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January 10, 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

IRS Publication 15-B, Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits, for use in 2008 (PDF)
28 pages. The guide covers all kinds of benefits, including adoption assistance, cafeteria plans, health savings accounts, employee discounts, meals, and retirement planning services. (Internal Revenue Service)

(b) News

Appeals Court Allows San Francisco to Enforce Health Care Law
Excerpt: "A federal appeals court gave San Francisco the green light [yesterday] to require employers to help pay for health care for uninsured workers and residents, and it signaled that it is likely to uphold the city's groundbreaking universal coverage law." (San Francisco Chronicle)

9th Circuit's Stay Lets San Francisco Force Employers to Fund Health Care
Excerpt: "A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel gave San Francisco the green light [yesterday] to enforce its new employer-funded health care program, staying a district court's ruling that the ordinance is pre-empted by federal law." (Law.com)

Link to 'Healthy San Francisco' Web Site for City's Health Access Program
Excerpt: "Implementation of the San Francisco Health Care Security Ordinance (HCSO) will begin January 16, 2008. . . . [From the site's City Option page:] One of the ways you can comply with the Health Care Security Ordinance is by making payments to the City Option. The City Option allows you to deposit money with the City on behalf of your employees that will be used to fund health care for your employees. Your employees will be given either Healthy San Francisco or a Medical Reimbursement Account, based on the information you provide." (Healthy San Francisco)

(c) Summaries of Guidance; Filed Comments

Group Life Benefits Waiting Period Could Not Be Imposed Retroactively As Clerical Error
Excerpt: "From Spencer's Benefits Reports: An insurance company could not deny a beneficiary's claim for group term life insurance benefits under a 180-day waiting period provision that was not included in either the plan document or the summary plan description (SPD). This was the ruling of the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Blackshear v. Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company (No. 06-2126)." (Wolters Kluwer Financial Services)

(d) Trends, Surveys, Research

Value-Based Purchasing Advocates Seek to Debunk High-Deductible Dependency
Excerpt: "Employers don't need a high-deductible feature in order to manage a successful and profitable consumer-driven health plan. In fact, some proponents of CDHPs warn employers that pushing high deductibles could cause workers to make poor decisions and spend unwisely, ultimately costing businesses more money." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Appointed Defense Counsel Has Its Advantages and Disadvantages
Excerpt: "Stephen Rosenberg handily summarizes the ethical duties and potential conflicts of interest that arise when an insurer provides a legal defense in his article, The Three Rules of the Tripartite Relationship." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Chart: Contributing Towards Medical Care Coverage
Excerpt: "Lower wage full-time workers who participate in employer-provided medical care plans are more likely than higher wage participants to be required to contribute toward their plans' premiums." (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

'Health Care Benefits: Eligibility, Coverage and Exclusions' Contains 22 Sample Health Care Policies and Summary Plan Descriptions
Excerpt: "New research from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) has found medical tourism, where an individual travels to another country to seek medical care, is covered by 11% of surveyed organizations." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Smoking Cessation Programs That Include Pharmacology Benefit Reap Rewards for the Health Plan and the Member
Excerpt: "Employees who smoke cost employers an additional $3,000 per year in increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased insurance rates, according to the Center for Health Improvement, a health policy and assistance program. Smokers are absent from work 50 percent more often than nonsmokers, and decreased productivity from tobacco use comes to nearly $82 billion each year . . . ." (Managed Care Magazine)

Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Lowered Out-of-Pocket Costs for Beneficiaries by 17% in 2006, Study Finds
Excerpt: "According to the study, the savings amounted to an additional 14 days of medicine for those who enrolled in the drug benefit, or a 19% increase in prescription drug use. Researchers found that distributed across the pool of all Medicare beneficiaries, the drug benefit decreased out-of-pocket expenses by 13.1%, or $5 per month, and increased prescription use by 5.9%, or by four days of pills." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

(e) Policy, Opinion, Advocacy

Opinion: 401k Fee Disclosure
Excerpt: "[W]hile I certainly applaud the intent, I seriously question whether increased disclosure to plan participants can be meaningful. It will simply be very difficult to provide disclosure that will be more helpful than harmful, to make things clearer rather than more confusing. It is easy to beat the legislative drum and spin sound bites like you know what you are talking about. Delivering on such promises is an entirely different matter." (Jeb Graham via 401khelpcenter.com)

Opinion: The Road to Universal Health Coverage
Excerpt: "The public is ready for universal health insurance, but getting any plan through Congress will still be tricky. To get it enacted after January 2009, Democrats need to start building a movement in support of the big and important reforms universal health insurance requires -- and on which they happen to agree." (Robert B. Reich via The Wall Street Journal)

Opinion: The New Health Insurance Frontier -- The Individual Market
Excerpt: "Given the trajectory of health-care costs and the growing number of uninsured people, it's no surprise that health-care reform is a top agenda item in the 2008 elections. The real surprise is that some of the nation's largest insurers are starting to recognize that selling insurance in a subsidized market might be a good business to be in." (The Wall Street Journal)

Opinion: How Doctors Are Paid Now, and Why It Has to Change
Excerpt: "Despite the growing popularity among health plans of pay-for-performance programs designed to improve quality and increase operating efficiencies, the bulk of most doctors' pay is still based on fee-for-service contracts. Health plans model these rates on Medicare's 15-year-old Resource-Based Relative Value Scale. While the Medicare model has provided a convenient framework for private plan payments, MCOs have devised their own conversion formulas for valuing services." (Managed Care Magazine)

Want to Save on Health Care? Spend on Health Care
Excerpt: "If CFOs are looking for a way to fight ballooning health-care costs, they might actually want to consider one relatively quick fix: spend more money on health care. While it sounds counterintuitive at first, experts in the health-care industry are suggesting that companies that implement wellness programs are now starting to show returns on those investments, specifically in the form of lower health-care costs." (Financial Week; free registration required)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Focus on Employee Benefits, January 9, 2008 (PDF)
3 pages. This edition covers: 213 Expenses; ISO/ESPP Information Reporting; 401(k)/403(b) Contribution Limitations; and, Payroll Tax & Fringe Benefit Pointers -- FICA Tax Triggered upon 'Retirement." (Miller & Chevalier Chartered)

Milliman's Monthly Benefit News and Developments, January 2008 (PDF)
2 pages. The newsletter provides a summary of the previous month's legislative, regulatory, and judicial information on employee benefits. (Milliman)

Overview: IRS's Voluntary Correction Relief for Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans (PDF)
2 pages. (Milliman)

Deloitte Consulting LLP / ISCEBS Top 5 Total Rewards Priorities Survey, 2008
Excerpt: "The ISCEBS and Deloitte Consulting's Human Capital service area are conducting this brief survey to help identify the top five total rewards priorities companies are facing and the actions they have taken, or expect to take within the coming year, relative to these priorities. As a participant, you will receive a complimentary copy of the survey report as soon as it is available. The survey should take less than 15 minutes to complete. . . . Survey responses are due by January 18, 2008." (Deloitte & Touche LLP)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Anxiety Over Early Retirees' Health Coverage
in District of Columbia on January 10, 2008
presented by Center for American Progress

Executive Compensation Issues for Nonprofits - Webcast
Nationwide on January 10, 2008
presented by West LegalEdcenter

Human Capital Value: Connecting Business-Driven HR Strategies to the Bottom Line - Webcast
Nationwide on March 26, 2008
presented by Deloitte

New DOL Service Provider Fee Disclosure Rules: You Must Ask; They Must Tell
Nationwide on February 5, 2008
presented by ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits

Split Dollar Life Insurance Arrangements - Webcast
Nationwide on January 24, 2008
presented by Retirement Capital Group


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Friedman Joins The Segal Company As New Senior Vice President
The Segal Company

Salem, N.H., Employer Agrees To Restore $100,000 To Company Profit-sharing Plan To Resolve U.S. Labor Department Lawsuit
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U.S. Labor Department Sues Fifth Third Bank and Advisor to Operating Engineers Local 324 Pension Fund in Troy, Mich
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

The Entrust Group Has Launched A Health Savings Account (HSA) Product -- The Entrust Self-Directed HSA.
The Entrust Group

Consumer Reports Names 12 Money Blunders That Could Cost You $1 Million
Consumer Reports


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Plan Document Specialist
for Kravitz - Louis Kravitz & Associates
in ANY STATE, CA

OmniPlus Users
for Casco Bay Benefits Group
in ANY STATE

Consultant
for The Segal Company
in IL

Medicare Part D - Compliance Representative
for The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
in VA

401(k) Retirement Plan Administrator
for Medical-Dental Consultants, Inc.
in RI

WRS Market Manager
for Wachovia Securities
in MD

Benefits Manager
for Gerdau Ameristeel
in FL

Benefits Restatement Consultant
for Randstad
in NJ

Manager, Compensation
for Gerdau Ameristeel
in FL

401(k) Plan Administrator
for FranFund, Inc.
in TX

Non Qualified / Financial and Estate Planning Sales Consultant
for Gallagher Retirement Services
in CA, CO, IA, MO, OH, OK, TX, WA

Internal Wholesaler (Sales Specialist)
for Standard Insurance Company
in CA

401(k) Plan Administrator
for IPA Northeast, LLC
in NJ

Retirement Plan Administrator
for Pension Benefit Services (a BenefitStreet Company)
in CA

401(k)/DC Administrator (Junior)
for Columbia Benefits Consultants, Inc.
in MD

CRTFL - Customer Relationship and Operations Manager
for Citi
in FL

Communications Coordinator
for CitiStreet
in MA

Senior Account Executive - Group Employee Benefits
for BWD Group LLC
in PA

Defined Contribution Compliance Specialist-50034735
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA




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