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January 16, 2008

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


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Complete Benefits Law Guidance from Law Journal Press

The nation's workforce and health care system are constantly evolving and so are the legal issues. Law Journal Press helps you handle any benefits law question with up-to-date, authoritative books on all aspects of the field. Get legal and practical advice from leading experts on everything from COBRA to ERISA, "contingent" employees to family and medical leave, and more. Browse our product listings for detailed information and special offers.

(a) New Guidance Documents

(None today.)

(b) News

(None today.)

(c) Summaries of Guidance; Filed Comments

Overview of Post-Retirement Health Care Cost Accounting
Excerpt: "Faced with FASB's new rules, most employers either terminated or sharply curtailed their post-retirement medical plans. They had to, since even those that could fund the coverage couldn't afford to carry the expense. In the end, FASB's rules killed off the plans they set out to protect. In fact, the only major group of workers today with ready access to retiree coverage is governmental employees. That's because governments haven't been subject to these accounting standards. Until now." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

How to Comply with San Francisco's Health Care Security Ordinance (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "The Ordinance requires all large (100 or more employees) and medium-size (20-99 employees) employers to make a quarterly Health Care Expenditure to or on behalf of each one of its employees who: (1) work in San Francisco; (2) have been employed for at least ninety days; and (3) work at least ten hours per week." (Winston & Strawn LLP)

(d) Trends, Surveys, Research

Employees Take Advantage of Wellness Resources -- When They're Available
Excerpt: "Only one in seven workers have access to educational wellness tools and fitness center discounts, reports the Principal Financial Well-Being Index." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Small Businesses May Want to Revisit the Idea of Offering Health Insurance
Excerpt: "Insurers are offering more varied plans that include less-expensive options. Nonprofit groups and legislators have paved the way for small companies to band together in purchasing cooperatives to get lower rates. A handful of states now offer subsidies and credits to small businesses that offer health insurance -- and others have begun levying fines on those that don't." (The Wall Street Journal)

Sick-Leave Mandates Make Businesses Queasy
Excerpt: "The D.C. bill is part of a growing national movement to push for universal sick-leave laws, which advocates say is necessary to provide job protection for the estimated 70 million American workers who currently lack sick time benefits." (CNNMoney.com)

Audio: Pet Insurance Increasingly Popular Work Benefit
Excerpt: "The nation's largest pet insurer says more and more corporations are signing up for pet insurance. Comcast and Home Depot are among thousands of companies which now offer insurance for their employees' dogs, cats and birds." (The Morning Edition via National Public Radio)

Wellness Programs May Face Legal Tests
Excerpt: "When it comes to health plans that penalize unhealthy workers, the Department of Labor has drawn a line in the sand. Regulatory guidelines recently issued by the department are likely to curtail the ability of employers to motivate workers to kick unhealthy habits. In effect, the guidelines close a legal loophole that could have allowed employers to make health insurance more expensive for unhealthy workers than for their colleagues." (The Wall Street Journal)

Employers Can See Guaranteed ROI from Onsite Health Clinics
Excerpt: "Jeff Sholvin, vice president of benefits for Harrah's Entertainment, which has five onsite clinics across their campuses, marvels at how the clinics have helped control costs, keeping the company's annual inflation hovering around 3%. 'I can take that to the bank,' he says. 'You talk about predictability - that's what the clinics provide to me.'" (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Flexible Work Arrangements Keep Employees Happy, According to Survey
Excerpt: "A news release from LifeCare, a specialty care service provider, reported that its poll found 49% claimed flex arrangements/part-time work are most critical to their being happy and productive at work." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Health Benefits Paramount for Workers When Choosing an Employer
Excerpt: "Employers contemplating cutting back on medical benefits might want to mull this: A new survey shows that workers place an extremely high value on health care coverage. In fact, according to a survey of 1,200 adults sponsored by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, 84 percent of the respondents said that health insurance has become a 'very important' characteristic when choosing a new job." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

(e) Policy, Opinion, Advocacy

Employer Support Needed to Increase Awareness of Cervical Cancer Vaccinations
Excerpt: "[E]mployers are not doing all they can to educate employees about the HPV, cervical cancer and the vaccine that can prevent them, health experts contend. The issue isn't necessarily one of coverage. Nearly all health plans cover routine Pap screenings, and a high number of insurers cover Gardasil injections. But there remains a gap in communications and compliance, according to health pros." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Featured Podcast: 'Five Minutes With...' Health Care Advocate Betty Long
Excerpt: "This week, hear Associate Editor Chris Silva talk with Betty Long, president of the Pennsylvania-based health care advocacy firm Guardian Nurses. Long gives an overview on patient advocacy and the benefit it provides to employers and employees." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

The 2008 Presidential Candidates' Health Reform Proposals
58 pages. Excerpt: "This report analyzes the health care proposals of eight Democratic and Republican 2008 presidential candidates -- Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudolph Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Dennis Kucinich, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney." (The Commonwealth Fund)

States Waiting for California to Set Health Care Reform Trend
Excerpt: "If a California plan passes, elected officials in other states can be expected to jump into the fray. Mohit Ghose, senior vice president of public affairs at America's Health Insurance Plans, estimated that more than two dozen states may consider significant health-care legislation this year. Mississippi and Indiana recently announced proposals to cover uninsured residents." (BestWeek)

Opinion: The Cost of Health Benefits Puts U.S. Retirees in Fix
Excerpt: "Diminished or withdrawn health benefits represent broken implicit or explicit promises. The federal government acts as if Medicare is sufficient insurance coverage. It is becoming less sufficient every year." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Financial Burden of Health Care, 2001-2004
Excerpt: "In the first part of this decade, health care costs continued to increase at rates far above general inflation, and employers increasingly shifted these higher costs to workers in the form of higher out-of-pocket payments for premiums, deductibles, and copayments. Adding to the pressure on families was slower economic growth during 2001-2004, which resulted in increases in poverty rates and the number of uninsured people." (Health Affairs via Physicians for a National Health Program)

Opinion: California's ABX1 1 -- Universal Health Insurance Without Health Care
Excerpt: "The 'Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act', also known as ABX1 1, and described by New York Times reporter Kevin Sack as a 'bipartisan blueprint' conceived by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez to bring 'near-universal coverage to the country's most populous state', will neither provide health care security nor reduce costs of medical care. This article explains why." (Indybay.org/news via Physicians for a National Health Program)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Age Affects Benefits Satisfaction
Excerpt: "To help HR departments attract younger workers and retain older ones, The Segal Company conducted workplace research to better understand what motivates government employees. The study focuses on employees' attitudes and opinions about pay, benefits and job satisfaction. More than 1,900 public-sector employees participated in the survey." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Recently Published Scholarship: Employee Benefits Law Symposium
A listing of the articles in The John Marshall Law Review, Volume 40, Spring 2007, Number 3. (Workplace Prof Blog)

Overview of Practical Considerations for Revised Rule 144 (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "[S]ignificantly, . . . the revisions to Rule 144 shorten the holding period for restricted securities of reporting issuers (companies that are and have been subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for at least 90 days before the proposed Rule 144 sale) to six months for both affiliates and non-affiliates." (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP)

Older Baby Boomers Caught All the Breaks
Excerpt: "In a generation as sprawling as the baby boomers, you're bound to notice some big differences. And the main difference is probably this: The older boomers, exemplified by the 62-year-olds who will start retiring this year, occupy a demographic sweet spot that most younger boomers can't match." (USA TODAY)

Overview: Treasury/IRS Provide Limited Relief for Operational Failures Under Code Section 409A
Excerpt: "This article examines Notice 2007-100 which the Department of Treasury and the IRS published on December 24. Notice 2007-100 provides relief under particular circumstances for certain failures to comply with Internal Revenue Code Section 409A." (JPMorgan)

Employee HR Self-Service in Place Among Nearly All Large Companies
Excerpt: "According to Towers Perrin research on HR service delivery trends, it's fair to say that employee self-service (ESS) has become the primary means of HR service delivery for key benefit applications in most organizations. Specifically, by the end of 2008, 99% of respondents will deliver annual benefit enrollment via ESS. As recently as 2006, only 74% of organizations offered benefit enrollment via ESS." (Towers Perrin)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

2008 - 2nd Wednesday Teleconference Series
Nationwide on February 13, 2008
presented by Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC)

A School for Fiduciaries
in Georgia on January 23, 2008
presented by Southern Employee Benefits Conference

Advanced Cafeteria Plans Conference 2008
in Massachusetts on July 16, 2008
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)/Thomson Tax & Accounting

HIPAA and Other Health Benefits Laws Compliance Assistance Seminar - Free
in Texas on February 27, 2008
presented by U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Offering Health Care Through Individual Policy Arrangements (HRAs and Premium Reimbursement Accounts) - Webcast
Nationwide on February 13, 2008
presented by Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC)

Update on Domestic Partner HR and Benefits Issues - Webcast
Nationwide on January 17, 2008
presented by West LegalEdcenter


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

International Foundation Announces 2008 Executive Committee
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

AHRQ Releases Consumer Financial Incentives Guide for Employers and Other Health Care Purchasers
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality


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