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March 12, 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] Washington, D.C. Council Passes Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act (PDF)
Excerpt: "Washington, D.C. will likely soon become the second U.S. city to require employers to provide their employees with paid sick and protective leave. The D.C. Council passed earlier this month the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act (ASSLA), which provides paid leave to employees for their own and family members' health needs. If approved by the mayor, the law will take effect six months after a 30-day mandatory Congressional review period." (Winston & Strawn LLP)


[Guidance Overview] DOL Provides Further Guidance on Wellness Programs
Highlights from the DOL's recently published checklist for wellness plans to be HIPAA-compliant. (JPMorgan; free registration required to access paper)


[Guidance Overview] DOL's FMLA Regulations Offer Employers Life Preserver, Not Raft
Excerpt: "The DOL received a lot to think about last year after receiving more than 15,000 comments on how to change FMLA. Last month, the DOL returned the favor by issuing 127 pages of proposed regulations." (Infinisource)


[Guidance Overview] Fifth Circuit Says AD&D Plans Exist, Therefore They Are ERISA Plans
Excerpt: "To be ERISA-qualified, a plan must: (1) exist; 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Per Curium, Read v. Sun Life Assurance, No. 07-10945, March 7, 2008." (Pension Protection Act Blog)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Joins DOL to Close Wellness Plan Loophole in HIPAA
Excerpt: "The requirement that the supplemental coverage not differentiate among individuals based on any health factor is key. Effectively, IRS and DOL are saying they will not treat supplemental coverage as a HIPAA excepted benefit that is exempt from the HIPAA nondiscrimination rules unless the supplemental coverage itself satisfies the HIPAA nondiscrimination rules. Thus, tying the wellness plan reward to the supplemental coverage will prevent such coverage from being a HIPAA excepted benefit -- and the wellness plan will have to satisfy the HIPAA nondiscrimination rules." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] House Passes Mental Health Parity Bill, Complicated by Adding a Genetic Nondiscrimination Provision
Excerpt: "This year mental health parity supporters had hoped for a permanent enactment. But the House bill has complicated chances for permanent mental health parity enactment by adding the provisions of a controversial genetic information nondiscrimination bill (H.R. 493), the House had enacted last year. Now H.R. 1424 must be reconciled with the Mental Health Parity Act of 2007 (S. 558), which the Senate unanimously approved last year." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] DOL Checklist for Wellness Programs
Excerpt: "The issue summarizes a welcome, new checklist from the Department of Labor (DOL) on wellness programs. As a result of this DOL reminder on compliance with the wellness rules, every plan sponsor should review their benefit plan to determine (1) which of their programs are wellness programs that need to comply with the rules and (2) whether the program is in compliance." (The Segal Group, Inc.)


How to Make Your Pharmacy Benefit Manager More Accountable
Excerpt: "By drafting a new contract to close various loopholes, employers can get the transparency they deserve from their pharmacy benefit manager, experts say." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


South Carolina Bill Would Extend Health Care Protection for Dependents Years Longer
Excerpt: "South Carolina would be taking one of the most aggressive stands in the nation in extending health insurance to its young adults under a proposal lawmakers will discuss . . . . A bill proposed by Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, would require insurance companies to insure adult dependents up to age 25." (TheState.com)


One-Third of Employers Offer Consumer-Driven Option, According to Survey
Excerpt: "More than one-third of surveyed employers offered a consumer driven health plan option in 2007, according to a recent benefits survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans." (Wolters Kluwer Financial Services)


Employers Can Be Liable for Suicides, According to the House of Lords, the United Kingdom's Highest Court
Excerpt: "The House of Lords, the United Kingdom's highest court, has ruled that the widow of a man who committed suicide six years after a workplace accident should be compensated by her husband's former employer. In a landmark ruling, the Law Lords said that Luton, England-based IBC Vehicles Ltd. owed a duty of care to Thomas Corr who suffered a serious head injury while employed by the company and killed himself six years later." (Business Insurance)


What's the ROI on Wellness Programs?
Excerpt: "Hannaford has frequently been touted as running one of the best wellness programs in the country . . . . Like other notable companies on the short list, Hannaford has a huge workforce -- 12,000 people -- and much to gain from improving the health of its employees. There are no exact figures on what the wellness program pays back for the more than $11 million in insurance discounts that it hands out in a year, says Udeh, but there is one very healthy trend line to boast about. 'Over the last two years, there's been a negative spending trend in medical, which is pretty unheard of,' says the wellness director. 'We're pretty sure a lot of the wellness initiatives are contributing.'" (Managed Care Magazine)


Federal and State Governments Pressed to Give Tax Breaks for Wellness Initiatives
Excerpt: "When it comes to encouraging wellness programs, government is starting to get into the act. On Capitol Hill and in statehouses from Maine to California, legislators are sponsoring measures to encourage private sector employers to embrace wellness programs as one way of clamping down on health care inflation." (Managed Care Magazine)


Survey Finds FMLA Change Support
Excerpt: "A new survey has found strong public support for efforts to tune up the 15-year-old Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). A news release from the National Coalition to Protect Family Leave, which sponsored the poll, said 52% of respondents contended FMLA adjustments were needed, while 28% pushed for leaving the law alone. However, when respondents learned how FMLA was actually working in the workplace, support for regulatory corrections increased dramatically." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


[Opinion] Bars to Managed Care Lawsuits - A Historic Review
Excerpt: "Historically, managed care companies have been afforded immunity from negligence and malpractice lawsuits. Several state and federal bars, including ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974), have insulated managed care companies from liability relating to the treatment of patients. Likewise, managed care companies have historically been immune from malpractice committed by a health care member of its panel of providers." (The Executive Post @ Healthcare Financials.com)


[Opinion] Do Health Benefits Reduce Wages? And, Who Really Pays for Health Care?
Excerpt: "It is simply not rational to build reform on the obsolete model of private health plans. At $2.4 trillion, we already have enough funds to pay for comprehensive care for everyone. We simply need to establish a single risk pool that is equitably funded through the tax system, and then use that to pay for care for everyone." (Physicians for a National Health Program)



Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Official Guidance] Text of Rev. Proc. 2008-25: Safe Harbor for Deducting Payroll Taxes by Accrual-Method Taxpayers (PDF)
Excerpt: "Revenue Procedure 2008-25 provides a safe harbor method of accounting for taxpayers using an accrual method of accounting that incur FICA tax and FUTA tax (payroll tax) liabilities for compensation (including bonuses and vacation pay), and also provides procedures for taxpayers to obtain the automatic consent of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to change to the safe harbor method of accounting." (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Provides Safe Harbor for Deducting Payroll Taxes by Accrual-Method Taxpayers
Excerpt: "The IRS has provided a safe harbor method for accrual-method taxpayers to use to account for their FICA and FUTA tax ('payroll tax') liabilities and has set forth procedures to follow for making automatic changes to the safe harbor method. Under the safe harbor method, a taxpayer will be treated as satisfying the recurring item exception to the economic performance rule of Reg. §1.461-5(b)(1)(i) for its payroll tax liability in the same tax year in which: (1) all events have occurred that establish the existence of the liability for the related compensation, and (2) the amount of the liability for the related compensation can be determined with reasonable accuracy." (CCH Incorporated)


[Guidance Overview] Monthly Benefit News & Developments, March 2008 (PDF)
2 pages. A review of recent legislative and regulatory activity. (Milliman)


[Guidance Overview] Federal Circuit Rules Supplemental Unemployment Benefits
Excerpt: "The Federal Circuit on March 6, 2008 judged that payments qualifying as supplemental unemployment benefits (SUB) are wages for FICA purposes. This reversed the Court of Federal Claims ruling that certain termination payments were not subject to FICA because such payments were supplemental unemployment compensation as defined in IRC § 3402(o)." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


EBSA ERISA Enforcement Efforts - Jan - Feb 2008
Excerpt: "The U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefit Security Administration, reports the following enforcement results for the period January 1, 2008 - February 29, 2008 . . . ." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)


FASB to Propose Increased Disclosure of Pension Plan Asset Classes and Value Assumptions
Excerpt: "The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has instructed its staff to issue an FASB Staff Position (FSP) paper that proposes to improve disclosures about postretirement benefit plan assets now required by Financial Accounting Statement (FAS) No. 132(R), Employers' Disclosures about Pensions and Other Postretirement Benefits." (Wolters Kluwer Financial Services)



Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Pennsylvania on April 18, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Texas on April 18, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Alabama on April 18, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Employee Benefits Conference
in New York on May 28, 2008
presented by Foundation for Accounting Education

Form 5500 Workshop
in Texas on April 17, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Form 5500 Workshop
in Alabama on April 17, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Form 5500 Workshop
in Pennsylvania on April 17, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Self-Correction of Certain 409A Operational Errors: Snatching Your Bacon Out of the Fire - Webcast
Nationwide on March 19, 2008
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)

SWBA/IRS 403(b) Tax Sheltered Annuity Conference
in Texas on April 4, 2008
presented by Internal Revenue Service (IRS)


Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Employers Enhancing 401(k)s To Compensate for Retirement Plan Changes, Watson Wyatt Finds
Watson Wyatt

Hewitt Strengthens Health Care Benefit Capabilities for Mid-Size Companies
Hewitt Associates LLC

ING Releases Plan Documents to Help Public Schools Meet New IRS Retirement Plan Laws
ING Group


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