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December 26, 2006

Sponsored by: Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

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

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

Past comments: "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: • 941-484-1430 •

Presenteeism in the Workplace -- Why and at What Cost?
Excerpt: "In Congress, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, have announced plans to reintroduce the Healthy Families Act, which would require employers with 15 or more workers to offer at least seven days of paid sick leave each year." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Shift in Congress Puts Health Care Back on the Table
Excerpt: "Health care is set to return to the national political stage in 2007, setting up partisan clashes in Congress that could end with rare vetoes from President Bush and help to define the 2008 presidential campaigns." (The Washington Post; free registration required)

Mental Health Parity Provisions Extended in Year-End Tax Bill Passed by Congress
Excerpt: "In the final hours of the 109th Congress, the House and Senate passed the Tax Relief and Health Care Bill of 2006 (H.R. 6111), which includes a provision extending the Mental Health Parity Act from December 31, 2006 to the end of 2007 under the Internal Revenue Code, ERISA, and the Public Health Service Act (PHSA)." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

Overview: President Signs Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: . . . [T]he Act makes important changes to HSA contribution limits, comparability, and HRA & health FSA interaction, and it extends the Mental Health Parity Act and the Archer MSA pilot project through 2007." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Overview: Congress Overhauls HSAs; Supercharged Rules Apply for 2007 -- Overview Updated Dec. 14, 2006 (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "Excerpt: 'The law dramatically shakes up the options for high deductible health plan sponsors who are preparing for, are in the midst of or recently closed an open enrollment window for 2007. [The newsletter is updated to reflect legislative history from the new law, and enhanced analysis!]" (Lockton Benefit Group)

NY Times Coverage: Tax Breaks Linked to Health Savings Accounts Are Expanded
Excerpt: "The new rules, which go into effect January 1, 2007, will make it easier for workers and their families to build a sizable health-care nest egg to see them through the high-health-care consuming retirement years. But you have to know how to make the best of them." (Reuters via The New York Times; free registration required)

Opinion: A Cutting-Edge Company-Sponsored Child-Care Center Could Be Out of Business in the New Year
Excerpt: "The center, which opened in 1990, helped Hancock promote itself as a family-friendly workplace, and a company that works for women. It won the company national recognition in publications such as Working Mother Magazine. Hancock spokesman Roy V. Anderson denied that the center will shut down by August 2007." (

Claims Review Lapses Result in Reversal of Benefits Denial and Order to Pay Disability Benefits
Excerpt: "Bard v. Boston Shipping Ass'n provides an example of how failure to follow the claims procedure regulations can lead to reversal of a benefits denial." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

OPM Extends Open Season for High-Deductible Health Plans
Excerpt: "Though the open season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) officially ended Dec. 11, the Office of Personnel Management has extended the enrollment period through midnight Dec. 31 for employees and retirees interested in switching to high-deductible health plans." (

Qualified COBRA Beneficiary Received Late Election Notice & Must Pay Premiums for Retroactive Period
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: Although this court ruled that it was permissible to charge a lump sum for retroactive premiums, we continue to recommend caution in determining the amount and timing of the initial premium payment when a late COBRA election notice is provided." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Diabetics in the Workplace Confront a Tangle of Laws
Excerpt: "[T]he risk of plunging blood sugars has fueled a longstanding reluctance to employ diabetics in jobs like those of truck driver or police officer, if they are on insulin. Until this summer, the National Fire Protection Association cautioned against making it too easy for even non-insulin-dependent diabetics to become firefighters. Now the association recommends an individual assessment." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Physicians Lose to Blue Cross in Network Discount Dispute
Excerpt: "In an unpublished opinion, Michigan State Medical Soc. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield 2006 WL 3755237 (Mich.App.) (Dec. 21, 2006), a Michigan appellate court dealt a blow to Michigan physicians hoping to force Blue Cross to cover UAW employee office visits without application of the network discount." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Opinion: The Most-Avoided Conversation in Medicine
Excerpt: "We could add one question to every discussion we have about patients with terminal illnesses: 'How good is this patient's end-of-life care?'" (The New York Times; free registration required)

Editorial: Paying Doctors for Better Care
Excerpt: "[I]t is salutary that the last Congress . . . passed legislation that takes a modest step toward the goal of paying doctors based on the quality of their treatment. It authorizes Medicare to pay doctors a small bonus if they voluntarily report data on the quality of their care . . . . If Congress decides to move the program forward, such data might in time be used to reward doctors who practice the best medicine." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Employers and Employees Caught Up in Fraudulent Health Care Reimbursement Scheme
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: The individuals who marketed these programs are in prison in Florida; the Department of Labor has obtained an order barring them from serving as fiduciaries of, or service providers to, ERISA plans . . . and now they are barred from selling medical reimbursement plans. But their actions have also led to very bad outcomes for employers that bought their products." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Editorial: The Politics of Inequality Have Shifted -- Now Policy Must Follow
Excerpt: "[T]here is the dysfunctional health system, which national politicians often shy away from in the belief that it is impossibly complex. But the pressure for reform is stronger now than it was when President Bill Clinton's proposal crashed spectacularly: The nation has suffered another decade of galloping health costs that eat into take-home wages, damage the bottom lines of companies and leave a shamefully large number uninsured." (The Washington Post; free registration required)

California Governor Aims to Cover California's Uninsured Millions, Raising Issue's Profile Nationally
Excerpt: "Mr. Schwarzenegger has been huddling with advisers in the past few weeks to come up with a plan to provide health coverage to the state's 6.5 million uninsured and underinsured. Details of the strategy haven't been announced. He has signaled that in his annual State of the State address Jan. 9 he will make health care the top priority for 2007 and likely include a plan to cover the uninsured." (Wall Street Journal via California Nurses Association / National Nurses Organizing Committee)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Pennsylvania Protections for Social Security Numbers
Excerpt: "On December 26, 2006, Pennsylvania joins a growing list of states (including New Jersey) that seek to combat identity theft through restrictions on the use and disclosure of Social Security Numbers. Employers, businesses and other entities in Pennsylvania will be required to comply with these new restrictions or face fines of $50 - $500 for a first offense and $500 - $5,000 for subsequent offenses." (Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP)

The SEC Links Executive Compensation Disclosure with FAS 123R
Excerpt: "The Securities and Exchange Commission late Friday [December 22] announced new rules governing how executive stock options are to be calculated in proxy reports that will be filed next year." (; free registration required)

Alaska High Court Says Implement State Employee Same-Sex Benefit Program Now
Excerpt: "The Alaska Supreme Court has thrown out a lower court ruling ordering clarifications for administrative rules on benefits for same-sex partners of state employees and retirees, and ordered the regulations be put in place by January 1, 2007." (; free registration required)

Overview: IRS Guidance on Reporting Section 409A Deferred Compensation (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Employees must report as income and pay taxes on amounts includible in gross income for 2006, and, to the extent not already reported, for 2005, by filing an amended income tax return by the due date of his or her 2006 return (including extensions), unless relief is provided." (Haynes and Boone, LLP)

Opinion: A Bipartisan Fix for Retirees' Economic Security
Excerpt: "Our nation's saving rate is a big problem. It requires a big solution. We cannot tinker with the federal tax code and expect personal savings to increase dramatically. By harnessing the power of compound interest through individual savings accounts and small paycheck deductions, we can ensure that almost every American will retire a half-millionaire." (The Washington Post; free registration required)

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