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April 4, 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] DOL's Proposed New FMLA Regulations
Excerpt: "The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed new regulations for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Although employers were hoping for significant guidance, these proposed regulations provide mostly clarifications and minor changes. Comments are due April 11, 2008." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

[Guidance Overview] Wal-Mart's Subrogation Policies Return to Media Attention
Excerpt: "The recent decision by Wal-Mart to drop its claims to reimbursement from Deborah Shank's personal injury recovery has led to inevitable speculation about the reason for the decision as well as the broader implications for other cases." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

CMS Issues Final Rule on Electronic-Prescribing Standards Under Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
Excerpt: "The rule establishes standards for the electronic transmission of information of the medications covered under the Medicare prescription drug plans of beneficiaries and the availability of generic versions of those treatments. The standards allow physicians and other health care providers, as well as pharmacies and Medicare prescription drug plan sponsors, to share information about medications taken by beneficiaries. In addition, the standards allow pharmacies to inform physicians and other providers when patients obtain their prescriptions. The rule does not require physicians, pharmacies and other providers to adopt e-prescribing to participate in Medicare." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Hearing on 'Scrambling for Health Insurance Coverage: Health Security for People in Late Middle Age'
The target page provides links to the webcast of the hearing, Statements of Committee Members, and Witness Testimony. (U.S. Senate, Special Committee on Aging)

Can the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Work in the District of Columbia?
Excerpt: "DC has a relatively small uninsured population, generous publicly sponsored coverage, and an existing eligibility process to administer subsidies. But, its insurance market regulation and total safety net payments for uninsured care are low compared with Massachusetts, creating greater challenges if the District tries to replicate the Massachusetts model." (Urban Institute)

The Economic Burden of Providing Health Insurance How Much Worse Off Are Small Firms? (PDF)
82 pages. Excerpt: "More than 60 percent of nonelderly Americans receive health-insurance coverage through employers. However, rising health-care costs are leading many to question the long-term viability of the employer-based insurance system. Concerns about the economic burden of providing health insurance are particularly acute for small businesses, which are both less likely to offer health insurance and more sensitive to price when making offer decisions than are larger firms. In this report, we analyze trends in the economic burden associated with health-insurance provision, and the distribution of this burden, for firms of different sizes. We also explore differences across firm-size categories in the generosity of health plans provided." (RAND)

Consumers Are Pessimistic About Health Care Reform, According to Survey
Excerpt: "Survey respondents were asked about 23 different health care reform options developed by the Mayo HPC over the past two years with input from the various health care stakeholders and experts." (Wolters Kluwer)

Chart: Employer Premiums for Medical Care Plans in State and Local Government
Excerpt: "Employer premiums in state and local government averaged $394.48 per month for single coverage medical plans, and $783.59 per month for family coverage in September 2007." (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

What Do the New Auto Industry VEBAs Mean for Current and Future Retirees? (PDF)
17 pages. Excerpt: "[T]he companies will contribute billions to retiree health care trusts . . . and will turn over the responsibility for managing the trusts and providing retiree health care benefits to a board of union- and court-appointed trustees. UAW retirees of the Detroit Three automakers have not lost their retiree health coverage -- nearly $60 billion is promised to the fund. But real questions remain about how secure the funding is and how long it will last." (AARP)

VEBAs Will Make Health Care Industry Impact
Excerpt: "A union-run trust fund being set up to cover retiree health benefits for Detroit's Big Three could reshuffle tens of billions of dollars in health care spending, as it puts the United Auto Workers in charge of buying medical coverage for more than 720,000 current and future retirees, according to experts who spoke Thursday to a medical society conference. The fund, known as a Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, will make the UAW one of the nation's largest non-insurer purchasers of health care and a formidable investment operation, ranking among the country's top 20, said Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO." (The Detroit News)

Jury Awards Ex-Manager at Chase $2.2M in FMLA Suit
Excerpt: "A former regional manager at Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp. has been awarded more than $2.2 million in an employment discrimination suit alleging violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Once liquidated damages equal to the amount of the verdict as well as prejudgment interest are added in as mandated under the FMLA the recovery could fall somewhere between $6.2 million and $7.6 million, said Amanda A. Farahany of Barrett & Farahany, who represented Nicholas Lore, according to" (; free registration required)

Former Employees Sue Champion Parts, Inc. Owners Over Health Care Benefits Program
Excerpt: "Four former employees of Champion Parts, Inc., filed a federal class action lawsuit against the majority owners of the company on Tuesday seeking restitution and payment for medical expenses incurred when the company stopped paying for employee medical insurance but continued to collect premium payments from employees." (Hope Star Online DAILY)

Pennsylvania House Passes Bill Limiting Insurers Ability To Base Rates on Health History for Individual, Small-Business Plans
Excerpt: "The Pennsylvania House on Tuesday voted 131-72 to approve legislation (HB 2005) that would limit the ability of insurers to consider certain factors, such as health history, when setting rates for health plans offered to individuals and small businesses, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The measure would allow insurers to set rates based on age and geographic region." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Boston Globe Examines McCain's Health Plan
Excerpt: "Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) has said the U.S. must expand health insurance to 'people who need it,' but critics maintain that lack of regulations on insurers could leave many without affordable coverage, the Boston Globe reports. As a result, 'McCain's aides have been scrambling to come up with ways to satisfy those who want more coverage without violating what they call McCain's conservative principles on the issue,' according to the Globe." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Lawmakers Introduce Legislation That Would Allow Small Businesses To Form Nationwide Pools, Provide Health Insurance Tax Credits
Excerpt: "Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Blanch Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would allow small-business owners to establish nationwide purchasing pools to negotiate lower health insurance premiums, CongressDaily reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

SHRM Joins Brief Challenging San Francisco's Health Care Mandate
Excerpt: "In effect since January 2008, even though it faces an appeal, the city ordinance requires most employers that do business in San Francisco to spend a minimum amount every three months on their San Francisco employees' health care. SHRM, the International Franchise Association and the National Association of Manufacturers argue that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) preempts the law." (Society for Human Resource Management)

California Bill Would Mandate Paid Sick Days
Excerpt: "If you are one of the estimated 6 million California workers without paid sick leave, relief may be on the way. Assembly Member Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, has introduced a bill that would allow California workers to earn paid sick days for everything from personal illness to recovering from domestic violence." (The Fresno Bee)

WellPoint Won't Pay for Medical Mistakes
Excerpt: "WellPoint is changing its provider reimbursement strategy to withhold payment for certain medical errors, the company announced Wednesday. The reimbursement modifications, which involve preventable adverse events as defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Quality Forum, will be implemented in phases and be modified and expanded. Prior to this announcement, the policy had been implemented on a pilot basis in Virginia." (Financial Week; free registration required)

[Opinion] John McCain's Voodoo Health Economics
Excerpt: "It's about time someone . . . made the case that Mr. McCain's approach to health care is based on voodoo economics -- not the supply-side voodoo that claims that cutting taxes increases revenues (though Mr. McCain says that, too), but the equally foolish claim, refuted by all available evidence, that the magic of the marketplace can produce cheap health care for everyone." (The New York Times; free registration required)

[Opinion] EBRI Testimony on Health Coverage and the Uninsured Among the 'Near Elderly' (PDF)
10 pages. Statement Before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Hearing on 'Scrambling for Health Insurance Coverage: Health Security for People Between 55-64 Years of Age" (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Can Your Long-Term Incentive Plan Become More Performance Based Again? (PDF)
Excerpt: "A top responsibility for Compensation Committees is to ensure a strong linkage between executive compensation and company performance. Long-Term Incentive Plans (LTIPs) typically provide the largest component of senior executives' compensation, most often through one or more of three equity-based types: Stock Options, Restricted Stock, and Performance Shares. This InsightOut™ assesses the relative strength of the linkages between company performance and each type of equity when included in an LTIP." (Buck Consultants)

Mandatory Clawbacks: Rep. Frank to Re-Engage on Executive Comp Oversight, Regulation
Excerpt: "In the wake of the 'fire sale' of Bear Stearns & Co., House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) indicated that he may require companies to adopt 'clawback policies' to recoup executive compensation when shareholders suffer large losses." (HR Policy Association)

Court Awards Restoration of Benefits to Former Westinghouse Employees
Excerpt: "The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania has ordered Siemens Corp. to restore separation from employment benefits to former employees of Westinghouse Electric Corp." (; free registration required)

Newly Posted Events
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401(k) Plan Workshop
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401(k) Plan Workshop
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401(k) Plan Workshop
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Form 5500 Workshop
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Form 5500 Workshop
in Michigan on May 8, 2008
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Form 5500 Workshop
in Missouri on May 8, 2008
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Managing the Vendor/Consultant Relationship: Service, Contracts and Renewals
in Illinois on April 24, 2008
presented by WEB - Chicago West

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

EBRI Testimony on Health Coverage and the Uninsured Among the "Near Elderly"
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

Unum Begins Nationwide Launch of Simply Unum, a Benefits Solution to Address Needs of Small to Midsize Employers

U.S. Preventive Medicine and deCODE Genetics Sign Letter of Intent to Expand Personalized Medicine Platform
U.S. Preventive Medicine

PIMCO Launches New Target Date Funds

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