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February 15, 2008

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

Today's sponsor is

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for has added a Transportation Spending Account Plan (IRC 132(f)) to our list of high quality plan documents.

This new plan provides a substantial benefit to employees, allowing purchases of qualified transportation spending expenses pre-tax. The plan also includes wage deferral agreement forms, reimbursement forms (when applicable) and a summary plan description for employees.

Contact Holly Roussel with questions at 800.596.0714 or via email at

[Guidance Overview] 6th Circuit Rules Retirees Were Entitled to Arbitrate Their Pension Claims
Excerpt: "Retired Steelworkers were entitled to arbitrate a dispute over pension benefits denied them, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The court rejected the pension plan's contention that a presumption of arbitrability, based in the Supreme Court's recognition of 'the national labor policy of peaceful resolution of labor disputes,' did not apply in the case of retirees . . . ." (CCH Labor & Employment Law)

[Guidance Overview] Terminating Employee for Off-Premises Smoking May Violate ERISA 510 and State Privacy Law
Excerpt: "In a recent decision, Rodrigues v. The Scotts Co., LLC, a federal district court in Massachusetts held that the termination of an employee for violating his employer's policy prohibiting smoking entirely, including outside the workplace, may constitute an interference with that employee's right to participate in the company's benefits plan in violation of Section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The court also left alive the claim that the broad no-smokers policy was an invasion of privacy under the Massachusetts Privacy Act." (Nixon Peabody)

[Guidance Overview] R.I.P. Erie County Decision; How EEOC's Final Regulations Make It Moot
Excerpt: "In this article, we'll discuss the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals' Erie County decision (Erie County Retirees Association v County of Erie, 220 F.3d 193(3d Cir. 2000)), what it means with regard to medical plan designs (mostly retiree medical), and finally what the EEOC did in its final regulations to make moot the decision commonly referred to as Erie County." (JPMorgan)

[Guidance Overview] Eleventh Circuit Reverses Lower Court And Holds Subrogation Appropriate Against Funds in Conservator's Account
Excerpt: "This case is important because the Eleventh Circuit clarified that Knudson and Sereboff allow a health plan to establish entitlement to a fund, even where a third party (i.e., someone other than the plan participant) holds the fund, so long as 'the settlement proceeds are still intact and, therefore, constitute an identifiable res that can be restored to its rightful recipient.'" (Clear Direction blog)

Democratic Leaders Oppose Revising FMLA Regulations
Excerpt: " Democratic congressional leaders oppose regulatory changes to an employee leave law, but it's not clear whether they will try to block them. During and before a Senate hearing on Wednesday, February 13, the author of the 15-year-old measure, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, and Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, accused the Bush administration of trying to discourage workers from utilizing the law -- the Family and Medical Leave Act." (Workforce Management)

New York State Attorney General Accuses Health Insurers of Fraud
Excerpt: " New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is suing United Health, one the nation's largest health insurers, and demanding information from more than a dozen others. He accuses the industry of manipulating data so it can charge patients an unfairly high portion of the bill for out-of-network doctors." (National Public Radio)

Health Insurance Premiums for Individuals in Massachusetts to Rise, But Less Than for Employer Plans
Excerpt: "Premiums for private health insurance plans sold through the state are likely to rise an average of about 5 percent over last year's prices - roughly half as much as plans for people covered through their employers, according to a state memo released yesterday. The moderate increase expected for nonsubsidized Commonwealth Choice plans is good news for the state in its attempt to keep private insurance affordable . . . ." (Boston Globe)

Text of GAO Report: HHS Pursues Efforts to Advance Nationwide Health Information Technology But Has No 'National Strategy'
17 pages. Excerpt: "Even though HHS is undertaking . . . various activities, it has not yet developed a national strategy that defines plans, milestones, and performance measures for reaching the President's goal of interoperable electronic health records by 2014. In 2006, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology agreed with GAO's recommendation that HHS define such a strategy; however, the department has not yet done so." (United States Government Accountability Office)

[Opinion] SHRM Raises Concerns on Mandated Leave for First Responders
Excerpt: "Providing leave so that, when disasters strike, employees can serve as volunteer firefighters and as emergency medical personnel is laudable. But should the federal government require employers to provide minimum leave to cover emergency service volunteering? Congressional supporters of a broader leave mandate argue yes, but their proposed legislation raises a number of concerns for employers . . . ." (Society for Human Resource Management)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Some Relief Likely for 162(m) Reversal
Excerpt: "Kenneth Griffin, author of the IRS' recent, surprising and controversial private letter ruling, clarified the IRS' position on the implications of a possible acceleration of performance-based incentive awards." (Executive Compensation Blog published by Winston & Strawn LLP)

[Guidance Overview] IRS Provides Adverse Ruling on $1 Million Pay Cap
Excerpt: "We review the private letter ruling (PLR) the IRS published on January 25, 2008, that relates to the $1 million pay cap under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Section 162(m)." (JPMorgan)

Costs of Federal Government Benefits for Seniors Rise 24% Above Inflation Rate Since 2000
Excerpt: "The cost of government benefits for seniors soared to a record $27,289 per senior in 2007, according to a USA TODAY analysis. . . . Medical costs are the biggest reason. Last year, for the first time, health care and nursing homes cost the government more than Social Security payments for seniors age 65 and older." (USA TODAY)

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Employee Benefits Security Administration Issues Guidance On Wellness Program Rules Under HIPAA
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

National Employee Benefits Day To Be Celebrated on April 2, 2008
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

401(k) Service Provider Proposal Will Improve Disclosure to Plan Fiduciaries
Investment Company Institute

AIM Investments Works With Morningstar to Develop DC Plan Reports
AIM Investments

GSK Launches New Website to Help Employers Lower Costs and Improve the Health of Workers

MassMutual's Center for Behavioral Research(SM) Launches Web Site

Pension - Hedge Fund Mock Deposition
Fiduciary360 (fi360)

Health Care for America Would Save Billions
Economic Policy Institute (EPI)

More Americans Are Using More Prescription Drugs
Express Scripts

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Pension Plan Administrator
for Future Planning Associates, Inc.
in VT

Benefit Analyst
for Kibble & Prentice
in WA

Retirement Plan Specialist
for Growing TPA Firm
in IL

Client Service Manager
for Charles Schwab
in AZ, CO

Daily Trading Associate
for Sentinel Benefits Group
in MA

401(k)/Pension Client Relations
for United Asset Strategies, Inc.
in NY

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