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February 5, 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] Family and Medical Leave Act Amended to Include Leave for Military Families (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "The DOL is expected to release a revised set of regulations regarding the new amendments to the FMLA, including guidance on the definition of 'qualifying exigency.' Additionally, the revised regulations are expected to provide long-awaited guidance on a number of longstanding FMLA issues. On January 24, 2008, the DOL sent proposed regulations to the White House for review, and the DOL is expected to issue the proposed regulations shortly." (Baker & McKenzie)

[Guidance Overview] ERISA, Section 510 Discrimination, and Smoking
Excerpt: "This past Wednesday, an employee's claim for violations of ERISA for firing him after he tested positive for nicotine survived a motion to dismiss. As is fairly well known, The Scotts Company does not tolerate smoking by its employees--even off duty. . . . I don't know the underlying facts here, but I think it may well be difficult for the plaintiff to prove sufficient facts that his firing was motivated to interfere with his benefits." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

[Guidance Overview] Congress Expands FMLA for Families of Service Members (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Employers should be aware that some states have passed similar laws that expand the leave rights of eligible employees of military families, and should be sure to check both federal and state leave laws as there may be some important differences between the two." (Dow Lohnes PLLC)

[Guidance Overview] Health and Welfare Considerations for Employers with Operations in Puerto Rico
This article examines the legal distinctions between health and welfare benefits in the United States and Puerto Rico. (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Docs Oppose Aetna Plan on Colonoscopies
Excerpt: "A group of doctors from New Jersey is opposing a plan by Aetna Inc. to drop coverage of a type of anesthesia used during colonoscopies." (AP via The New York Times; free registration required)

Insurers Begin to Reimburse for Online Visits, But Concerns Remain
Excerpt: "Some of the country's largest insurers, such as Aetna and Cigna, are beginning to reimburse physicians for online patient visits, a trend experts say could spread among other insurers, the Los Angeles Times reports." (California HealthCare Foundation; free registration may be required)

Fat People Cheaper to Treat, Study Says
Excerpt: "Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn't save money, researchers reported Monday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars." (AP via National Public Radio)

Health Tax Expenditures Continue to Rise
Excerpt: "The Bush administration says the deduction for employer-sponsored health coverage could cost the federal government about $168 billion in fiscal year 2009, up 11% from the 2008 total." (The National Underwriter Company; free registration or paid subscription required)

Working Paper - Covering the Uninsured in the U.S.
Excerpt: "This article surveys the major economic issues around covering the uninsured. I review the facts on insurance coverage and the nature of the uninsured; focus on explanations for why the U.S. has such a large, and growing, uninsured population; and discuss why we should care if individuals are uninsured. I then focus on policy options to address the problem of the uninsured, beginning with a discussion of the key issues and available evidence, and then turning to estimates from a micro-simulation model of the impact of alternative interventions to increase insurance coverage." (National Bureau of Economic Research; paid subscription or individual purchase required to retrieve fulltext)

Some Large Companies Making Lifetime Personal Health Records Available Electronically to Employees
Excerpt: "Wal-Mart is among a group of large companies that has begun rolling out personal electronic health records to a handful of employees, as part of a plan to eventually provide more than a million of the retailer's workers and their dependents with digitized health records." (Human Resource Executive Online)

Worksite Wellness Programs - Just What the Doctor - And Senior Management, Employees, and Shareholders - Ordered (PDF)
7 pages. Excerpt: "Developing wellness programs that can meet the unique needs of a given employer's population involves understanding that employer's current health care environment, population demographics, turnover rates, current and projected costs associated with risky health behaviors, chronic disease, and employee/employer relationships." (Buck Consultants)

ERISA Pre-emption - Implications for Health Reform and Coverage (PDF)
16 pages. Excerpt: "ERISA pre-emption of state health insurance regulation -- This Issue Brief provides an overview of the issues relating to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and state and local attempts at comprehensive health insurance reform. It reviews the statute and its history, major case law relating to the interaction of ERISA and state law, and the implications of ERISA's pre-emption of state laws governing health insurance." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

USA Today Examines President Bush's Proposed Budget, What Challenges, Including Health Care, Next President Will Face
Excerpt: "Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., chairman of the House Budget Committee, said a more likely scenario is a deficit that remains in the $200 billion range in 2012. 'Far from proposing a plan to fix the budget, the Bush administration proposes policies that worsen it and, with little compunction, leaves the consequences for the next administration and future generations to correct,' he said." (USA TODAY)

What Public Employee Health Plans Can Do to Improve Health Care Quality - Examples from the States
Excerpt: "Examples of innovations used by state public employee health plans include: promoting provider adherence to clinical guidelines and best practices, publicly disseminating provider performance information, implementing performance-based incentives, developing coordinated care interventions, and taking part in multi-payer quality collaborations. This report can be used by public employee health plans and other large purchasers making strategic decisions about how to develop or coordinate quality improvement initiatives." (The Commonwealth Fund)

Economic Pinch from Employer Benefits Cost-Shifting Hurting Next Generation
Excerpt: "Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Americans say they are worried that the financial burden from cost shifting of employer-sponsored benefits will make it harder for their children to lead a comfortable life, a new survey found. A news release about MetLife's second Study of the American Dream report said about two-thirds of Americans report feeling an economic pinch from being asked to pick up more of the health coverage tab." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

White House Proposes Health Care Cost Report on W-2
Excerpt: "In an effort to better educate workers on the costs of their workplace health insurance coverage, the Bush Administration has proposed that employers be required to report the cost to employees on annual W-2 wage and income statements." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Scrutiny Surrounds Family Leave Law
Excerpt: "It should be more specific in its definition of 'serious illness,' and not be left open to interpretation . . . . 'The vagueness of the definition leads to some confusion, and in some cases, the potential for use beyond the law's intentions,' . . . . That opens the act up to potential abuse . . . . Some 40 percent of human resource professionals surveyed last year . . . believe they have granted medical leave under what they consider false pretense." (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

[Opinion] Allocating the Costs of Life's Misfortunes - Another Look at ERISA Health Plan Subrogation
Excerpt: "Brian King posts some interesting insights on potential ERISA plan subrogation claims arising after the bridge collapse disaster in Minnesota . . . ." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

[Opinion] Commentary on Ninth Circuit Stay - San Francisco Ordinance Violates ERISA
Excerpt: "Professor EDWARD A. ZELINSKY , Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, comments on the Ninth Circuit's decision in Golden Gate Restaurant Association, which set aside a stay of the San Francisco Health Care Security Ordinance." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

[Opinion] Health Care Opinion Leaders' Views on the Presidential Candidates' Health Reform Plans
Excerpt: "The 13th Commonwealth Fund/Modern Healthcare Health Care Opinion Leaders Survey asked a diverse group of experts for their perspective on the health care reform proposals of the 2008 presidential candidates. Survey participants strongly support reform proposals that applied a mixed private–public market approach." (The Commonwealth Fund)

[Opinion] Reform Is No 'Either-Or' - We Must Fix the Payment System Along with Access
Excerpt: "Commentary on The Commonwealth Fund/Modern Healthcare Health Care Opinion Leaders Survey on the Presidential Candidates Health Reform Proposals by Darrell Kirch, M.D., president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges." (The Commonwealth Fund)

[Opinion] Tough Choices Ahead - Candidates Ignore Pain of Needed Cuts to Health Costs
Excerpt: "Commentary on The Commonwealth Fund/Modern Healthcare Health Care Opinion Leaders Survey on the Presidential Candidates Health Reform Proposals by Dallas L. Salisbury, president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute and a member of The Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System." (The Commonwealth Fund)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Opinion] Companies with Long-Term Incentive Plans Based on Relative Total Return Need to Re-Examine Their Objectives
Excerpt: "Many long-term incentive plans for executives have undergone extreme makeovers, often by eliminating stock options and the use of free shares as a substitute. Some companies have made a stab at basing compensation on how well total return stacks up against a group of peer companies." (Bloomberg News)

[Guidance Overview] Who is Entitled to Survivor Benefits from ERISA Plans?
Excerpt: "ERISA pension plans must incorporate the only two ERISA required beneficiary designations, QDROs and spousal survivor benefit designations. Neither statutory designation applies to an ERISA plan that is not a pension plan, such as a life insurance or disability plan. Thus, neither statutory designation may supersede a beneficiary designation made pursuant to the explicit terms of an ERISA life insurance or disability plan." (Social Science Research Network)

[Guidance Overview] Major Expansion of FMLA Allows Six-Month Leave to Care for Injured Servicemembers
Excerpt: "Employees may take up to six months of job- and benefit-protected leave to care for family members injured in the line of active military duty. In certain other circumstances, workers may take up to 12 weeks of leave when a family member is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

Most Employers Intend to Retain Their Nonqualified Plans, Survey Indicates
Excerpt: "The issuance of final Code Sec. 409A regulations by the IRS will not result in widespread termination of nonqualified executive retirement plans, according to the benefits consulting firm Buck Consultants. In Buck's '2007 Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Survey,' 95% of the eighty organizations surveyed indicated that they intend to retain their nonqualified defined contribution plans, and 89% intend to retain their nonqualified defined benefit plans." (Wolters Kluwer Financial Services)

[Guidance Overview] Entitlement to Incentive Compensation on Termination of Employment May Result in Loss of Treatment as Performance-Based Compensation under Section 162(m) (PDF)
Excerpt: "In what may be a substantive reversal of previous guidance, the IRS recently issued a private letter ruling (PLR 200804004) that concluded that all compensation payable to an executive under an incentive plan will not be treated as 'performance-based compensation' under Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code if it is payable in the event of certain severance scenarios, regardless of actual performance." (Frederic W. Cook & Co., Inc.)

[Guidance Overview] Highlights of Final Rules for Nonqualified Defined Benefit Deferred Compensation Plans (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "These rules apply to sponsors of and participants in nonqualified defined benefit plans, commonly referred to as Supplemental Executive Retirement Plans (SERPs). These rules do not apply to qualified defined benefit plans." (Prudential Retirement)

[Guidance Overview] Highlights of Final Rules for Nonqualified Defined Benefit Plans (PDF)
3 pages. (Prudential Retirement)

California Research Bureau Report Highlights Concerns About Actuarial Practices for Public Employee Benefits
Excerpt: "The California Research Bureau (CRB) at the California State Library has released a report that explains in plain language how actuarial practices determine funding levels for public employee pensions and retiree health benefits." (State of California)

NY Court Rules to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages from Other States
Excerpt: "A New York appellate court has decided that same-sex marriages validly performed out-of-state must be legally recognized, just as the law recognizes those of heterose.xual couples married elsewhere." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

New York Court Recognizes G.ay Unions
Excerpt: "A New York appellate court has granted the same recognition to out-of-state marriages of g.ay couples as heterose.xual couples married outside of New York. New York State does not permit homose.xual couples to marry. The state does permit the voluntary extension of healthcare benefits to same-sex couples, however." (United Press International)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

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

Employee Wellness / Disease Management Programs – a Panel Discussion
in Washington on February 15, 2008
presented by International Society of CEBS - Pacific NW Chapter

ESOPs Social and Economic Performance: The Recent Past and Immediate Future - Roundtable Conversation
in Pennsylvania on April 25, 2008
presented by Employee Ownership Foundation


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

ExpertPlan Earns CEFEX Certificate of Fiduciary Excellence
ExpertPlan

New Web-Product Connects Retirement Plan Advisors with Plan Sponsors
Venture (k) Corp.

MFS Launches Diversified Target Return Fund
MFS

Most CEOs Overpaid, One in Three Company Directors Say in Study
Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc.


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401(k) Administrator
for Continental Benefits Group, Inc.
in NJ

Defined Contribution Team Manager/401K Plan Administrator
for National Life Group
in VT

National Broker Dealer Channel Manager
for Ascensus (formerly Bisys Retirement Services)
in ANY STATE, DE, NJ, PA

Regional Director of Client Services-TPA Retirement Plans
for DailyAccess Corporations
in AL

Director of CHR Compliance-50040682
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA

Plan Administrator
for ABG-Carolinas, LLC
in NC

Omni BA
for Group H, Inc.
in ANY STATE, CO

Document Specialist
for Continental Benefits Group, Inc.
in NJ

Pension Administrator
for Benetech, Inc.
in CA, IL, TX

DB Implementation Specialist
for Milliman
in TX




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