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February 1, 2008

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


Today's sponsor is University Conference Services

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
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Are Your Health and Welfare Benefit Plans Headed Down the Right Road?

Dramatic increases in the cost of health care benefits have forced employers to take cost-containment measures and made the job of managing and funding these employee benefits more challenging than ever. Today, the pace of increase continues well above inflation, leaving many to wonder "What next?" There are no quick and easy answers. But, there is a place where you can learn what some of the best and brightest in the employer-sponsored health care arena are thinking and doing. The Health & Welfare Plan Management for Mid-Sized Employers in Orlando is your opportunity to find out how to map a long-term course for your health and welfare plans and to avoid short-cut solutions that lead to dead ends. Make plans now to attend.

Presented by the Kenan-Flagler Business School in conjunction with leading benefit services companies.


[Guidance Overview] Update of Family and Medical Leave Act (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "Employers should familiarize themselves with the new FMLA provisions and make revisions to their policies. In addition, it is recommended that employers notify employees of the new provisions and discuss any questions or concerns with legal counsel." (Snell & Wilmer L.L.P.)

[Guidance Overview] FMLA Amendments Expand Leave for Families of Members of the Armed Forces (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "Coincidentally, the President signed this new law just days after DOL announced that it was about to propose new regulations to address various other unidentified issues arising under the FMLA. The proposed regulatory package has already been sent to the Office of Management and Budget for approval before publication." (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP)

[Guidance Overview] FMLA Now Covers Families of Military Servicemembers
Excerpt: "New entitlement. Notably, the FMLA is amended to include a fifth entitlement to leave. Employees are entitled to 12 workweeks of leave because of any 'qualifying exigency' arising out of the fact that the employee's spouse, child, or parent is on active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty) in the Armed Forces in support of a 'contingency operation.'" (Faegre & Benson LLP)

Employer Coalition Launching Initiative to Provide Physicians Bonuses for Improving Patient Care
Excerpt: "A coalition of large employers, including General Electric, IBM and Verizon Communications, is launching a program to give physicians bonuses for adopting a 'more integrated approach to coordinating' employees' care, the Wall Street Journal reports. The program is part of Bridges to Excellence, which last year distributed about $10 million in bonuses to doctors for providing quality care and meeting other measures." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Large Business Association Releases Plan to Overhaul U.S. Health Care System
Excerpt: "The National Business Group on Health, a not-for-profit association of nearly 300 large employers, on Wednesday released a set of 20 conditions that would need to be met to establish a universal health coverage system in the U.S., Dow Jones reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

A State-by-State Breakdown of Health Insurance Mandates and Their Costs (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "Just because we list something as a mandate doesn't necessarily mean it should be excluded from a standard health insurance policy. Many mandates listed here should be and often are included in comprehensive coverage. The purpose of this chart is to tabulate the number of benefits mandated by the states and assess their impact on the cost of insurance -- not to make judgments about which mandates should or should not be included in a health insurance policy." (Council for Affordable Health Insurance)

Technological Change and the Growth of Health Care Spending (PDF)
30 pages. Excerpt: "This Congressional Budget Office (CBO) paper . . . describes the historical growth in spending on health care in the United States. It examines the factors that determine health care spending and how they have contributed to spending growth over time. Special emphasis is given to the largest single factor driving spending growth -- the greatly expanded capabilities of medicine brought about by technological advances in medical science over the past several decades. Finally, the paper discusses the implications of continued technological change for future growth of health care spending." (Congressional Budget Office)

Labor Unions 'Vociferous Opponents' of Health Insurance Mandates, Opinion Piece Says
Excerpt: "The 'most vociferous opponents' of the California health care reform legislation, which the state Senate rejected on Monday, 'were not fiscal conservatives but labor unions that launched a last-minute revolt against its most crucial feature: an individual mandate that would have forced everyone to buy coverage,' Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at the Reason Foundation, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Kentucky Bill Would Prohibit Extension of Benefits to Domestic Partners
Excerpt: "A bill approved in the Kentucky Senate on Wednesday would prohibit public universities and other government agencies from offering health insurance to unmarried domestic partners of their employees." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Table - State High Risk Pool Programs and Enrollment, 2007
Excerpt: "High-Risk Health Insurance Pools: State programs that offer health insurance to residents who are considered uninsurable and unable to buy coverage in the individual market. Typically, people are considered uninsurable if they have been turned down, charged substantially higher premiums, or if they have been offered private coverage with an elimination rider." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

[Opinion] Health Care in South Africa
Excerpt: "Conservative lawmakers and many business leaders are touting health savings accounts as the silver bullet to fix America's dysfunctional health care system.. But, while widespread use of health savings accounts is untested here, there is a country with a decade's worth of experience with similar consumer-driven health plans: South Africa. The experience there should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks these accounts will solve America's health care crisis." (The New Republic via Physicians for a National Health Program)

[Opinion] Health Care Commentary - A Case for Group Insurance
Excerpt: "Those who advocate replacing group insurance with portable employer-paid coverage often view the issue from the employee's perspective. They see group insurance as 'golden handcuffs' that restrict individual freedom, denying their right to work for a different employer." (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Ex-Mellon Employee Eligible for Displacement Benefits
Excerpt: "An employee of an HR consulting firm fired as part of a corporate merger won a legal battle when a federal judge ruled that he was due benefits under a displacement program. U.S. District Judge Faith S. Hochberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled that plaintiff Robert Howley was never given a bona fide job offer at the acquiring company because a decision had been made before the sale that Howley was to be part of a planned reduction in force." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

[Guidance Overview] Executive Employment Agreement Causes Loss of Bonus Deduction (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "A recent private letter ruling by the Internal Revenue Service illustrates the importance of considering the ways in which executive employment agreements can interact with the company's incentive plans to affect the tax treatment of the executive's compensation." (Seyfarth Shaw LLP)

[Guidance Overview] Application of Code Section 409A to Employment Relationships (PDF)
9 pages. (Compensation & Benefits Review via Dow Lohnes PLLC)

[Guidance Overview] SEC Exemptions from Registration under Section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for Compensatory Employee Stock Options
Excerpt: "The purpose of the exemptions is to provide both reporting companies and private, non-reporting companies guidance and certainty in their compensation decisions and to prevent private, non-reporting companies from becoming subject to the registration and reporting requirements of the Exchange Act prior to the time they have public shareholders. Both exemptions are self-executing if the necessary requirements are met." (Bllank Rome LLP)

[Guidance Overview] Elective Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans - A Primer
Excerpt: "This article addresses elective deferred compensation plans that enable an executive to defer payment of a portion of his or her compensation to a future date, and, specifically, elective deferred compensation plans maintained by for-profit companies." (Hay Group)

Adult Day-Care Facilities, Medical Leave Policies and Empathy Are Helping Stressed-Out Workers Be Caregivers
Excerpt: "[T]he majority of those who care for an elderly family member are also full-time employees -- about 25 percent of the U.S. work force. The total estimated annual cost to employers of full-time workers with intense care-giving responsibilities is $33.6 billion, according to a MetLife Care-giving Cost Study. The average cost per employee is $2,441 -- because of lost productivity." (IndyStar.com)

Campaign 2008: Facts on Benefits Issues
Excerpt: "Health and retirement issues are being raised as the 2008 election campaign heats up. To help provide a factual basis of reference for reporters and others involved in these campaign issues, EBRI is providing . . . questions and answers about major employee health and retirement benefits. Hotlinks to relevant tables and charts of data are provided at the end of each answer." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

Social Security - An Essential Asset and Insurance Protection for All (PDF)
48 pages. Excerpt: "The report is a synthesis of findings of twelve organizations supported by the Ford Foundation to carry out research and outreach activities to help low-income people understand their stake in Social Security and add their voices to discussions about its future." (National Academy of Social Insurance)

Robert Ball, Architect of Medicare, Dies in Maryland
Excerpt: "Robert Ball -- a 'chief architect' of Medicare who administered the program for its first seven years -- died at age 93 on Tuesday at Collington Episcopal Life Care Community in Mitchellville, Md., the Washington Post reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Social Security Advocate Bob Ball is Dead at 93
Excerpt: "You probably don't know his name. And you probably won't see any news of his passing outside of the obit section. But Bob Ball, who died last night at the age of 93, probably played a greater role in expanding and defending Social Security than anyone in the second half of the 20th century." (Talking Points Memo)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Benefits Selling Expo
in Georgia on April 2, 2008
presented by Benefits Selling

New FMLA Leave Rules for Soldiers' Relatives: What Employers Need to Know - Webcast
Nationwide on February 27, 2008
presented by HRTrainingCenter.com


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

PBGC Hails Continuation Of Dana Corp. Pension Plans After Reorganization
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)

Campaign 2008: Reporters' Guide to Key Health, Retirement Issues
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

Nationwide Couples Mutual Fund Window with Target-Date Funds
Nationwide Financial

Treasury, IRS Provide Transition Guidance on Pension Protection Act Funding Rules
U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service

Key to Attracting and Retaining Quality Employees: Benefits
Benefit Sources & Solutions

Fidelity Opens 401k Program to Outside Funds
American Banker


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Director Benefits and Compensation Accounting, MMBMI
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA

Director Family Market Development
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA

AVP Product Leader
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA

Retirement Communications Officer
for SDCERA - San Diego County Employees Retirement Association
in CA

Customer Service Specialist, Retirement Plan Services
for Digital Retirement Solutions, Inc.
in CO

Administrator - Retirement Plans
for Benefit Resources, Inc.
in CA

Manager - Regional TPA
for Benetech, Inc.
in CT, DC, DE, FL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, NC, NH, NJ, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VT, WV




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