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January 11, 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

Deere Retirees Move Forward in Benefits Fight
Excerpt: "A group of Deere & Co. retirees trying to halt a controversial change in its health care benefits is moving its dispute with the Moline-based manufacturer closer to a higher court -- retaining a law firm that specializes in employment law. After months of lobbying their former employer to rescind or delay implementing the new benefits program, which took effect Jan. 1, the Flex Retirees Organization, or FRO, said Thursday that it has hired the Phoenix-based law firm of Martin & Bonnett to represent the retirees' organization." (The Quad-City Times)

Congress Opts to Postpone Efforts on Health Care Reform Legislation
Excerpt: "Faced with a January 1, 2008 effective date for several controversial changes in Federally-governed healthcare, and strong opposition from the Bush Administration to proposed reforms, Congress chose to delay its efforts and instead passed a temporary patch to buy time until later in 2008 on Medicare reimbursement rates and several other health reform issues, including SCHIP. However, all of the contentious disputes that prevented a decision on these reform initiatives have not been resolved, only postponed." (National Council on Teacher Retirement)

(c) Summaries of Guidance; Filed Comments

Overview: EEOC Issues Final ADEA Exemption for Coordinating Retiree Medical Benefits with Medicare
Excerpt: "The exemption is narrow. For example, it does not provide ADEA relief for employers that attempt to coordinate any other employment-related benefits with Medicare eligibility. Additionally, it does not apply to health benefits for active employees. These employees are protected by the Medicare Secondary Payer Act, which specifically prohibits employers from providing different health benefits to active employees who are Medicare eligible." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)

Overview: Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Allows San Francisco's Health Care Security Ordinance to Take Effect (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "The HCSO allows covered employers to select among various options in order to make the required health care expenditures for each calendar quarter on behalf of their covered employees. One option is the 'government payment option,' which allows covered employers to make a payment to the City no later 30 days after the end of each calendar quarter. This means that covered employers may be required to make at least one quarterly payment on behalf of their covered employees in the event that the Ninth Circuit has not issued its opinion on the City's appeal of the district court's order before April 30, 2008." (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP)

Court Affirms Denial of AD&D Benefits Due to Participant Drug Use
Excerpt: "The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has affirmed an accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) plan administrator's decision to deny benefits to the spouse of a woman killed in a car accident who was found to have illegal drugs in her system." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Overview: New Guidance Affecting Health Plans Offering Wellness Programs (PDF)
Excerpt: "As noted in the Bulletin, under the new DOL guidance, some wellness programs would fail the test for supplemental excepted benefits under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): those that offer an insured deductible-reimbursement program that reimburses individuals based on whether they meet a health status measure, such as blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol and non-tobacco use." (The Segal Group, Inc.)

(d) Trends, Surveys, Research

Supreme Court Case Could Expose Employers to More Age Bias Trials
Excerpt: "The central issue in the case for employers is whether the Supreme Court will affirm an appeals court decision and 'blur' the distinction between ADEA and the Title 7 federal discrimination statute." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Increase in Business Travel, Global Unrest Leads Workers to Seek Employer Protection Abroad
Excerpt: "An increasing number of Americans are realizing the benefit of global emergency services, which provide a safeguard in the event of a serious medical situation, accident or other incidents that occur while traveling for business or personal reasons." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Workplace Is Perfect for Aligning Wellness with '08 Resolutions
Excerpt: "Americans like to make New Year's resolutions, hoping to lose weight or quit smoking. For employers, January is the perfect time to revive communication programs on wellness initiatives." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Employers Will Spend $175 Million Under Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act
Excerpt: "From Spencer's Benefits Reports: Massachusetts employers will spend an estimated $175 million more per year for health insurance under the state's health care reform law, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a nonprofit research organization. According to the report, An Analysis of the Essential Role of Employers in Massachusetts Health Care Reform, the increase includes $150 million as more employees accept coverage and $24 million for employers to raise the level of prescription drug benefits offered to employees." (Wolters Kluwer Financial Services)

Recent Trends in Shift Work and Flexible Schedules (PDF)
13 pages. Excerpt: "The traditional work schedule for an American employee has long been 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, an examination of data from the Work Schedules and Work at Home survey, a special supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted in May 2004, reveals that substantial proportions of workers' schedules do not fit this paradigm." (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Insurers Considering Changes to Coverage for Genetic Testing and Related Patient Counseling Services
Excerpt: "The increasing availability and growing clinical role for genetic tests and related counseling services is pushing health insurers to fine-tune clinical coverage policies." (Health Plan Week via AISHealth.com)

Health Care Eligibility Audits Have Jumped in Popularity Among Employers
Excerpt: "On average, employers doing audits find that 5% to 10% of dependents enrolled are not actually eligible for coverage . . . . 'At a couple thousand dollars each, just for the medical plan, that is a lot of money,' . . . ." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Adoption Benefits Find a Home in Corporate America
Excerpt: "While the medical bills from childbirth have long been covered by corporate health plans, it wasn't long ago that employees who chose to adopt children were pretty much on their own in terms of coping with the cost. But today, companies that do offer adoption benefits are rapidly becoming the rule rather than the exception." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

U.S. Has Highest Rate of Preventable Deaths Among Industrialized Nations
Excerpt: "The U.S. has the highest rate of preventable deaths among 19 industrialized nations, and although the U.S. rate has declined over the past five years, it is doing so at a slower rate than other countries, according to a London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analysis published on Thursday in the journal Health Affairs, Bloomberg News reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Using Patient Advocacy Programs to Help Fill the Gaps in a Porous Medical System
Excerpt: "After some initial resistance, the employees of Hess Print Solutions, which hired a patient advocacy company to help improve care and reduce cost, embraced the idea of getting help in negotiating a health care maze that can be full of dead ends. But, as the company learned, advocacy can't resolve every health issue." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

From Incentives to Penalties: How Far Should Employers Go to Reduce Workplace Obesity?
Excerpt: "[Some employers] are trying to push employees into healthy lifestyles, including reducing obesity, a condition estimated to cost U.S. companies $13 billion per year, according to the Washington D.C.-based National Business Group on Health. But using incentives, and in some cases penalties, to change employee behavior raises a host of legal, moral and practical questions, according to Wharton experts and others. " (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania)

(e) Policy, Opinion, Advocacy

Opinion: The Newest Last-Place Finish for U.S. Health Care
Excerpt: "Many people like to say that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world. But recent numbers from the Commonwealth Fund should put a stop to this cycle: the U.S. health care system places last in the world when it comes to stopping preventable deaths. In other words, we spend more but accomplish less -- does that sound like success to you?" (The Century Foundation)

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Outlines Health Care Agenda for 2008
Excerpt: "Donohue declined to address the health care proposals of any of the presidential candidates specifically. However, he said that, although 'some believe the answer to these challenges is Washington-run health care,' such a proposal 'is not the answer' supported by the chamber (Nylen, CQ HealthBeat, 1/8)." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Longer Life Expectancies Have Consequences for HR and Benefits Managers
Excerpt: "Why does this matter for human resource executives? Think about your own plans: Will you actually want to retire around 65 if you are going to be healthy and active for another 20 years? And think about the effects on the overall labor force. Shoven calculates that if the additional years of life expectancy are added to the working life of men who would normally retire at 65, the size of the entire labor force in the United States will grow by an additional 10 percent between now and 2050. Still worried about that coming labor shortage?" (Human Resource Executive Online; free registration required)

Rosenberg on the Three Rules of the Tripartite Insurance Coverage Relationship
Excerpt: "Also to be considered in this conflict of interests area is the inherently conflicted state of dual role fiduciaries of employee benefit plan who must work simultaneously in the best interests of plan participants and the corporation and its shareholders." (Workplace Prof Blog)

The Elusive ERISA Standard of Review -- Conflicts, Metaphors & Reversals
Excerpt: "In a case notable for medical evidence of 'cross cutting ambiguity', the Fourth Circuit held that the district court judge failed to appreciate the requirements of the abuse of discretion standard. This case is but one of a number of recent cases that illustrate the practical difficulties that attend the Supreme Court's standard of review analysis presented in Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bruch, 489 U.S. 101, 115 (1989)." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Vets Miss Out on Benefits, Liaisons Say
Excerpt: "Many veterans never receive the federal and state benefits to which they're entitled because they're unaware they qualify for health care, tax breaks and other compensation, local liaisons to former troops say." (USA TODAY)

Beware Calendar Cash: The Feds Look Into Stock Option Backdating Schemes
Excerpt: "This article focuses on the general treatment of stock options under federal income tax rules, tax issues involving backdated stock options, and strategies for complying with IRS inquiries during tax examinations." (Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

An Absence Management Toolkit for Supervisors: A Grass Roots Approach
in Illinois on January 24, 2008
presented by WEB - Chicago West

Dependent Care Assistance Programs in Cafeteria Plans: Your Checklist for What Expenses Are Reimbursable in 2008
Nationwide on January 31, 2008
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)/Thomson Tax & Accounting

January Web Seminar: Retirement Plans Legislative Update
Nationwide on January 24, 2008
presented by TRI-AD

Section 409A Compliance and Proxy Statements, Two-part Webcast
Nationwide on February 4, 2008
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

ASPPA Announces 401(k) Leadership Award Finalists
ASPPA (American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries)

Watson Wyatt Data Services' Newest Report Covers Latest Trends in Board of Directors Compensation Policies & Practices
Watson Wyatt

Fidelity Finds Some Tax-Exempt Sector Workers Contributing More Toward Retirement Plans, But Personal Debt Impacting Savings Progress Of Many
Fidelity Investments

On the Job, But Out of It? CCH Survey Looks At Ill Effects of Sick Employees At Work
Wolters Kluwer Law & Business

Nurses Unveil New Advertising Campaign Against Schwarzenegger-Nunez "Individual Mandate" Plan
California Nurses Association


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