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January 18, 2008

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

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[Guidance Overview] Massachusetts DOR Guidance Regarding Dependent Group Health Insurance Coverage
Excerpt: "In Technical Information Release 07-16 ('TIR 07-16'), the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) provided helpful guidance on 'imputed income' resulting from group health insurance coverage of dependents under the expanded dependent coverage requirement of the Massachusetts health care reform act (the 'Act')." (Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.)

[Guidance Overview] Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007
Excerpt: "This Capital Checkup summarizes the new MSP data-reporting requirements." (The Segal Group, Inc.)

Presidential Candidates and Their Health Care
Excerpt: "Health care is a key issue for most Americans this campaign. In fact, some surveys show that it ranks as a more important issue that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So after we received an e-mail from a listener about what kind of health care the candidates themselves had, NPR's Julie Rovner decided to find out." (National Public Radio)

Account-Based Health Plans: What Works — and Why (PDF)
22 pages. Excerpt: "[We compared the results of an employer study] with a comprehensive survey completed earlier . . . on the attitudes and perceptions of 1,000 randomly selected employees of large to midsize companies -- half enrolled in ABHPs and half participating in a traditional plan though offered an ABHP alternative. The aggregate findings of the two research efforts offer the most comprehensive examination of perceptions about, and practices around, ABHPs available today." (Towers Perrin)

Towers Perrin 2008 Health Care Cost Survey (PDF)
32 pages. Excerpt: "Health care costs for U.S. employers will increase by 6% in 2008, according to the Towers Perrin 2008 Health Care Cost Survey. Although this increase is lower than rates we've seen in recent years, it's still greater than overall CPI or wage increases. In dollar terms, gross health care expenditure will rise by an average of $526 per employee, to an average total cost of $9,144." (Towers Perrin)

Eleventh Circuit Holds Conservator Proper Defendant In ERISA Health Plan Subrogation Litigation
Excerpt: "The Eleventh Circuit answered a question left open by the U.S. Supreme Court in Great-West Life & Annuity Ins. Co. v. Knudson, 534 U.S. 204 (2002). In that case, because the plan had not sued the trustee of the special needs trust, an issue remained open, at least in the opinion of some observers, as to whether the plan would have succeeded in the case were the trustee to have been included as a defendant." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

The 2008 Presidential Candidates on Health Care Reform, Updated Jan. 14, 2008 (PDF)
11 pages. Excerpt: "While it is still early in the campaign process and plan details are incomplete for most candidates, these summaries provide a snapshot of the candidates and their blueprint for reform. Our intent is to be thorough and accurate in compiling what they have said or indicated they want to do." (Council for Affordable Health Insurance)

California Hospitals Charge 'Whatever the Market Will Bear,' Study Finds
Excerpt: "The prices that California hospitals charge private insurers and patients vary dramatically - even after factors like the number of uninsured and the severity of illnesses are considered, according to a study . . . ." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Treatments for Obesity Usually Aren't Covered
Excerpt: "The insurance industry says carte-blanche coverage [of weight-loss surgery] is not justified because of concerns about safety and long-term effectiveness. But advocates for the obese blame prejudice and outdated views of the risks involved for hindering patients." (The Orlando Sentinel via Capital Newspapers)

Negative Studies of Depression Meds Remain Unpublished
Excerpt: "Industry-sponsored studies of antidepressants that come up with positive results are more likely to be published than those that come up with negative results, says a paper in this week's New England Journal of Medicine." (The Wall Street Journal)

No Smoking: Companies Get Tough As Insurance Costs Rise
Excerpt: "Bans aren't the only anti-smoking weapons available to employers. With irrefutable evidence that smokers as a group have higher health costs, more employers are considering the idea of charging higher health-insurance premiums to their workers who smoke.' (The Orlando Sentinel via The Columbia Daily Tribune)

Aetna Shows How Insurers Can Protect Genetic Privacy
Excerpt: "Aetna, one of the nation's largest health insurers, has begun offering confidential genetic counseling for certain cancers over the phone and through the Internet. The service is available only to members whose coverage includes in-person genetic counseling, but the program could greatly expand patients' access to their genetic history." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Opinion] Letters: Comparing Europe's Social Safety Net to America's
Excerpt: "Millions of Americans are scraping to save the amount they will need for retirement beyond Social Security, but the European retirement system is much more generous. Many Americans pay extra for child care, or self-finance their own sick leave or parental leave after a birth, but Europeans receive all of these (and more) from their taxes. When all these differences are added up, it turns out that many Americans are paying out as much as Europeans -- we just receive a lot less for our money. The 'overtaxed European' is another stereotype used to scare Americans away from the European model, so it's unfortunate that Mr. Krugman reinforced that stereotype." (The New York Times; free registration required)

[Guidance Overview] New Leaves of Absence Required in Quebec, Can.ada
Excerpt: "Quebec employers will be required to grant unpaid leave to workers who have suffered specific tragedies, such as the murder or suicide of a spouse or child, under regulations that came into force on December 18, 2007." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

Supreme Court May Rule on Legality of FMLA Waivers
Excerpt: "This week, the U.S. Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to comment on a Fourth Circuit decision precluding employees from waiving their Family & Medical Leave Act rights without Labor Department supervision. A petition has been filed for review of the decision and the fact that the Court's request is a sign that review has a strong chance of being granted." (HR Policy Association)

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

U.S. Department of Labor Obtains Order Requiring Restoration of More Than $500,000 to Georgia Plumbers Trade Association Health Plan
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Gender Plays Strong Role in Receiving Annuity, Pension Income
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

IFEBP Announces Next Certificate in Financial Planning Management
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

New Center for Excellence Brief Asks: Why Have Some States Introduced Defined Contribution Plans?
Center for State and Local Government Excellence

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Qualified Plan Administrator
for Bentley Employee Benefits Group, LLC
in RI

Benefits Processing Center Supervisor
for Milliman, Inc.
in TX

Manager, Employee Benefits Programs
for Port Authority of NY & NJ
in NY

Director of Benefits Administration- Senior Management
for Los Angeles Unified School District
in CA

Sales Support/Implementation Specialist
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in NJ

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