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January 23, 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] January 31 Deadline Looms for Companies with Massachusetts Employees (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Under Massachusetts' 2006 Health Care Reform Act . . ., plan sponsors providing health care coverage for more than 11 employees in Massachusetts locations must comply with certain disclosure and reporting requirements by January 31, 2008. These 'creditable coverage' requirements relate to the 'individual mandate' under the Act." (Seyfarth Shaw LLP)

[Guidance Overview] High Court to Rule on ERISA Plan Benefit Determinations
Excerpt: "The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case involving questions about whether a company that both insures and administers an employee benefit plan has an inherent conflict of interest." (The National Underwriter Company; free registration or paid subscription required)

[Guidance Overview] New Rules Impact Some Wellness Programs
Excerpt: "As the popularity of wellness plans continues to surge, so does the need for additional guidance on the legislation that governs such programs. Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2007-04 (FAB 2007-04) was released in response to the development of questionable wellness programs that were marketed as 'supplemental' benefits." (JPMorgan)

[Guidance Overview] Eleventh Circuit Reverses Lower Court and Holds Subrogation Appropriate Against Funds in Conservator's Account
Excerpt: "In Administrative Committee v. Horton, No. 07-10012, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS (11th Cir. January 15, 2008), the Eleventh Circuit held that an ERISA-covered health plan may use ERISA Section 502(a)(3) 'to recover a specifically identified fund in the possession of a third party, such as a trustee or conservator, by suing the third party directly.'" (Benefit Recovery Inc.)

[Guidance Overview] Cost Estimate of H.R. 971 - Community Pharmacy Fairness Act of 2007 (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "H.R. 971 would create an exemption to antitrust laws for five years to permit independent pharmacies to negotiate collectively with health plans and issuers of health insurance over payment rates and other contract terms. That exemption would apply to negotiations between independent pharmacies and operators of prescription drug plans offered under part D of Medicare. However, the exemption would not apply to most other federal health insurance programs." (Congressional Budget Office)

[Opinion] 'Letter from Can.ada' - Impressions on the Canadian Health Care System
Excerpt: "Paul Jemison of HP and a former ERIC Board member moved back to his native Can.ada. Still with HP, he agreed to occasionally contribute his personal impressions and experiences with the Canadian benefits system, particularly health care coverage." (The ERISA Industry Committee)

[Opinion] Two-Level Benefit Rule Won't Be Last Word on Retiree Health Benefits
Excerpt: "Most retirees won't notice much impact from [the recent] federal rule effectively creating two classes of employer health benefits, for early retirees and all others, experts agree. That's because most don't receive them, and those who do have seen benefits erode for at least two decades. But experts debate whether the new policy might accelerate or curb that trend more for early retirees or the older ones." (InsuranceNewsNet)

Medicare As a Health Care Model
Excerpt: "'The charge that this is socialized medicine is ridiculous,' said Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist advising Obama. 'This would remain one choice among many, and you don't have to pick it. You can pick a private option, or insurance through your employer.'" (Los Angeles Times via Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association)

Depression Saps Workers and Employers
Excerpt: "Mental illness takes a bigger toll on business than physical woes, and disability absences are twice as long when triggered by depression." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Insure Missouri - Too Little, Too Late (PDF)
12 pages. Excerpt: "[The report] examines Governor Blunt's proposal to provide health coverage to uninsured Missourians. It finds that the plan's eligibility criteria leave out many low-income uninsured adults, the coverage offered is missing key benefits, the cost-sharing is too high, and the plan is built on shaky financing mechanisms." (Families USA)

Waits to See an Emergency Department Physician: U.S. Trends and Predictors, 1997-2004
Excerpt: "As emergency department (ED) patient volumes increase throughout the United States, are patients waiting longer to see an ED physician? We evaluated the change in wait time to see an ED physician from 1997 to 2004 for all adult ED patients, patients diagnosed with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), and patients whom triage personnel designated as needing 'emergent' attention." (Health Affairs)

Wal-Mart Slowly Insuring Workers by Offering More Options
Excerpt: "In recent years, the retailer has made changes to its benefits package, including reducing the waiting period for part-time employees to become eligible for insurance from two years to one year. This year, Dillman said, the company created a benefits package that employees can customize in more than 50 ways, such as by choosing deductibles, pre-deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums." (The Washington Post; free registration required)

Employees Back Workplace Wellness Efforts
Excerpt: "ComPsych found 42% of employees said they were highly motivated to eat right, and nearly a quarter (23%) said they were highly motivated to exercise. If their employers sponsored a wellness program, another 67% of employees said they would be likely to use it." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Wal-Mart Says Most Workers Have Health Plan
Excerpt: "Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest private employer, said on Tuesday that for the first time in its 45-year history more than half of its workers had enrolled in the company's health insurance plan, a potent milestone for a retailer long associated with unaffordable benefits." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Businesses Turn to VEBAs to Spruce Up Balance Sheets, Offload Risks
Excerpt: "Voluntary employees' beneficiary associations, or VEBAs, are gaining more attention as some of the nation's largest corporations have hammered out deals with labor unions to transfer billions of dollars in retiree health care liabilities to the trusts." (Financial Week; free registration required)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] SOX Section 304 Clawbacks for Backdated Options
3 pages. (Utz Miller & Kuhn, LLC)

[Guidance Overview] Issues Related to SERP Funding
Excerpt: "In this article, we're going to focus on SERP liabilities and consider whether those liabilities should be supported by specific assets, to what extent they should be supported by those assets, and what sort of strategies should be applied to allocating the assets that are supporting those liabilities." (JPMorgan)

[Guidance Overview] SEC Extends Availability of So-Called 'Expected Life Shortcut' for Use in Expensing of Share-Based Payments Under Fas 123
Excerpt: "In December, the SEC staff released Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 110 (SAB 110). For limited circumstances, this extends the availability of the shortcut used in expensing share-based payments under FAS 123." (JPMorgan)

Hunger Strike for Partner Benefits Continues
Excerpt: "Today will mark one week that Uri Horesh has gone without food in his quest to pressure the University of Texas at Austin to provide health insurance and other benefits to the partners of g.ay employees." (Inside Higher Ed)

Lilly Staffers Will Work Longer, Retirees Pay More for Benefits
Excerpt: "More than 20,000 workers of Eli Lilly and Co. will have to pay a larger share of their health-care premiums when they retire, and some might wind up working longer than expected to earn their full pensions. The Indianapolis drugmaker, under pressure to control drug prices and facing a wave of patent expirations, informed its 20,300 U.S. employees Tuesday of numerous changes in their retirement benefits." (Federated Publications, Inc.)

Towers Perrin Research Report on What's Happening in HR Service Delivery and Technology (PDF)
12 pages. Excerpt: "2007 marks Towers Perrin's 10th consecutive year conducting comprehensive research on the state of HR service delivery and technology. This survey, which mainly reaches HR business leaders throughout North America, explores trends, prevalence and future plans surrounding organizations' approaches to HR service delivery." (Towers Perrin)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Cafeteria Plan Election Changes: What's Permitted and What Isn't?
Nationwide on January 17, 2008
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)/Thomson Tax & Accounting

EEOC Charges: How To Prepare An Airtight Response And Avoid Costly Payouts
Nationwide on February 7, 2008
presented by HRTrainingCenter.com

Proposed Hybrid Plan Regulations: What Does It Mean for Plan Sponsors?
Nationwide on February 19, 2008
presented by ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

TIAA-CREF Introduces Lifecycle Retirement Income Fund
TIAA-CREF

Survey Shows Financial Institutions See HSAs As Significant Business Opportunity
Wolters Kluwer Financial Services

Midwest Business Group on Health Awarded Grant from National Business Coalition on Health for Diabetes Quality Program
Midwest Business Group on Health

Bridges to Excellence Physician Reward Program Expands to New Jersey
Bridges to Excellence (BTE)


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Defined Contribution Consultant
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in IL

Sales Implementation Specialist
for ePlan Services, Inc.
in CO

Client Service Supervisor
for Decimal, Inc. (aka The Online 401k)
in CA

Senior Consultant Health & Welfare
for Buck Consultants
in TX

Entry Level Retirement Plan Specialist
for McCamish Systems
in GA




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