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February 8, 2008

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

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Long Term Care Insureds Keep Their Coverage, Buy It At Younger Ages
Excerpt: "Purchasers of long term care insurance policies seem to value the coverage and are keeping those policies longer than previously thought, according to a recent study by Schaumburg, Ill-based Society of Actuaries (SOA)." (CCH Benefits)

The U.S. Health Care Dilemma: Who Has the Answer? (Comprehensive Overview)
Comprehensive resource page. (International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

Buffalo-Area School District Determines COBRA Violation Caused Retirees to Overpay for Health Coverage
Excerpt: "Such a change and sharp difference is allowed in general, with many employers doing it as a way to lower their health-care expenses and premiums as those costs continue to soar. But applying it to recent retirees ran afoul of . . . COBRA. That means someone who retires can continue their health insurance under CO- BRA, with ERISA limiting the premium for the first 18 months to no more than what active employees pay for the same coverage." (The Buffalo News)

Court Stops Several Wisconsin Municipalities from Entering Partner Benefits Case
Excerpt: "The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Thursday local governments cannot intervene in a case involving domestic partner benefits for state employees." (The Daily Cardinal)

Unusual perks: Goldman Sachs Covers Sex Changes
Excerpt: "The investment bank, No. 9 on the Best Companies to Work For list, added the benefit last year as part of a push to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce." (CNNMoney)

Local Massachusetts Governments Face Budget Buster: Unfunded Benefit Liabilities
Excerpt: "A recent change in accounting standards requires all Massachusetts government retirement plans to show this unfunded liability on their balance sheets, though there is currently no state mandate to put aside money for the future, and no way short of a special act of the state legislature to effectively pool money to earn higher interest rates." (The Martha's Vineyard Times)

Healthcare Data Pooling: Coming Soon to a Community Near You?
Excerpt: "Everyone can agree that quality healthcare is a good thing. But how do we go about measuring quality? Intrepid organizations in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin are answering the call for measurable quality metrics by developing data-pooling operations that can report on healthcare quality." (Milliman)

Moving Beyond Retrospective Testing for LTCI Reserves
Excerpt: "It has long been accepted among actuaries that retrospective -- or 'retro' testing -- is a blunt tool when it comes to establishing the ongoing adequacy of claim reserves for blocks of long-term care insurance. . . . Retro tests have a number of weaknesses. To begin with . . . ." (Milliman)

Overview: High Court To Take Up Disability Case About Standard of Review
Excerpt: "As MetLife noted in one of its briefs, even 'the [plan participant] concedes that there is a conflict among the circuits over whether the fact that an ERISA administrator is also a plan funder creates a conflict of interest.' . . . 'This is no small matter,' the brief said, noting that MetLife alone processes more than 290,000 disability claims a year, and 'desperately needs a resolution of this issue so that it knows how properly to manage its massive benefits business.'" (National Underwriter)

Chart of State Family and Medical Leave Laws
Excerpt: "Two states (California and Washington) offer paid family leave, and other states are exploring proposals to establish paid leave systems though the state's unemployment insurance programs, through temporary disability programs or through some other wage-replacement mechanism. The following table identifies state family and medical leave laws, qualifying employers and amount of leave offered. Some states have enacted rules and regulations regarding family and medical leave laws that are not included in this table." (National Conference of State Legislatures)

FMLA Changes Now and to Come: Servicemembers' Families Affected, Regulatory Changes Upcoming
Excerpt: "In less than a week, employers should find out the extent of long-awaited regulatory changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act that will be proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor. In the meantime, however, one change to the FMLA has already become effective. Although the actual regulations have not yet been issued, the FMLA has been expanded to allow families of military personnel additional leave of up to six months. " (Human Resource Executive Online)

Bush Proposes Adding Health Costs to W-2 Statements
Excerpt: "Employers would be required to report the cost of health insurance coverage they provide to employees on annual W-2 wage and income statements under a recommendation by the Bush administration. Such disclosure is necessary because many employees 'are unaware' of the value of coverage, the administration said . . . . " (Workforce Management)

Finding a Solution for Retiree Health and Disability Benefits in the Public Sector
Excerpt: "In valuing these benefits, actuaries will be making assumptions for benefit costs (pre 65 and post 65 retiree benefits), health care cost inflation (trend) rate, interest discount rate, retirement rates, turnover rates, disability rates, mortality rates, aging assumptions (age/sex factors), asset return on investments (if any of the entities are funding benefits), salary increases if benefits or funding is based on salary (e.g., life insurance), plan participation percentage (some individuals may opt out) and actuarial cost methods. . . . Some of the approaches taken [to mitigate these liabilities] include: . . . ." (The Actuary Magazine)

District of Columbia Council Passes Mandatory Sick-Leave Law; Could Be Second City in Country to Implement Requirement
Excerpt: "The Washington, D.C., city council voted 11-2 last night to approve a bill requiring all employers to grant sick leave to their workers, but the proposal still has hurdles to clear before becoming law." (CNNMoney)

[Guidance Overview] New Exigency Leave and Servicemember Family Leave Under the FMLA
Excerpt: "The NDAA amendments create a new category of 12 week leave that allows an eligible employee to take leave time 'because of any qualifying exigency... arising out of the fact that the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent of the employee 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." (Haynes and Boone)

[Guidance Overview] Amendment to the Family Medical Leave Act Provides New Leave Rights for the Families of Servicemembers
Excerpt: "It is, by now, well documented that military members who are injured in battle are surviving in record numbers, leaving active duty and requiring short and long-term care to convalesce. This law recognizes this new fact of life for military families and permits them six months of protected unpaid leave to care for family members who return injured from an active duty deployment. Employers must review and amend their leave policies to acknowledge this substantial change to the FMLA." (Littler)

[Guidance Overview] Overview: President Signs Bill Expanding FMLA for Military Families and Revising DOD Contracting Rules
Excerpt: "President Bush January 28 signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law No. 110-181). Provisions in the law amend the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to create two new FMLA leave entitlements aimed at family members of military personnel." (Hewitt)
[Opinion] National Health Insurance: Lessons From Abroad
74 pages. Excerpt: "One of the reasons health care reform in the United States is so often discussed but rarely addressed is because health care is an exceedingly complicated policy arena. Misinformation and confusion often permeate the health care debate, stalling progress and often inciting conflict where cooperation was intended. Perhaps no issue is more controversial than that of looking abroad for solutions: How do other nations provide health care? What are their successes, their failures, and their challenges -- and how can we learn from them?" (The Century Foundation)

[Opinion] 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. In pending legislation to reauthorize Trade Adjustment Assistance, Congress has an opportunity to address HCTC's major problems . . . ." (Stan Dorn, published by Urban Institute)

[Opinion] What Government Does Better: Health Care
Excerpt: "You'll listen to me because I'm your doctor. I only have your health interests in mind. I have written this article without 'prior authorization' from any insurance companies. There are some intuitively obvious services that the government runs more productively and efficiently than private for-profit enterprises. For example . . . ." (Physicians for a National Healthcare Plan)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Directors Blame Compensation Consultants for Excessive CEO Pay Problem
Excerpt: "Ed Lawler, a professor of business at the USC and co-author of the study, says that board members swear it's not their fault; compensation consultants, they claim, are the major reason CEO pay is so out of control." (Workforce Management)

Is the Other Shoe About to Drop on the IRS' Surprising 162(m) Reversal?
Excerpt: "Many companies that have taken deductions based on the IRS position of the last ten years, and that now find themselves with 'offending' employment agreements are very concerned about their Q1 financial statements. To address the 'problem' the companies would have to do about seven different things that we humble lawyers only marginally understand." (Executive Compensation Blog published by Winston & Strawn)

[Guidance Overview] IRS Issues Form to Report Employer-Owned Life Insurance (PDF)
Excerpt: "For each tax year ending on or after November 14, 2007, every policyholder owning one or more 'employer-owned life insurance contracts' issued after August 17, 2006, must attach Form 8925 to its income tax return." (Sutherland Asbill and Brennan)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

EGTRRA Pre-approved Plan Workshop
in Minnesota on March 18, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

EGTRRA Pre-approved Plan Workshop
in Kansas on March 19, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Plan Design Workshop
in Kansas on March 18, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Plan Design Workshop
in Minnesota on March 19, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Washington Update with Brian Graff, Esq.
in Pennsylvania on April 1, 2008
presented by ASPPA Benefits Council of Delaware Valley

"Form 5500 Issues and Plan Audits" with Janice M. Wegesin, CPC, EA
in Michigan on March 19, 2008
presented by ASPPA Benefits Council of Detroit

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

AARP Calls for 2008 'Best Employers for Workers Over 50' Applications

Newkirk Launches Automatic Enrollment Targeted Communication

U.S. Department of Labor Sues To Install Independent Fiduciary On Behalf Of Former Employees Of Versailles, Kentucky, Hospital
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Large Employers Continuing to Offer Health Benefits
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

Guaranteed Annuities in 401(k) Products Are Gaining Traction, According to New FRC Research Report
Financial Research Corporation

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Daily Valuation Operator
for Fringe Benefits Design
in MN

Employee Benefits Trust Assistant
for Exchange Bank
in CA

Qualified Plan Installation and Conversion Specialist
for Atlanta Pension Consulting Firm
in GA

Pension Administrator
for California Retirements Plans, Inc.
in CA

Human Resources Division Manager I/II - Benefits Division
for County of Riverside
in CA

Qualified Plan Relationship Manager
for Charles Schwab
in OH, TX

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