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February 6, 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] Can an Individual Still Establish an HSA for 2007?
Excerpt: "The deadline to establish and make a 2007 HSA contribution is the tax filing due date, excluding extensions, April 15, 2008. The individual had to be eligible for a 2007 contribution, i.e., have high-deductible health plan coverage and meet the remaining eligibility criteria." (Wolters Kluwer Financial Services)

[Guidance Overview] FMLA Expanded for Families of Military Service Members
Excerpt: "Under the new legislation, a spouse, son, daughter, parent or 'next of kin' may take up to 26 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to care for a member of the Armed Forces who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a 'serious injury or illness.'" (von Briesen & Roper, s.c.)

[Guidance Overview] National Defense Authorization Act Amends FMLA (PDF)
Excerpt: "By its express terms, this provision of the NDAA is not effective until the Secretary of Labor issues final regulations defining 'any qualifying exigency.' Again, the DOL is expected to issue such regulations in the near future. In the interim, the DOL encourages employers to provide this type of leave to qualifying employees." (Winston & Strawn LLP)

[Guidance Overview] Zelinsky on Golden Gate Restaurant Association: Employer Mandates and ERISA Preemption in the Ninth Circuit
Excerpt: "As usual, Ed Zelinsky (Cardozo) is first to weigh in on a significant ERISA preemption issue. This time in the San Francisco Golden Gate Restaurant Association preemption case. His forthcoming article in State Tax Notes is: Golden Gate Restaurant Association: Employer Mandates and ERISA Preemption in the Ninth Circuit." (Workplace Prof Blog)

[Guidance Overview] New Leave Law Protects Family Members of Soldiers and Sailors (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "[The authors] summarize the affected sections of the FMLA and provide practical pointers." (Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP)

[Guidance Overview] Claim of Improper Disclosure of Personal Info not Preempted by ERISA
Excerpt: "U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber said the question before the court was whether a fiduciary duty not to disclose confidential medical information has an economic impact on ERISA plans. He concluded the impact of disclosing confidential medical information was insufficient to satisfy requirements that the claim be related to administration of an ERISA plan." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

[Guidance Overview] Court Throws Out Claim of Emotional Distress for Cutting Retiree Health Benefits
Excerpt: "While allowing retirees to move forward with their lawsuit seeking reimbursement of health care expenses incurred after their employer benefits were cut off, a federal judge has thrown out plaintiffs' claim for emotional damages." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

[Guidance Overview] ERISA Claims Procedure - The Cost of Failing to Provide Documents 'Free Of Charge' and Follow Procedures in Benefit Appeals
Excerpt: "The case illustrates the importance of ERISA plan administrators to have an accurate understanding of their contractual relationship with the TPA, of the plan's claims and appeals process, and of their duties and responsibilities in that process. The case also highlights the desirability of having legal counsel review the language in the plan and contract to ensure that it provides the desired standard of review for the TPA's decision. If the plan administrator retains discretion to determine a participant's benefit eligibility, it may be required to perform a de novo review of any appeal taken from the third-party administrator's decision." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)

Health Care Costs Higher for Healthy Individuals Over Lifetime, Study Finds
Excerpt: "Lifetime health care costs for obese individuals and smokers are lower than those for healthy individuals who live years longer, according to a study Monday on the Web site of the Public Library of Science Medicine . . . ." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Tougher Standards Being Applied by Insurers Spur Debate About What Constitutes True Value in a New Drug
Excerpt: "Over the past six years, the Regence Group has employed pharmacists to sift through all the data they can find on newly approved therapies. They read the studies, both published and unpublished, mine the national databases, review FDA reports, evaluate patient response rates, drug trial designs, and endpoints. Then they start making judgments on what they're worth." (Managed Care)

California Regulators Faulted for Altering State Law on HMO Guidelines
Excerpt: "Physician groups and patient advocates are criticizing the Department of Managed Health Care for failing to comply with a state law that seeks to improve timely access to care for HMO members, the Los Angeles Times reports." (California HealthCare Foundation; free registration may be required)

Health Coverage Tax Credits - A Small Program Offering Large Policy Lessons
Excerpt: "The Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), which pays 65 percent of health Insurance premiums for 16,000 trade-displaced workers and others, is the only use of federal income tax credits to cover the otherwise uninsured. . . . HCTC teaches lessons about how to structure tax credits serving a larger group of uninsured, such as credits proposed by Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates." (Urban Institute)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Unveils Five-Point Plan for Health Care Coverage for All Americans
Excerpt: "Stating that 'a system that is unaffordable for many today won't work for even more people tomorrow,' Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) president and chief executive officer Scott P. Serota on January 23 unveiled a five-point plan -- The Pathway to Covering America -- for building on the employer-based health care system to improve quality, rein in costs, and expand coverage to all Americans." (Wolters Kluwer Financial Services)

Bush Administration Argues That Veterans Not Entitled to Specific Types of Health Care
Excerpt: "The Bush administration on Wednesday filed arguments in a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of San Francisco stating that veterans have no legal right to specific types of medical care, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The arguments were filed in response to a class-action lawsuit brought by veterans who claim they were illegally denied mental health treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs . . . ." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Treasury's 'Blue Book' General Explanations of Administration's FY 2009 Revenue Proposals
Excerpt: "The administration's FY 2009 budget includes proposals addressing tax incentives, the alternative minimum tax (AMT), standard deductions for health insurance, mortgage relief, Code Sec. 6694 preparer penalty standards and tax compliance issues." (CCH Incorporated)

Tentative Deal for June Ballot Measure on San Francisco Retiree Health Care
Excerpt: "A San Francisco supervisor announced a tentative political deal Monday to clear the way for a June ballot measure to slow the growth of future health care costs for city government retirees. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd previewed a charter amendment hashed out over the weekend with city labor groups that he will introduce at the Board of Supervisor's meeting Tuesday. The board probably will vote on the measure Feb. 26 and, if approved, it would appear on the June 3 ballot." (The San Francisco Chronicle)

[Opinion] Ensuring Equity in State Health Care Reform (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "Some . . . state reforms have already been enacted and are now being implemented; others are still being drafted or debated. Each state has its own unique approach to reforming health care, but all include strategies to significantly expand coverage, reduce costs, and improve quality. Few of these efforts, however, have focused specifically on the problem of inequality in health care." (The Opportunity Agenda and Families USA)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Public Employee Retiree Obligations Cloud Fiscal Horizon
Excerpt: "Even as they grapple with budget pressures from a sagging national economy, states are being forced to make tough decisions on how they will cope with an even more severe long-term fiscal concern: a projected price tag pushing $3 trillion to pay the pensions and health insurance of retired teachers and other government employees." (Education Week)

Last Week of February 2008 Is America Saves Week
Excerpt: "During America Saves Week, individuals will be encouraged and assisted to assess their savings progress and take action to advance this progress. This encouragement and assistance will be provided by organizations and professionals with an interest in improving the financial security of individuals and families." (America Saves)

Opportunities in Overcoming the Language Barrier in the Workplace
Excerpt: "Fernando Lopez sees a large wall keeping much of the Latino workforce from enrolling in their benefits and many advisers from capitalizing on an untapped market. With his new company, Lopez breaks down misconceptions, educates employees and shows the benefits industry how to see things from both sides." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Medical Cost Increase to Accelerate Worldwide Over Next Five Years, Watson Wyatt Poll Finds
Watson Wyatt

NIPA Announces Next Steps for ERPA
National Institute of Pension Administrators

7th Annual Search for Companies with the Best Employee Benefits
Principal Financial Group

Summit Mutual Funds Added to CPI Retirement Platform
CPI Qualified Plan Consultants, Inc.


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Defined Benefit Administrator and DB/DC Combo Administrator
for Boyce & Associates, Inc.
in AZ

Actuarial Professionals, Defined Benefits/Retirement
for Aon Consulting (Northeast region)
in MA, NJ, NY, PA

Investment Sales Position
for MBM Advisors, Inc.
in TX

Plan Sponsor Desk SPOC Relationship Manager
for Transamerica Retirement Services
in CA

Health Compliance Specialist
for The Segal Co.
in AZ

Implementation Consultant
for Ceridian
in MN




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