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January 8, 2008

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


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(a) New Guidance Documents

(None today.)

(b) News

Retiree Health Care Cost Crisis Brewing in State of California
Excerpt: "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger received more bad fiscal news [yesterday] as a commission he appointed said California needed to immediately set aside $1.2 billion to pay for lifetime healthcare promised to state employees." (Los Angeles Times)

Tougher COLI Restrictions Explored
Excerpt: "Corporate-owned life insurance would face new restrictions under a bill sitting in a House subcommittee." (Investment News; free registration required)

(c) Summaries of Guidance; Filed Comments

Overview: EEOC Issues Final Regulations Allowing Employers to Coordinate Retiree Health Benefits with Medicare Eligibility
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: As the EEOC noted, most employers aren't legally obligated to provide retiree health benefits, and many don't offer them at all. However, employers who do offer such benefits (and their advisors) will likely welcome the final regulations, which are intended to help employers create, adopt, and maintain a wide range of retiree health plan designs, such as Medicare bridge plans and Medicare wrap-around plans. Employers are now free to supplement a retiree's Medicare coverage without having to demonstrate under the ADEA that the coverage is identical to the health coverage of non-Medicare eligible retirees or that the cost of the coverage was the same." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

IRS Approves Physicals, Body Scans and Pregnancy Tests as Medical Expenses
Excerpt: "IRS added three types of expenses to the approved list of medical expenses when it issued Revenue Ruling 2007-72 in December. Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code broadly defines medical expenses for the purposes of the medical expense tax deduction and for reimbursement under a Health FSA, Health Reimbursement Arrangement or a Health Savings Account." (Infinisource)

New Medicare Secondary Payer Reporting Requirement for Group Health Plan Insurers, TPAs, Plan Administrators, and Fiduciaries
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: Group health plans and their insurers, TPAs, plan administrators and fiduciaries likely won't be overjoyed about this new MSP reporting mandate, especially with the specter of large fines if reports aren't filed or are filed incorrectly or late. However, the requirement won't be in effect until January 2009. And it is too early to know how onerous the new reporting requirements will be until HHS announces what information it will require in the reports and how often reports must be submitted." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

(d) Trends, Surveys, Research

Will More Data Create Health Care Shoppers?
Excerpt: "Employers and other big purchasers of health care expect much from an injection of consumerism into the market for health services. But even the most ardent advocates acknowledge that consumer-directed health care still has far to go before delivering its hoped-for results." (Oregon Live LLC)

Investors Seize on Tax Advantages of HSAs
Excerpt: "Health savings accounts were touted as a way of making health care more affordable for American families when they were launched four years ago. But some of the accounts' biggest beneficiaries are proving to be well-to-do investors looking for another way to fund their retirement savings." (The Wall Street Journal)

Survey Shows Consumers Want Health Care Pricing Data
Excerpt: "An unusual consumer survey by The Regence Group has strengthened the health insurer's conviction that people care about health care prices and quality, and that patients will shop like consumers if they're given the information they need to do so." (Portland Business Journal via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Japanese Firm Offers New Employee Benefit for Pet Owners
Excerpt: "One thing Kyoritsu Seiyaku is not yet ready to do - allow its employees to take paid leave to grieve when their pets pass away. 'For now, we have introduced only the allowances, but we want to consider the condolence holiday system in future,' a company spokeswoman said, according to Reuters.' (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

(e) Policy, Opinion, Advocacy

Exposure Draft of Medicare Part D Accounting Practice Note (PDF)
39 pages. Excerpt: "This Practice Note was prepared by the Medicare Part D Accounting Practice Note Subgroup of the Health Practice Financial Reporting Committee of the American Academy of Actuaries. The subgroup was charged with developing a description of some of the current practices used by U.S. health actuaries in 2007 with respect to work involving valuation, accounting, and financial reporting for Medicare Part D products." (American Academy of Actuaries)

Health Insurance: Denying Care or Denying Payment?
Overview and comments on an op-ed, a Blue Cross response, and an article on costs and insurance plan design. (Physicians for a National Health Program)

Improved Childcare Policies Needed to Achieve Better Work/Life Balance, Says OECD
Excerpt: "Getting family-friendly policies right will help reduce poverty, promote child development, enhance equity between men and women and stem the fall in birth-rates, according to a new OECD report. Babies and Bosses, Reconciling Work and Family Life compares the different approaches that the 30 OECD countries take to help parents balance their work and family commitments." (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)

Health Insurance Advisers Need to Play Role in the Coming Health Care Reform Debate to Defend the Industry
Excerpt: "Although they recognize it as a critical issue, 'a lot of the agents are not paying attention as nearly every candidate's position moves toward the provision of health care more under governmental programs and standards than having an agent take care of the insurance or the sale of the insurance,' . . . ." (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)

Businesses Warm to Idea of Universal Health Care
Excerpt: "'Health care, and how to pay for it, is the No. 1 issue for our members,' said Mark Amodeo, director of government affairs for the Business Council of New York State. 'It's an issue that impacts New York's economic growth and its competitiveness.' Businesses are starting to see the merits of 'universal health care,' an idea that has been around since the 1940s but has gained traction in recent years and now is a hot topic at both the state and national levels." (The Business Review (Albany) via bizjournals.com; free registration required)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

2008 Reporting & Disclosure Calendar for Single-Employer Benefit Plans
Excerpt: "Sibson Consulting's 2008 Reporting & Disclosure Calendar for Benefit Plans summarizes compliance requirements for qualified, single employer benefit plans. To see a brief description of each requirement and information about such details as the plan(s) affected, filing requirements and due dates, click on any item listed [in the target page]." (Sibson Consulting)

2008 Reporting & Disclosure Calendar for Multiemployer Plans
Excerpt: "The Segal Company's 2008 Reporting & Disclosure Calendar for Multiemployer Plans summarizes compliance requirements for multiemployer plans. To see a brief description of each requirement and information about such details as the plan(s) affected, filing requirements and due dates, click on any item listed [in the target page]." (The Segal Group, Inc.)

Overview: SEC Issues Extension for Using Simplified Method to Calculate Employee Stock Option Expense (PDF)
1 page. Excerpt: "SAB 107 allows for the use of the simplified method until December 31, 2007, at which time it was expected companies would have adequate historical information available to them to calculate a reliable expected option term. The SEC understands that this historical data may not yet be readily available and on December 21, 2007, the SEC issued SAB 110 which extends the timeframe eligible companies will have to use the simplified method on an interim basis. Once detailed information on exercise terms becomes readily available, the SEC will suspend use of the method and will require companies to estimate the expected term of an option using historical data." (Frederic R. Cook)

Funding Pensions and Retiree Health Care for California Public Employees (PDF)
332 pages. Excerpt: "[The mission of the Commission was to] send a report to the Governor and Legislature that: Identifies the full amount of post-employment health care and dental benefits for which California governments are liable and which remain unfunded. Evaluates and compares various approaches for addressing governments' unfunded retirement health care and pension obligations. Proposes a plan to address governments' unfunded retirement health care and pension obligations." (Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission)

In Australia, Terminally Ill Employees Allowed to Access Retirement Benefits Tax Free
Excerpt: "A number of regulatory changes made in late 2007 are prompting trustees to take another look at their retirement plans, including a new rule that allows terminally ill employees to receive lump sum payments from their superannuation accounts tax free." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

'Say on Pay' Effort Stalls in Congress
Excerpt: "The House-passed bill that would let shareholders weigh in on executive compensation packages continues to sit in the Senate Banking Committee. HR 1257 would require public companies to include a non-binding advisory shareholder vote in annual proxies so shareholders can express approval or disapproval for executive pay plans. Its Senate companion, S 1181, was introduced the day the House bill passed last April." (Investment News; free registration required)

Overview: Tax Exempt Organizations Should Begin Assessing Redesigned Form 990
Excerpt: "The final Form 990 requires exempt organizations to report information in a number of areas not addressed by the current form. It also requires greater detail than the current form in certain areas." (Faegre & Benson LLP)

Law Review Article: Has Congress Stopped Executives from Raiding the Bank? A Critical Analysis of I.R.C. §409A
Excerpt: "This paper focuses on how §409A began largely as a reaction to the sizeable distributions to Enron executives from their nonqualified deferred compensation accounts shortly before Enron's collapse. The paper discusses how §409A represents a major shift in nonqualified deferred compensation planning but does little to remedy the exact problem at Enron that gave rise to §409A." (Social Science Research Network)

In Australia, Terminally Ill Employees Allowed to Access Retirement Benefits Tax Free - linked by BenefitsLink.com
Excerpt: "A number of regulatory changes made in late 2007 are prompting trustees to take another look at their retirement plans, including a new rule that allows terminally ill employees to receive lump sum payments from their superannuation accounts tax free." (authored by Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

An Industry In Transition
in Arizona on October 13, 2008
presented by Center for Due Diligence

Effective and Legal Management of Independent Contractors
Nationwide on January 23, 2008
presented by Thompson Interactive, A Division of Thompson Publishing Group

Facing The Challenges Of The Aging Workforce: An Ongoing Review - Webcast
Nationwide on January 9, 2008
presented by Ernst & Young, LLP

Protect Your Organization from Caregiver Discrimination Claims
Nationwide on January 29, 2008
presented by Thompson Interactive, A Division of Thompson Publishing Group

Troubleshooting Plan Loan Programs
Nationwide on January 30, 2008
presented by Thompson Interactive, A Division of Thompson Publishing Group

Wellness Programs-What Works, What Doesn't, and What Are Your Responsibilities
Nationwide on January 24, 2008
presented by Thompson Interactive, A Division of Thompson Publishing Group


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Sandell Grant Program in Retirement Research Deadline Reminder
Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

Veteran Fidelity Executive Joins CAPTRUST Financial Advisors
CAPTRUST Financial Advisors

Bi-Partisan Benefits Commission Announces Comprehensive Plan To Address Pension and Retiree Health Care Obligations
California Public Employee Post-Employment Benefits Commission


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