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January 4, 2008

Here are the Web's best new links about compliance and cost aspects of plan operation, design and policy.


Today's sponsor is 17th Annual Nat'l Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for 17th Annual Nat'l Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

"The Biggest Challenge Remains: Addressing the Most Intractable Cost Problem Facing American Employers"

January 17-18, 2008 - Tampa Waterfront Convention Center

Featuring: The Boeing Company (147,000 employees); Ohio Retirement Systems & Ohio State University (350,000 covered lives); Benefits Manager of the Year; Cities of Milwaukee & Las Vegas; Rayonier, Inc.; University of Alabama; Florida Power & Light (FPL); J.B. Hunt; Sonic Automotive, Inc. (Fortune 300); State of West Virginia; Manatee County Schools; Lincoln Industries, Inc.; Sarasota County...and more... 24 total sessions.
Contact Gene Piatek or Sheron Dean at: 941-484-1430 or email to: info@HBCE.com


(a) New Guidance Documents

(None today.)

(b) News

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Gives San Francisco Health Plan a Boost
Excerpt: "A federal appeals court boosted San Francisco's hopes [yesterday] of reviving its plan to extend health coverage to all uninsured residents and make employers share the cost. Members of a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made it clear they thought U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White was on shaky ground last week when he struck down a key funding provision of the health program, which would require medium and large companies to offer insurance to their workers or pay a fee to the city." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Solicitor General Recommends Grants in ERISA Case
Excerpt: "The federal government has recommended that the Court grant certiorari in No. 06-923, MetLife v. Glenn, limited to the question presented of whether an ERISA plan administrator that both evaluates and pays claims operates under a conflict of interest that must be weighed on judicial review of benefit determinations. The government also recommended the Court direct the parties to address how courts should weigh such conflicts of interest in reviewing the discretionary benefit determination of a dual-role administrator." (Supreme Court of the United States Blog)

(c) Summaries of Guidance; Filed Comments

Overview: New EEOC Rule Exempts Some Retiree Health Plans from ADEA
Excerpt: "The EEOC's final rule does not yet provide complete assurance to employers, because AARP sought review of the EEOC's action by the Supreme Court in a certiorari petition filed on November 19, 2007. Until the Supreme Court denies certiorari or affirms the appellate court's decision approving the final rule, there remains a potential (albeit minimal) litigation risk to employers that provide pre-65 retirees with health benefits different than those provided to post-65 retirees." (Thompson Hine LLP)

Overview: EEOC Permits Coordination of Retiree Health Benefits with Medicare; IRS Provides Guidance Relevant to Dependent Health Care (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "After nearly a decade of litigation and more than four years of study of a rule proposal, the EEOC on December 26, 2007, published a final regulation permitting the coordination of employer-provided retiree health benefits with Medicare and comparable state programs. . . . On January 14, 2008, the Internal Revenue Service will publish additional guidance under Code section 152(d)(1) defining a 'qualifying relative.'" (Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP)

Complaint Need Not Identify Specific Funds for Imposition of Constructive Trust
Excerpt: "In this dispute over ESOP funds, an interesting issue arose that may have broader applicability in the subrogation and reimbursement context. To impose a constructive trust over funds pursuant to ERISA Section 502(a)(3), Great West Life & Annuity Ins. Co., 534 U.S. 204, 213-14 (2002) requires that the particular funds or property upon which a constructive trust is to be imposed must be identified and traceable. But must the complaint identify the traceable funds, or may that await discovery in the litigation?" (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

TPA Ordered to Assimilate Claims Data Demanded by Employer at TPA's Expense
Excerpt: "The plaintiffs alleged that its third party administrator, BeneFirst, mishandled their employees' medical claims by failing to determine eligibility for payment, the availability of co-payment and co-insurance, and subrogation. The processing of the claim forms was presumably the mechanism for making these determinations. While the Amended Complaint and subsequent pleadings are silent, the relevant time period appears to be from 2001 to 2004." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Chart: Medical Care Benefits for Lower and Higher Wage Workers
Excerpt: "Three different rates are calculated to measure health insurance benefits: the access rate, the participation rate, and the take-up rate." (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

(d) Trends, Surveys, Research

Working Paper: Parental Leave Policies and Parents' Employment and Leave-Taking
Excerpt: "Our main finding is that leave expansions have increased the amount of time that new mothers and fathers spend on leave, with effects that are small in absolute terms but large relative to the baseline for men and much greater for college-educated women than for their counterparts with less schooling." (National Bureau of Economic Research)

Tools To Help Consumers Compare Health Care Services' Cost, Quality Have Little Impact on Market
Excerpt: "The Oregonian . . . examined whether releasing information on the costs and quality of health care will 'compel patients to act more like thrift-minded consumers whose clout will restrain price inflation and boost service quality.'" (Kaiser Family Foundation)

(e) Policy, Opinion, Advocacy

(None today.)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Cost of Production Not Reason for TPA Firm to Not Produce Documents
Excerpt: "Even though the Court found no rational basis for the TPA firm's storage system, and it found that retrieving records from that system was burdensome, the Court still ordered the TPA firm to produce the electronically stored records. With the TPA firm now retrieving those records pursuant to a Court order, it probably wishes that their electronic storage system was more rational and less burdensome." (Pension Protection Act Blog)

Reminder: January 31 Deadline for Information Statements for Incentive Stock Options and ESPPs (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "Section 6039 of the Internal Revenue Code requires that corporations provide a written statement to each current and former employee who receives stock pursuant to the exercise of an incentive stock option or who transfers for the first time stock received under an employee stock purchase plan (ESPP). The statement must be provided by January 31 of the year following the calendar year in which the stock transfer was made. The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 amended section 6039 to further require corporations to file an expanded information return with the Internal Revenue Service." (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP)

Survey Finds Firms Will Retain Their Executive Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit Plans
Excerpt: "A majority of employers have no intention of terminating their non-qualified executive retirement plans due to final Internal Revenue Code rules governing these arrangements, according to a survey released by Buck Consultants." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Consumer Advocates to CA Legislative Analyst: Consider Massachusetts Financial Meltdown in Review of Health Care Legislation
Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights

The LoneStart Wellness Initiative Pioneers a Powerful New Trend in Employee Wellness: It's Called Personal Responsibility
LoneStart


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for Schloss & Co., a BenefitStreet company
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Employee Benefits Counsel
for Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.
in CT, DC, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT




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