented by SouthWest Benefits Association

SWBA/IRS Plan Administration Skills Workshop
in Oklahoma on February 16, 2007
presented by SouthWest Benefits Association

SWBA/IRS Plan Administration Skills Workshop
in Texas on February 23, 2007
presented by SouthWest Benefits Association


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

IRS To Begin Processing Suspended Cash Balance Plan Conversion Applications
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Steelworkers File Class Action Lawsuit Against Continental Tire for Altering Retiree Health Care Benefits
United Steelworkers of America (USWA)


Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Enroller - Retirement Specialist
for MassMutual Financial Group
in CA

Enroller - Retirement Specialist
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MI

Enroller - Retirement Specialist
for MassMutual Financial Group
in IL

Regional Service Coordinator
for Standard Insurance Company
in CA

Senior Account Manager - Micro/Small Market
for CitiStreet
in NJ

Retirement Plan Consultant
for Kibble & Prentice
in WA

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

Defined Contribution Plan Manager
for The Angell Pension Group, Inc.
in RI

Defined Contribution Client Account Manager
for New York Life Investment Management - Retirement Plans Services
in MA

Government Reporting Specialist
for New York Life Investment Management - Retirement Plans Services
in MA

401K Call Center Supervisor
for New York Life Investment Management - Retirement Plans Services
in MA

Account Executive
for Transamerica Retirement Services
in GA

Retirement Plan Consultant
for Kibble & Prentice
in WA

Senior Benefits Specialist
for Genentech, Inc.
in CA

Retirement Plan Services (RPS) Education Specialist
for First National Bank of Omaha, Wealth Management Group
in NE




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