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March 20, 2008

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


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Complete Benefits Law Guidance from Law Journal Press

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[Guidance Overview] Actuarial Equivalence for Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans under the Medicare Drug Program (PDF)
Excerpt: "The purpose of this practice note is to provide guidance to the actuary certifying to the actuarial equivalence of a PDP or a MA-PD under the requirements of 42 CFR 423.265 and is based on interpretations of 42 CFR 423.265 and current CMS guidelines and requirements." (American Academy of Actuaries)


[Guidance Overview] Family of Ex-Wal-Mart Employee Loses Health Benefits Repayment Fight
Excerpt: "The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away an appeal from the family of a former Wal-Mart employee injured in a car crash in its legal battle to keep the giant retailer from recouping hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses from an accident settlement." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Blue Cross to Push Wellness in Plans
Excerpt: "The movement by employers and insurance companies to put employee wellness at the forefront of consumer health choices is getting a big boost under a new push by the nation's fourth largest health insurance company. Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp., parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, added the word 'wellness' to the mission statements of its four health plans. The company, which has more than 12 million members, also operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma." (Chicago Tribune)


Google Unveils Online Health Record Pilot Program
Excerpt: "Google and the Cleveland Clinic agreed to partner on a program to store patient health records online. The patients, who volunteered for the electronic transfer of their records, will be able to access their own records. Though all health profiles will be password-protected, critics have accused the program of raising more problems than it solves." (Search Engine News)


Republicans and Democrats Diverge on Health Care
Excerpt: "Americans' views of the U.S. health care system differ widely based on political party preferences, with Republicans far more likely than Democrats to call it the world's best, a poll released [today] showed." (Reuters via The New York Times; free registration required)


U.S. House Bill Seeks Parity in Prosthetic Coverage
Excerpt: "Group health insurers would be required to offer coverage for prosthetic devices and components, under legislation calling for new parity standards in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Introduced as H.R. 5615, the Prosthetic Parity Act asks that health plans offer prosthetic care coverage on par with other medical or surgical care deemed 'essential' to a patient's health, restricting the ability to establish separate dollar caps or restrictions for prostheses." (BestWire Services via NewsEdge Corporation via Human Resource Executive Online)


More U.S. Health Insurers Slashing Costs by Sending Policyholders Overseas for Pricey Procedures
Excerpt: "Yes, just like manufacturing facilities and call centers, health care is moving offshore. 'All of the largest U.S. insurers are starting to educate themselves or are putting [offshore] programs in place,' says Jonathan Edelheit, president of the Medical Tourism Assn., an industry group formed just last year. Companies that self-insure are also bombarding Edelheit's group with requests for information." (BusinessWeek)


OPM Urges Health Insurers to Increase Hearing Benefits
Excerpt: "The federal employee health insurance program yesterday urged health insurance companies to strengthen their coverage for adults who need hearing aids or have problems hearing. . . . Last year, OPM asked insurance companies to increase coverage of hearing benefits for newborns and children, noting that hearing loss is one of the most common congenital birth defects. Some companies increased those benefits, at little or no additional cost to enrollees, OPM said." (The Washington Post; free registration required)


Employers, Health Plans, PBMs Push for Legislation to Rein in Specialty-Drug Spending
Excerpt: "Bills paving the way for cheaper biotech drugs are pending in Congress, but debate rages over details. Biotech companies, who prefer the term 'biosimilars' to biogenerics, say that copying a biotech drug is more complicated than knocking off a pill. They want biogenerics to undergo clinical trials to prove safety and efficacy. That could drive up costs. Big employers worried about escalation of specialty-drug costs are ramping up lobbying through the Coalition for a Competitive Pharma.ceutical Market, a business group pushing for passage of biogenerics laws. Among them are General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and Caterpillar Inc." (The Wall Street Journal)


Pennsylvania Health Care Alliance Launches Web Site Providing Quality-of-Care Information for State Hospitals
Excerpt: "The site includes quality information for state hospitals on treatment of heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia and hospital-acquired infections during a certain year. According to the alliance, the four categories were chosen first because they are the most common and costly illnesses for hospitals to treat . . . ." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Healthy Campus Survey - First Report of Results (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "Sibson conducted this survey of college and university wellness programs last year. A range of higher education [initiatives] are represented in the survey. A supplement to the survey report at http://www.segalsibson.com/publications/surveysandstudies/HCsupp.pdf lists the institutions by name." (The Segal Group, Inc.)


San Mateo County Employers May Fund County's Health Plan
Excerpt: "The San Mateo County group working to extend health coverage to thousands of uninsured adults may try to persuade residents to vote for measures requiring employers to help pay for the effort. More than 1-1/2 years after it first convened, the county's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Adult Healthcare Coverage Expansion is still grappling with how to fund expansion of the county's health care system, which it is charged with making more efficient. The task force -- made up of 36 members representing business, labor and government -- is scheduled to vote Friday on a broad set of recommendations for a plan to cover between 36,000 and 44,000 adults ages 19 to 64 who earn less than 400 percent of the federal poverty limit. That equates to an annual income of $75,400 for a family of four." (Inside Bay Area)



Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Official Guidance] The IRS Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide for Use in 2008 - Publication 15-A (PDF)
60 pages. Excerpt: "This publication supplements Publication 15 (Circular E), Employer's Tax Guide. It contains specialized and detailed employment tax information supplementing the basic information provided in Publication 15 (Circular E)." (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] Accounting Proposal Would Require More Postretirement Benefit Disclosure
Excerpt: "A Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) proposal made public on March 18, 2008, would significantly increase the amount and types of disclosures employers are required to file regarding postretirement benefits, such as pensions and retiree medical plans. These changes are proposed to take effect for fiscal years ending after December 15, 2008." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


United Healthcare Options Backdating Suit Gets Class Action Status
Excerpt: "A federal judge in Minneapolis has granted class-action status to a lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group Inc. over stock options backdating." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Ask the Experts: Tax Subsidies and Health Insurance - Webcast
Nationwide on March 20, 2008
presented by KaiserNetwork.org



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

FASB Issues Proposed FASB Staff Position (FSP) No. 132(R)-a, Employers' Disclosures about Postretirement Benefit Plan Assets
Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

Companies Not Fully Tapping Potential of Onsite Health Centers
Watson Wyatt

Departing CEOs Not Receiving Increased Termination Payments At Most Companies, Watson Wyatt Survey Finds
Watson Wyatt

EBRI Report on Individual Account Assets
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

The SPARK Institute Comments On IRS 403(b) Plan Rules, Requests Deadline Extension, Guidance On Contracts
SPARK Institute

Financial Services Execs Drowning in Underwater Stock Options
Steven Hall & Partners

Many Americans May Run Out of Money in Retirement; Spending Outlook May Need to be Reduced
InvestmentNews



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Internal Service Representative
for Northwestern Benefit Corporation of Georgia
in GA

Defined Contribution Software Customer Support
for DATAIR Employee Benefit Systems, Inc.
in IL

Defined Contribution Analysts
for Milliman, Inc.
in NY

401(k) Recordkeeper
for Guidant Financial Group, Inc.
in WI

Pension Analyst I
for SunGard Relius
in FL

Senior Relius Administration Analyst
for SunGard Relius
in FL

Manager of Customer Service
for Northwestern Benefit Corporation of Georgia
in GA

Pension Administrator
for R-Tech Consultants, Inc.
in CA

Benefits Specialist
for CVS Caremark
in RI

Benefits Manager
for ARINC
in DC, MD, VA

Actuary I
for Stanley, Hunt, Dupree and Rhine
in SC

Assistant Manager Pension Operations
for Zenith Administrators
in IL

Director of Investment Research Team-50052593
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA

Assistant Director, Business Compliance
for Hartford Life, The Hartford
in CT

Defined Benefits Sr Analyst
for Affiliated Computer Services
in NJ

Sr Analyst - Benefits
for L'Oreal USA
in NJ




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