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April 3, 2008

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


Today's sponsor is University Conference Services

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How Do Your Medical Plan's Vital Signs Look?

Are you searching for a new strategy that will contain your health care costs yet distinguish you as an employer of choice? The Health and Welfare Plan Management for Mid-Sized Employers, April 27-30, 2008, in Boston, offers practical, reality-based solutions that will ensure the "health" of your benefit plans.

[Guidance Overview] IRS Clarifies Grandfathering Rules for Split Dollar Life Insurance Contracts (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "In Notice 2008-42, to be published on April 14, 2008, the Internal Revenue Service clarified the interaction of three grandfathering rules as applied to split dollar life insurance contracts. . . . In the Notice, the Service concluded that, because the grandfathering rules under sections 101(j) and 264(f) are tied to changes in the 'contract,' a change in the split dollar arrangement that does not modify the terms of the underlying insurance contract is not a material change for purposes of those rules. Such a change could vitiate grandfathering under the split dollar regulations, but not under the two statutory provisions." (Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Employers Still Struggle to Determine Imputed Income for Domestic Partner Benefits (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "There is only limited IRS guidance (mainly contained in private letter rulings . . ., on how to determine [fair market value (FMV)] of domestic partner benefits. When the IRS issues guidance, it is clear what is not included in an FMV determination. The FMV of coverage does not depend on usage of the coverage or benefit claims actually paid." (McDermott Will & Emery)


Benefits Quarterly Article Highlights Research on Blue Cross Consumer-Directed Member's Health Care Utilization
Excerpt: "In a peer-reviewed study published in the March issue of Benefits Quarterly, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) reports that their CDHP (consumer-directed health plan) members had 11 percent fewer visits to the emergency room and had an 11 percent decrease in prescription drug use, as compared to members in traditional plans. The study, which adjusted for differences in health, also found that the CDHP members used 12 percent more preventive services than traditional plan members. More than 830,000 enrollees were studied over a period of three years." (Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association)


Employees Aren't Engaged by Wellness Programs, Hewitt Study Says
Excerpt: "While companies are devoting more time and money into helping employees live healthier lifestyles, employees aren't sure they want their employers taking on this role, according to Hewitt. Eighty-eight percent of employers surveyed plan to invest in ways to improve the health and productivity of their workforces, up from 66 percent last year. But only 12 percent of employees believe that it's appropriate for their employer to play this role." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Changes in Family Health Insurance Coverage for Small and Large Firm Workers and Dependents: Evidence from 1995 to 2005 (PDF)
69 pages. Excerpt: "This study finds that family health insurance coverage for workers in both small and large firms is decreasing, and that firm size plays a role in the type of dependent coverage children have. Access to coverage through a large firm as a dependent remains very important to small firm employees." (U.S. Small Business Administration)


Drug Costs Rise As Economy Slides
Excerpt: "People with health insurance are having more trouble paying for prescription drugs as higher out-of-pocket costs for medications and a slowing economy strain family budgets, according to surveys and health care analysts." (USA TODAY)


State of Washington Enacts Military Family Leave Act
Excerpt: "Governor Chris Gregoire signed S.B. 6447 on March 19, 2008 that allows more unpaid leave for military families before or during deployment." (Wolters Kluwer)


Historically Rocky Marriage Between Health Plans and Network Providers Becoming Even More Contentious
Excerpt: "The historically rocky marriage between health plans and their network providers is crumbling, according to two recent surveys of hospital executives and physicians. And, as has happened in the past, failing relationships can ultimately have a negative effect on earnings for health plans." (AISHealth.com)


If Generics Are Always a Cheaper Option, Why Do Some PBMs and Health Plans Push Brands?
Excerpt: "It's a given in the pharmacy benefit world that generic drugs are the lowest-cost option, often pennies on the dollar of their branded counterparts. Yet some health plans and PBMs continue to favor brand drugs over generics based on the steep rebate agreements and other financial deals they forge with pharma.ceutical manufacturers." (AISHealth.com)


Americans Can do More to Keep Health Costs Down
Excerpt: "Health care costs continue to rise, but Americans are not taking the steps to be healthier and thus reduce their costs, according to a new survey released by Erickson Health." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Chrysler Cuts White-Collar Retiree Life Insurance
Excerpt: "Chrysler LLC's white collar retirees are losing free life insurance benefits but are eligible for an up to a $4,000 one-time pension boost, according to a letter retirees should receive this week. Previously retirees were covered by a $50,000 life insurance policy at no charge to them. Now, Chrysler will allow workers to buy into a voluntary plan through MetLife at a reduced, group rate. Eliminating life insurance is the latest is a series of cost-cutting moves for Chrysler under private ownership by Cerberus Capital Management LP." (The Detroit News)


Restaurants Gain Support for Lawsuit Against San Francisco Health Plan
Excerpt: "At least nine groups have submitted briefs to the U.S. Court of Appeals, arguing that San Francisco's health plan is superseded by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which limits local governments from administering employee benefits." (California HealthCare Foundation; free registration may be required)


California Proposes Ban on 'Balanced Billing' by Health Insurers for Emergency Care
Excerpt: "The California Department of Managed Health Care on Friday released draft regulations that would bar physicians and hospitals from billing patients for the cost of services above what their HMOs are willing to pay . . . . The draft regulations are an attempt by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration to ban the practice known as 'balance billing' by physicians who often work in hospitals but do not have contracts with the same HMO as the hospital. Some doctors -- who mostly are emergency department physicians, radiologists and anesthesiologists -- believe payments they receive from insurers are too low and send bills to patients for the difference . . . ." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Senators Propose Offsets for House Mental Health Parity Bill To Increase Chance of Passage
Excerpt: "Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) have proposed a new set of cost offsets to the House version of a mental health parity bill (HR 1424) that passed in March, CongressDaily reports. The offsets are part of a compromise parity measure that was sent to the House during the spring recess." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] Comments on OECD Paper on the Economics of Prevention
Excerpt: "Accepting the health benefits of prevention as a given, there are two other questions to be addressed as we sort out the proposals to reform the financing of our health care system. First, does the health care delivery system provide the appropriate infrastructure for providing the interventions that would prevent injury and disease? Second, assuming that it does, would these interventions be effective in controlling health care costs, making health care affordable?" (Physicians for a National Health Program)



Sponsored by: WorldatWork

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WorldatWork publications in the BenefitsLink Bookstore

WorldatWork, a not-for-profit professional association, is a leading publisher of compensation, benefits and total rewards information. With a portfolio of books, reports, survey briefs, booklets and online learning programs, WorldatWork creates, markets and distributes publications that are critical to improved organizational performance. WorldatWork has contributed to the education and development of business professionals worldwide since 1955.

(Please visit our sponsors. We try to make sure their products and services will be of interest to you. Thanks! --Editor)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Official Guidance] IRS Solicits Comments: Wages for FICA Purposes Arising from Deferrals and Payments Under Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans (PDF)
1 page; June 2 deadline. The IRS is soliciting comments concerning an existing final regulation, 'Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) Taxation of Amounts Under Employee Benefit Plans' (Sec. 31.3121(v)(2)-1). Excerpt: "This regulation provides guidance as to when amounts deferred under or paid from a nonqualified deferred compensation plan are taken into account as wages for purposes of the employment taxes imposed by the Federal Insurance Compensation Act (FICA). Current Actions: There is no change to this existing regulation. Type of Review: Extension of currently approved collection." (Internal Revenue Service)


20% of Companies Pick Up CEOs' Taxes on Perks
Excerpt: "CEOs are just like the rest of us: They hate paying for things out of pocket if they can find someone else to foot the bill. Fortunately for them, in many cases there is someone willing to pick up the bill for selected personal expenses: the shareholders. A new study from The Corporate Library finds that the most common form of perk being granted to CEOs these days is something called a tax 'gross-up.' In plain English, it means that a company pays the taxes owed by the CEO on benefits granted by the company." (USA TODAY)


Executive Compensation - Besides Stock Options, What Else Is There?
Excerpt: "There are several alternatives, including restricted stock plans, phantom stock, stock appreciation rights, and employee stock ownership plans. Each of these plans is an alternative to the stock option, and some do not involve stock ownership at all." (Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC)


A Great Place To Work - It Isn't About The Perks, It's 'Respect, Dignity, Flexibility'
Excerpt: "Although some of Fortune magazine's top 100 best companies to work for offer unusual perks such as scuba-certification classes and meditation rooms, it's not the bells and whistles that probably got them there in the first place. The real secret to being a good place to work? 'People are treated with respect, dignity, flexibility,' said Richard Hansen, CEO of Johnson Financial Group , one of three Wisconsin companies to make this year's list. 'It's really not all that complicated.' Hansen said his company's business model aims to offer its clients satisfied, motivated associates, producing low turnover rates in employees and customers." (Wisconsin State Journal)



[Opinion] A Review of the Creation of ERISA Preemption
Excerpt: "The house passed its version of ERISA in the fall of 1973. The Senate approved its version in February of 1974. There were many differences to be reconciled by the Conference, which got underway in April of that year. One of them, however, was not the preemption of state law rule, which was the same in both bills. It provided for 'subject matter' preemption. States were precluded from legislating with respect to matters addressed in ERISA. . . . So how, then, did we wind up with the utterly different, and much broader, preemption rule that was in ERISA as enacted?" (Pension & Benefits Blog)


[Opinion] Outdated Employee Benefits Law Needs Revision, Not Further Judicial Interpretation
Excerpt: "The recent decision of a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned a federal judge's ruling on San Francisco's 'play or pay' employer health insurance mandate, highlights one important fact: The 1974 federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA, is a mess. It was bad law when it was enacted, and it hasn't gotten better with time. It is because of ERISA that the states have gone crazy with mandated benefits and other regulations." (The Heartland Institute)



Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Georgia on May 2, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Illinois on May 2, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Ohio on May 2, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Minnesota on May 2, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Advanced COBRA Compliance: Thorny Issues for Employers, COBRA Administrators, and Advisors
Nationwide on March 20, 2008
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)/Thomson Tax & Accounting

Bob Kaplan on Plan Documents - What You Need to Know
in Pennsylvania on June 19, 2008
presented by ASPPA Benefits Council of Delaware Valley

ERISA Health and Welfare Compliance for Rookies: Understanding Basic Documentation, SPD, Form 5500, and Other Rules
Nationwide on May 1, 2008
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)/Thomson Tax & Accounting

Form 5500 Workshop
in Minnesota on May 1, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Form 5500 Workshop
in Georgia on May 1, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Form 5500 Workshop
in Illinois on May 1, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Form 5500 Workshop
in Ohio on May 1, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

HIPAA Traps for the Unwary: Health Status Discrimination, Special Enrollment, Creditable Coverage, and More
Nationwide on March 6, 2008
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)/Thomson Tax & Accounting

SPARK Accredited Retirement Plan Consultant (ARPC) 1-Day Classroom Session
in Maryland on June 11, 2008
presented by SPARK -- Society of Professional Asset-Managers and Record Keepers



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

ExpertPlan Brings On 12 New Private Label Partners in Q1 '08
ExpertPlan

Pension Cutback Notices No April Fools Joke
Pension Rights Center

AXA Equitable Unveils Crossings(SM): My Lifetime IRA(SM)
AXA Financial, Inc

CAPTRUST Acquires Retirement Plan Division of Capital Strategies Advisors
CAPTRUST Financial Advisors

Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co., LLP expands its claims audit practice with the addition of Robert J. Frcek, CPA as the Director of Benefit Services
Miller, Kaplan, Arase & Co., LLP

IHPM and HealthMedia Announce Industry's First Behavioral Health Workplace Center for Employers
HealthMedia, Inc.



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Compensation & Benefits Senior Manager
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in DC, TN, VA

401(k) Administrator
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in NJ

DC Testing Specialist
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in ANY STATE, CA

Retirement Plans Relationship Manager
for Boston Financial Data Services
in MA

Processing Specialist
for Citi
in ME

Financial Planning Expert
for The Principal Financial Group
in DC

Defined Benefit Professional
for Benetemps
in MA

Pension Administrator (FT / PT)
for Actuarial Consulting Services
in NJ

TRS - Client Relationship Manager
for Transamerica Retirement Services
in CA

Regional Director
for ING, US Financial Services
in CA, KS, MA, TN

Data Conversion Specialist
for Vanguard
in PA

Investment Consultant/Analyst
for Alerus Investment Advisors
in MN




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