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April 7, 2008

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

Today's sponsor is SunGard

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[Guidance Overview] State of Washington Adds Two New Mandatory Types of Employee Leave
Excerpt: "The Washington Legislature has passed, and the governor has signed into law, two new types of employee leaves that all Washington employers, regardless of size, will be required to provide. The two types of leave are Family Military Leave and Domestic Violence/Se.xual Assault Leave." (Perkins Coie LLP)

[Guidance Overview] Towers Perrin U.S. Legislative Tracking Charts -- Health and Welfare -- Updated April 4, 2008 (PDF)
21 pages. These charts summarize selected federal legislation that would affect employee benefit programs. The bills included on the charts are based on judgments regarding the prominence of the issue, the likelihood of enactment, and the influence of the sponsors. (Towers Perrin)

Some Insurers Taking Tentative Steps Toward Developing Global Provider Networks for Corporate Clients
Excerpt: "At least one national insurer thinks that the future of this kind of business will hinge heavily on whether American providers will be willing to compete on cost with physicians and hospitals around the globe. That could make global networks a new weapon in the unending tussle over steadily rising health care expenses. And it could put doctors and other providers in the same boat with software engineers and others who now have to compete with lower-cost providers in India, China, and elsewhere." (Managed Care Magazine)

Convenient Care Clinics Spreading Quickly Because Members and Plans Like Them
Excerpt: "In the past 12 months retail clinics have spread like a rash over the health care landscape -- the kind of rash they can easily treat in 15 minutes or less, for around half the cost of a visit to a traditional primary care physician's office. At the start of 2007, there were 150 retail clinics. Now, one year later, there are over 900 clinics in major markets across the country, with analysts and operators predicting even more explosive growth." (Managed Care Magazine)

What Makes Harvard Pilgrim Health Care So Good?
Excerpt: "[M]ost successful companies rise and rise some more by doing the things everybody else does, except much better. That's the not-so-secret secret of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. The insurer is ranked the number one commercial plan in America by U.S. News & World Report and the National Committee for Quality Assurance. They say that Harvard Pilgrim leads the country in member satisfaction and quality of care." (Managed Care Magazine)

Same Disease, Different Care: How Patient Health Coverage Drives Treatment Patterns in California
Excerpt: "This issue brief examines hospital use among patient groups in key regions across California to determine whether people with comparable end-of-life medical conditions get different amounts of hospital care, depending on the type of insurance they carry." (California HealthCare Foundation; free registration may be required)

Onsite Health Care Centers - A Quick Review
Excerpt: "Many companies are not realizing the full potential of onsite health centers because metrics are generally unavailable -- even though many new clinics are being set up as a way to reduce healthcare costs. Some clinics duplicate wellness initiatives while others fail to integrate such initiatives into the center's programs." (Human Resource Executive Online)

Senators Durbin, Snowe, Lincoln & Coleman Along with NFIB, NAR & SEIU Introduce Affordable Health Insurance Plan for Small Businesses
Excerpt: "[A] bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, including Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) introduced breakthrough legislation designed to make insurance more available and affordable for the 47.1 million employees of the nation's 5.8 million small businesses and for 14.1 million self-employed individuals." (U.S. Senator Dick Durbin)

Chart with Overview of Tax Aspects of Select Health Care Reform Proposals (PDF)
6 pages. Prepared by Davis & Harman LLP (American Benefits Council)

Connecticut Bill Would Provide Paid Sick Time
Excerpt: "For the second year in a row, a coalition of labor and community groups is urging legislators to pass a paid sick leave bill that would give full-time workers at companies employing 25 or more 6 1/2 days of paid sick leave a year." (The Hartford Courant)

City of St. Louis' Sick-Day Payout Drains City of Millions
Excerpt: "In the last five years, the city of St. Louis has spent more than $4 million buying unused sick days from dozens of employees, an analysis shows. And while advocates say the generous policy helps offset low worker salaries, those who gain the most are managers who already are at the high-end of the pay scale." (AP via Belleville News-Democrat)

Researchers Find Huge Variations in End-of-Life Treatment
Excerpt: "New research shows huge, unexplained variations in the amount, intensity and cost of care provided to Medicare patients with chronic illnesses at the nation's top academic medical centers, raising the possibility that the government could save large amounts of money." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Medicare Finds How Hard It Is to Save Money
Excerpt: "An ambitious three-year experiment to see whether the Medicare system could prevent expensive hospital visits for people with chronic conditions like congestive heart failure and diabetes has suggested that such an approach may cost more than it saves." (The New York Times; free registration required)

FSA's Diversion from IRS Definition Misleading to Participants
Excerpt: "A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan sponsor had a fiduciary duty to plan participants to clearly state in plan documents that its definition of the word 'incur' was different from the Internal Revenue Service definition, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled." (; free registration required)

UAW VEBA Studied at Event - New Retiree Health Strategy Explained
Excerpt: "More than 100 doctors attended what was one of the first public discussions of the new UAW fund at the half-day conference called 'VEBA is Shifting Michigan's Gears.' It was sponsored by the Michigan State Medical Society. The event proved timely, as thousands of packages explaining the fund are expected to be delivered soon to General Motors Corp. workers and retirees and more will be mailed in the months ahead to Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC workers." (Detroit Free Press)

In Massachusetts, Universal Health Coverage Strains Care
Excerpt: "In pockets of the United States, rural and urban, a confluence of market and medical forces has been widening the gap between the supply of primary care physicians and the demand for their services. Modest pay, medical school debt, an aging population and the prevalence of chronic disease have each played a role. Now in Massachusetts, in an unintended consequence of universal coverage, the imbalance is being exacerbated by the state's new law requiring residents to have health insurance." (The New York Times; free registration required)

[Opinion] Group Letter Supporting Long-Term Care Affordability and Security Act (PDF)
1 page. Excerpt: "We are writing regarding the Long-Term Care Affordability and Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 3363, S. 2337), an important, bipartisan measure that encourages Americans to plan for their long-term care and retirement security needs. The bill has generated support from a broad cross section of the long-term care community, because it makes long-term care insurance more accessible and affordable for working Americans and provides enhanced consumer protections." (American Benefits Council)

[Opinion] Health Exchanges - A Proposal Toward Health Care Reform
Excerpt: "If we are going to consider serious reform of our health care system we need to move away from our current foundation, and health exchanges are my recommendation for doing so. Employer-based health insurance was how we as a society pooled people together to spread out risk, however, we know many people are left out of these pools and portability of plans is basically non-existent. The health exchanges would facilitate pooling while allowing for complete portability of plans." (U.S. Health Care Forum)

[Opinion] Law Professor Roger Baron on Subrogation and ERISA Reform
Excerpt: "Roger Baron is a recognized authority on insurance law and subrogation. He advised attorney Maurice Graham in the controversial Debby Shank litigation in Missouri. In that case, Shank, who suffered severe permanent brain injuries in a traffic accident, was successfully sued by her employer, Wal-Mart, for recovery of nearly $500,000 in medical expenses paid under her ERISA employee insurance plan. Wal-Mart recently reversed their decision to seek recovery after a storm of negative publicity." (Online Legal Marketing Ltd.)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Executive Pay Rises in Spite of Being in the Spotlight
Excerpt: "Wasn't 2008 supposed to be the year of shareholder victory on the executive compensation front? After all, tighter disclosure rules kicked in last year, and -- the theory went -- once companies had to shine a spotlight on their compensation practices, they were bound to make them better. Politicians, never loath to acknowledge the national mood -- particularly in an election year -- held several hearings about excessive pay." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Corporate Housing Taking Hold As Cost-Effective Means of Providing Temporary Accommodations to Relocated Employees
Excerpt: "Designed specifically for temporary stays, corporate housing consists of fully-furnished apartments, condos and occasionally even houses. Because they are fully furnished with linens, kitchenware and weekly maid service, transferees need only bring their personal effects. They are then able to live as they would at home, cooking their own meals, doing their own laundry, and entertaining guests, all while the corporation foots the bill." (Human Resource Executive Online)

Chart of State and Local Government Workers' Access to Quality-of-Life Benefits
Excerpt: "Long-term care insurance was offered to 26 percent of State and local government workers in September 2007. Such insurance was the quality-of-life benefit most commonly offered to employees of State and local governments." (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

BusinessWeek White Paper: The Impact of Commuting on Employees
31 pages. Excerpt: "Purpose of the survey: To explore the challenges and issues that respondents have pertaining to commuting and the role they feel employers should play, as well as the strategies companies are deploying to address these issues. Additionally, to examine the role of commuter benefits as they relate to commuting issues, including level of interest and usage." (BusinessWeek; long registration form required to receive copy)

[Opinion] In the Boardroom, Every Back Gets Scratched
Excerpt: "START with the obvious. Executive pay at the top levels in this country is stunning in its size and its rate of climb. According to the Congressional Research Service, average pay for chief executives stood at 179 times average worker pay in 2005, up from a multiple of 90 in 1994. Adjusted for inflation, average worker pay rose by a total of only 8 percent from 1995 to 2005; median pay for chief executives at the 350 largest companies rose 150 percent." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Handling IRA Legal Issues
Nationwide on May 15, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Introduction to 401(k)s
Nationwide on May 22, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Introduction to QRPs
Nationwide on May 20, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: IRA Reporting
Nationwide on May 8, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Roth IRA Distributions
Nationwide on May 13, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Traditional IRA Distributions
Nationwide on May 6, 2008
presented by Ascensus

The Basics of Self Funded Plans
in California on May 7, 2008
presented by International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists - Orange County Chapter

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

McKay Hochman Announces §403(b) Plan Documents
McKay Hochman Co., Inc.

EBRI Award for Contributions to Economic Security
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

PLANSPONSOR Announces Winners of Retirement Plan Adviser and Adviser Team of the Year

The SPARK Institute Releases Draft 403(b) Plans Information Sharing Agreement And Seeks Public Comment
SPARK Institute

Fiduciary Risk Management testifies at DOL Public Hearings on Fee Disclosure
Fiduciary Risk Management, LLC

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401(k) Administrator
for TSP Associates, Inc.
in CA

Retirement Education Specialist - Michigan 50060647
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MI

Trust Associate II
for Wachovia Corporation
in MN

Manager of Benefits
for Polk
in MI

Defined Contribution Client Account Manager
for New York Life Retirement Plan Services
in MA

Senior Retirement Plan Specialist
for Kansas City Retirement Plan Third Party Administrator
in KS, MO

Health & Welfare Claims Manager
for Trucking Employees of North Jersey
in NJ

Retirement Distribution Manager - Operations
for Charles Schwab
in AZ

Operations Specialist - Alternative Investment
for Charles Schwab
in AZ

Benefit Educators for 401(k) & Health Plans
for Total Benefit Communications, LLC, An Ascensus Company

Human Resources Analyst/Specialist (Benefits)
for AAA Mid-Atlantic
in DE

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