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March 3, 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] Court Addresses Start Date for 60-Day COBRA Election Period
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: We think it was the court that was confused here. The employer gave the employee only 60 days from the date of his termination of employment to make an election, but under COBRA, the election period must run for 60 days after the termination of coverage or, if later, the date the election notice is provided. The employer's well-intentioned extension of coverage should have expanded the election period by at least one month. (The employer's notice also apparently failed to identify when coverage under the plan would terminate, as required by the DOL's COBRA notice regulations.) Ironically, had the employer not extended the coverage, the termination of coverage would have coincided with the termination of employment, making the election notice accurate." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

[Guidance Overview] Final MSP Regulations Regarding Primary Liability of Employers and Insurers
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: Group health plans and others subject to the MSP rules will likely be relieved that the changes are minimal and made largely by way of clarification. (Other MSP requirements loom on the horizon that will likely consume more time and effort . . . .) We note that the changes in the regulations were made in response to public comments, and the guidance contains detailed responses to other comments that are worth reading for additional insights into the MSP rules." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

[Guidance Overview] Privacy & Data Security - Employee Sick-Leave and Medical Privacy
Excerpt: "Does your company practice healthy habits when it comes to dealing with your employees' sensitive health information? HIPAA, with its relatively clear privacy rules, doesn't apply to employers acting in their capacity as an employer (as opposed to acting as an agent for a health insurance plan). But a recently filed Ohio case raises issues not only about the duties that employers have with regard to protecting sensitive medical information; it also highlights the need for employers to handle all employee personal data with care." (Troutman Sanders LLP)

Massachusetts Rejects Insurer Bids for Subsidized Health Coverage Program
Excerpt: "Massachusetts officials canceled a meeting scheduled for Wednesday at which they were to review contract bids from insurers in the state's subsidized health insurance program and vote on ways to partially offset costs, the Boston Globe reports. Leslie Kirwan, the state's top budget official and chair of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, said, 'The bids we received were not satisfactory.'" (Kaiser Family Foundation)

CMS Releases Sample HIPAA Security Interview and Document Request Guidelines for Investigators
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: Although many of the items in the document list do not come as a surprise, the list provides valuable insight into what might be required in a HIPAA security rule investigation. Covered entities and others who handle ePHI (such as health plans and business associates) may wish to review the checklist to identify whether they have areas of vulnerability." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

Employers Should Contribute More Under Massachusetts' Health Insurance Law If Beneficiary Costs Increase, Editorial States
Excerpt: "The Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority 'is about to raise its rates on people who are living on limited incomes,' but costs for coverage 'should not be so high ... that they are a burden for people with chronic conditions or discourage them from getting necessary care,' according to a Boston Globe editorial." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Dogs in the Workplace Can Contribute to Greater Employee Morale, According to Survey
Excerpt: "In addition to familiar perks like flex time and telecommuting, many companies are welcoming pets into the workplace, either on an occasional or regular basis. The benefits for the canines are obvious: as pack animals, dogs prefer to be with their guardians. Going into the office means recapturing eight or more hours of 'together time' that might otherwise be spent sleeping under the coffee table, waiting for the 'lead dog' to return. Likewise, pet guardians are free from concerns about poor Sparky, languishing at home-and free from the expense of walkers or doggie day-care. But what's in it for the company?" (Marin Independent Journal)

Patient Advocacy - Filling the Gaps in a Porous Medical System?
Excerpt: "After some initial resistance, the employees of Hess Print Solutions, which hired a patient advocacy company to help improve care and reduce cost, embraced the idea of getting help in negotiating a health care maze that can be full of dead ends. But, as the company learned, advocacy can't resolve every health issue." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Taxes and Health Insurance (PDF)
16 pages. February 29, 2008, Presentation to The Tax Policy Center and the American Tax Policy Institute. (Congressional Budget Office)

Employers Most Satisfied When Enrollment Systems, Related Resources Are Integrated
Excerpt: "Employers are using their benefits enrollment systems to encourage employees to adopt healthier behaviors, a new survey by Watson Wyatt Worldwide has found. The survey of 117 U.S. companies conducted in December 2007, at the end of the annual enrollment process, found that more than half (53%) have incorporated health risk assessments into their enrollment systems or will incorporate these programs by 2009 . . . ." (Wolters Kluwer Financial Services)

Do Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs Delay Retirement? (PDF)
40 pages. Excerpt: "This paper examines the impact of expected future out-of-pocket medical spending on retirement decisions. The results show that the premium costs associated with retirement before age 65 and expected out-of-pocket health care costs after 65 substantially delay retirement." (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College)

General Motors Might Have to Reduce, Delay Expenditures to Establish Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association
Excerpt: "General Motors might have to reduce or delay planned expenditures in some areas to obtain the funds required to establish a voluntary employees' beneficiary association, according to an annual report filed on Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the AP/Detroit Free Press reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Eating Disorder Coverage Class Action Covered by ERISA
Excerpt: "A class action lawsuit challenging Aetna Inc.'s denial of coverage of people with eating disorders gained momentum when a judge ruled that federal law will govern the case. Newark, N.J., U.S. District Court Judge Faith Hochberg on Wednesday denied Aetna motions to dismiss the case. Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna had argued that a coverage dispute should be decided by state regulators or handled by its internal appeals board on a case-by-case basis." (Business Insurance)


Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] IRS Ruling on Performance-Based Pay - Permissible Payment Events (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "In recent years, the IRS has begun to increasingly audit public companies on Section 162(m) issues and to take conservative positions on debatable issues under Section 162(m). Many companies' published compensation policies indicate that section 162(m) deductibility is required for the company's programs generally (although some state to the contrary). Moreover, pending legislation would substantially tighten the rules under Section 162(m). Thus, public companies should consider limiting their exposure on this and other grey areas under Section 162(m)." (Groom Law Group)

The Corporate Response to Deployment and Reintegration - Highlighting Best Practices (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) convened its 2007 Workplace Warrior Think Tank to discuss the scope of challenges and opportunities around returning employees and to identify employer-based resources and strategies. As Think Tank participants discussed, to successfully reintegrate employees, companies must understand the range and magnitude of the challenges and identify resources (both government and their own) that are available." (Disability Management Employer Coalition)

Tapping Into Home Equity Can Be Pitfall for the Elderly
Excerpt: "[H]undreds of people who have sought reverse mortgages . . . have complained about high-pressure or unethical sales tactics they say steered them toward loans with very high fees. Some say they were tricked into putting proceeds of their loans into unprofitable investments, while sales agents pocketed rich commissions." (The New York Times; free registration required)

[Opinion] Coming Soon - The Second Part of the Health Care Debate
Excerpt: "The skirmishing between the Democratic presidential candidates over the mechanics of universal health coverage will soon give way to a quite different general-election debate -- about whether universal coverage should even be a national priority." (The New York Times; free registration required)


Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Health & Welfare Plan Management for Mid-Sized Employers
in Massachusetts on April 27, 2008
presented by University Conference Services

Health & Welfare Plan Management for Mid-Sized Employers
in Illinois on June 8, 2008
presented by University Conference Services

Mid-Sized Retirement & Pension Plan Management Conference
in California on March 11, 2008
presented by University Conference Services

Mid-Sized Retirement & Pension Plan Management Conference
in Massachusetts on May 6, 2008
presented by University Conference Services

National Business Coalition on Health 13th Annual Conference
in District of Columbia on November 9, 2008
presented by National Business Coalition on Health

What to Know before Signing an Executive Employment Agreement: 60 Minute Video Enabling You to Get Executive Smart on the Key Terms and Areas of Negotiation
Nationwide on March 5, 2008
presented by Research and Markets


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Directors, Institutional Shareholders At Odds Over Whether Executive Pay Model Is Improving
Watson Wyatt

Funds Paying Over 50 Percent More in Fees than Five Years Ago, Watson Wyatt Research Shows
Watson Wyatt

Hewitt Survey Reveals New Employer Trends in Retirement
Hewitt Associates LLC

Statement of PBGC Director Charles E.F. Millard on Continuation of Defined Benefit Pensions at Solutia Inc.
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)

Long Island Man Pleads Guilty To Failing To File Employee Benefit Return
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U.S. Department of Labor Proposes Safe Harbor Rule for Employee Contributions to Small Pension and Welfare Plans
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Call to Arms: Employers Urged to Use Employee Assistance Programs to Help Veterans Shift from War Zone to Workplace
The Hartford

Unum Reduces Rates on Multi-Life Individual Disability Policies
Unum

What Do We Know About the Universe of State and Local Plans?; Center for Excellence Publishes New Issue Brief
Center for State and Local Government Excellence

Kronos Optimal Health Company Screenings Reveal Majority of Employees are Overweight
Kronos Optimal Health Company

Nine Years of Excellence -- Merrill Lynch Unparalleled in Client Statements
Dalbar, Inc.

COSE Supports Business Growth, Opposes Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Act
Council of Smaller Enterprises' (COSE)

New CEA Employee Benefit Helps Environment, Encourages Home Ownership and Reduces Commuting Time
Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)


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Pension Administrator
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Conversion Specialist
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401(k)/Defined Contribution Administrator
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in FL

Benefits Administration and Technology Consultant - Chicago
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in IL

Benefits Administration and Technology Consultant - San Francisco
for The Segal Company
in CA

CRTNJ - Account Manager - AMT
for Citi
in ME

OmniPlus Systems Manager
for BB&T
in NC

Institutional Relationship Manager
for PlanMember Services Corporation
in CA

Retirement Services District Manager
for ADP- Retirement Services
in AZ, CA, CT, DC, MI, MO, NH, NY, TN, WA

Senior Conversion Analyst
for Administaff
in TX

Manager Quality Control testing & 5500
for Retirement Alliance, Inc.
in NH




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