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April 11, 2008

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


Today's sponsor is Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)

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EBIA's InPerson Seminar Series

EBIA's InPerson seminars provide education on employee benefits topics to professionals, including TPAs, attorneys, benefits consultants, human resources managers, plan administrators, insurance professionals, and accountants. For information about CE credit, course materials, speakers, locations, and agenda details, and to register, please visit EBIA's InPerson Seminars.

[Guidance Overview] Legal Compliance for Wellness Programs (PDF)
4 pages. (International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans via Miller & Chevalier Chartered)


Proposal To Fund Maine Health Insurance Program Would Impose Fixed, Annual Surcharge on Beneficiary Claims
Excerpt: "Legislation being considered by Maine lawmakers would place a 1.8% fixed annual fee on claims paid by health insurers to help fund the state's DirigoChoice health insurance program, the Portland Press Herald reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


To Reduce Sick Days by an Average of 41%, the Solution Is Easy - Walking
Excerpt: "The average white-collar employee moves a mere 3,500 steps per day -- only slightly over one mile. Experts recommend a minimum of 10,000 steps or 3.2 miles of walking and moving per day." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Drug Companies May Reveal Charitable Contributions or Educational Grants
Excerpt: "Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, recently wrote to 15 drug and medical device makers, asking them to disclose how much money they spend on medical education programs for health care providers. A summary of their written responses [is at the target page]." (AP via The New York Times; free registration required)


States' Roles in Shaping High Performance Health Systems
Excerpt: "States shape the health system in many ways, influencing key components such as insurance coverage, quality of care, and information and provider infrastructures. This report presents findings from the State Health Policies Aimed at Promoting Excellent Systems project . . . . After conducting surveys of multiple agencies in states across the country, as well as a review of related literature, this study found that states are pursuing system improvements across the full spectrum of their authority, including health care purchasing, regulation of providers, reporting of performance data, integration of public health with health care approaches, and improving the availability and affordability of health insurance." (The Commonwealth Fund)


Executives Study New Military FMLA Rules
Excerpt: "[Some WorldatWork] members complained about the FMLA provision that permits employees at some employers to take 'intermittent' FMLA leave in increments of as little as a few minutes. . . . WorldatWork survey participants asked whether employees would be entitled both to 12 weeks of ordinary FMLA leave and 26 weeks of leave to care for a sick or injured service member within the same 12-month period." (The National Underwriter Company; free registration or paid subscription required)


Health Care on the Campaign Trail
Excerpt: " All three candidates claim their proposal will result in higher-quality health care; greater transparency about treatments, costs and outcomes; and improved use of information technology. . . . All the proposals have important implications for employers and health plans. Some reforms would affect employers directly, such as Senator McCain's proposal to 'eliminate the bias toward employer-sponsored coverage' and the play-or-pay employer mandates proposed by Senators Obama and Clinton." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


Guardian Survey Shows Despite Perceived Effectiveness, Most Employees Who Participate in Wellness Programs Do Not Stay Committed
Excerpt: "As wellness programs grow in popularity, employees overwhelmingly see value in these healthy activities, but don't stay committed to them according to a new survey from the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian). Nearly half of employees who have participated in wellness programs in the past three years admit that their commitment trails off after just a few years. But there's hope ... I'll lay off the trans-fat if you send me to Tahiti -- Employees (68%) believe that incentives such as cash, gifts and extra vacation days can help them to shore up the willpower to adopt healthier behaviors such as exercising, eating properly and kicking their smoking habits." (Managed Care Weekly Digest via NewsRx.com via Human Resource Executive Online)


Workforce Protections Subcommittee Hearing: 'The 15th Anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act: Achievements and Next Steps'
The prepared remarks of U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey(D-CA), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, and links to witness testimony are available on the target page. (U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Education and Labor)


Medigap: What You Need to Know (PDF)
12 pages. Excerpt: "This policy brief presents a snapshot of private Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance in 2008. Changes in Medigap products and expanded Medicare private plan options established by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) became effective January 1, 2006. While most of the traditional standard Medigap products are unchanged, in conjunction with making the new Medicare (Part D) prescription drug benefits available, the MMA prohibited the inclusion of prescription drug benefits in any newly-issued Medigap policy. In addition, two new higher cost-sharing Medigap products authorized by the MMA (Plans K and L) became available in 2006." (America's Health Insurance Plans)


Trends in Medigap Policies, December 2004 to December 2006 (PDF)
7 pages. Excerpt: "This paper presents findings from an analysis conducted by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) on enrollment trends in Medicare Supplement (Medigap) insurance coverage, using year-end data for 2004 through 2006 from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The NAIC dataset contains information on most Medigap policies in force in the U.S.,1 representing approximately 10 million covered lives with policies from nearly 250 carriers." (America's Health Insurance Plans)


Complex Tax Rules Face G.ay and Unmarried Couples
Excerpt: "[A] disparity comes with the federal government's treatment of employer-provided health insurance, which also affects unmarried heterose.xual couples. For example, Dan Jessup is a project manager at JPMorgan Chase in Indiana. His partner, Bob Chenoweth, is self-employed, running two businesses out of the couple's Mooresville, Ind., home. So Chenoweth gets health insurance through Chase. But Jessup is required to count the company's cost of his partner's benefits as additional income for tax purposes." (Detroit Free Press)


Bank Of America Changes Health-Care Benefits Plans
Excerpt: "Bank of America Corp. (BAC) is making major changes to its health-care benefits, including giving employees up to $1,200 a year to spend on expenses not covered by insurance. Beginning next year, the Charlotte bank will consolidate almost all of its health and insurance plans under Aetna Inc. (AET), replacing almost all of the dozen or so health-care and insurance providers that currently cover roughly 150,000 employees." (CNNMoney.com)


ROI Data Is Crucial for Implementation of Onsite Clinics
Excerpt: "Companies are keen on onsite health centers because they believe the clinics can make a dent in health care costs and increase workers' productivity. Yet the real challenge in running the center may stem from determining whether the investment is paying off, according to experts. For instance, 45% of employers cite inadequate measures of performance as the top challenge in operating the centers, reports a new study by Watson Wyatt." (Employee Benefit Adviser; free registration required)


Can Tax Credits Be a Linchpin for Health Reform? Lessons from the Factory Floor - A Panel Discussion
Audio Recording available. Excerpt: "Our expert panel considered what is behind the [Health Coverage Tax Credit's] problems and successes; whether Congress should abandon tax credits; and how (if at all) should future tax credits included in health reform be structured to replicate the HCTC's accomplishments and avoid its problems?" (Urban Institute)


Bill Requiring Verification HSA Payments Are Actually Paying Medical Expenses Could Increase Costs of HSAs
Excerpt: "H.R. 5719, approved on a 23-17 vote, includes a provision that would effectively require HSA administrators -- which often are banks -- to put new systems in place to substantiate that HSA distributions are used to pay for health care-related expenses." (Financial Week; free registration required)


[Opinion] America's Health Insurance Plans' Definition of Equity - The Principles of Pricing Health Insurance
Excerpt: "And how does the private insurance industry define equity in the pricing of health insurance premiums? The premium that 'EACH insured pays must reflect the expected cost of providing coverage to THAT insured,' but not 'an extra amount to make up for those paying less than cost.' So let's see how that would work in a system that finances health care for everyone. The 80 percent of individuals (243 million people) who use 20 percent of our national health expenditures ($479 billion) would each be responsible for $1970 in an equitable system, according to the insurance industry's version. The other 20 percent of individuals (61 million people) who use 80 percent of our national health expenditures ($1,915 billion) would each be responsible for $31,400 in AHIP's version of equity." (Physicians for a National Health Program)


[Opinion] Health Reform Lessons from Chile - Summary Points, Impact, Followed by Comments
Excerpt: "The Chilean health system underwent a drastic neoliberal reform in the 1980s, with the creation of a dual system: public and private health insurance and public and private provision of health services. . . . The Chilean health reform has lessons for other countries in Latin America and elsewhere: privatization of health insurance services may not have the expected results according to neoliberal doctrine. On the contrary, it may increase unfairness in financing and inequitable access to quality care." (Physicians for a National Health Program)



Sponsored by: WorldatWork

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Banner ad for WorldatWork

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

[Guidance Overview] Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated April 9, 2008, on Human Resources & Employment Law (PDF)
13 pages. This Federal Legislation Quick Guide provides short updates on federal legislation that is currently under active consideration by Congress or has recently been enacted into law regarding human resources and employment law. (Hewitt Associates)


S&P 500 Chiefs Get Big Boost in Pension Benefits
Excerpt: "Declines in annual performance-based bonuses and stock-option awards have cut into the rate of growth in CEO pay, according to a new report -- but pension benefits were up more than 25%." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


New York's Cuomo Broadens Pension Scam Inquiry
Excerpt: "Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo has expanded his investigation into an alleged pension fraud scheme to include scores of lawyers and school districts accused of having bilked the state out of tens of millions of dollars in benefits." (The New York Times; free registration required)


The Human Rights Campaign Offers New Employer Resources on Pension Benefits for Same-Sex Partners
Excerpt: "The Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Workplace Project [http://www.hrc.org] has released a new set of resources for employers to make their qualified retirement plans more inclusive for employees with same-sex partners or spouses. The group also released a sample proposal for organizations to use when advocating for 'grossing up,' a method by which an employer can increase employees' wages to offset the additional tax burden of enrolling a domestic partner for health insurance." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Employee Ownership Update for April 10, 2008
NCEO Executive Director Corey Rosen discusses AECOM Technology Corp., a publicly traded company with a global employee ownership program; the impact of small ideas on a company; and the question of whether ESOP-owned companies can qualify for minority ownership status for federal Section 8(a) contract preferences if most of the beneficial ownership goes to qualifying minority employees. (National Center for Employee Ownership)


[Opinion] The Federal Taxpayers' Subsidy of Bill Clinton
Excerpt: "The Clintons' tax returns raise [an issue which] requires public discussion: The federal subsidy the Clintons have received over the last seven years while earning in excess of $100 million. Mr. Clinton's aggressive pursuit of post-presidential income is incompatible with the extensive public support he has received from federal taxpayers since leaving office. That public support was designed to preclude the nation's chief executives from facing financial hardship after their terms of office. It was not intended to subsidize the aggressive pursuit of a post-presidential fortune." (Oxford University Press USA blog)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Midwest Regional Conference
in Illinois on April 17, 2008
presented by Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America (PSCA)

New Technology for HR Service Delivery and Communications Webcast
Nationwide on April 17, 2008
presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Washington Update by Brian Graff, Esp., APM
in Ohio on April 22, 2008
presented by ASPPA Benefits Council of Cleveland



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

ERISA Advisory Council to Hold First Meeting of 2008
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Treasury, IRS Issue Funding Guidance for Single-Employer Defined Benefit Plans
U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service

Who Does the Work When Employees Take FMLA Leave?
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

I-Pension Announces Affordable 401k Investment Advice Service
I-Pension



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