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April 15, 2008

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


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[Official Guidance] Updated Link: Massachusetts Individual Mandate Penalties for Tax Year 2008
Excerpt: "Pursuant to G.L. c. 111M, ß 2, the Department of Revenue is releasing for public comment the penalty schedule for individuals who fail to comply in 2008 with the requirements under the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act." (Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Revenue)


[Guidance Overview] Sixth Circuit Overturns District Court Ruling on Vesting of Retiree Health Benefits
Excerpt: "On March 19, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded Noe v. PolyOne Corp to the District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. In this article, we examine the case that centers on whether certain retiree health benefits vest and the District Court had granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, PolyOne." (JPMorgan Chase & Co.)


[Guidance Overview] New Jersey Legislature Passes Paid Family Leave Bill (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "To date, the New Jersey Department of Labor (DOL) has not published regulations to guide employers when implementing the provisions of the paid family leave bill." (Dechert LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Chart on Employer 'Pay or Play' Requirements: Key State and Local Health Care Reform Initiatives (PDF)
Excerpt: "[The chart] compares key enacted and proposed state and local heath care initiatives, the requirements they impose on employers and any legal challenges on ERISA preemption grounds." (American Benefits Council)


Audio and Text: Japanese Pay Less for More Health Care
Excerpt: "Japan produces cars, color TVs and computers, but it also produces the world's healthiest people. It has the longest healthy life expectancy on Earth and spends half as much on health care as the United States." (All Things Considered via National Public Radio)


Bronsteen, Maher, and Stris on ERISA, Agency Costs, and the Future of Health Care in the United States
Excerpt: "John Bronsteen (Loyola Chicago) (lerft), Brendan Maher (Stris & Maher), and Peter Stris (Whittier) have posted on SSRN their forthcoming work in the Fordham Law Review: ERISA, Agency Costs, and the Future of Health Care in the United States. [Target page has abstract.]" (Workplace Prof Blog)


The Candidates on Changes to ERISA Preemption
Excerpt: "Try this little quiz - Proposal A: Maintain the current preemption provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Proposal B: Amend ERISA to curtail the preemption provisions of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Question: Which candidates support Proposal A and which support Proposal B?" (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)


McCain Says Affluent Seniors Should Pay More for Medicare Drug Benefit
Excerpt: "Sen. John McCain will propose today that affluent seniors pay more for government-provided drug benefits as a way to control health-care spending . . . ." (The Washington Post; free registration required)


Massachusetts Health Care 'Affordability' Figures Updated
Excerpt: "The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector . . . approved new affordability rules that increase the monthly premium considered affordable about 10 percent from 2007 levels. Insurance premiums have been increasing at about that rate statewide, although the connector was able to negotiate an average increase of about 5 percent for the nonsubsidized plans it offers the public." (The Boston Globe)


Comparing the Assets of Uninsured Households to Cost Sharing Under High-Deductible Health Plans
Excerpt: "Financial assets are relevant when one is assessing whether high-deductible plans, which require greater up-front cost sharing, are worthwhile for the uninsured. We show that uninsured households have less financial assets compared to the insured; at lower income levels, their net financial assets may even be negative. Although lower premiums may increase the ability of the uninsured to buy some coverage, high out-of-pocket liability may leave families exposed to costs that they cannot meet. Paying premiums for a policy that exposes the uninsured to unaffordable medical bills may be viewed as an uneconomical use of their limited assets." (Health Affairs)


Federal Employees to Be Covered for Certain Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment
Excerpt: "The Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI) coverage will reimburse doctors who screen their patients for a full spectrum of substance-use behaviors, including ones related to alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drug abuse/addiction." (AISHealth.com)


The Price of Excess - Identifying Waste in Health Care Spending (PDF)
22 pages. Excerpt: "To appropriately address waste in health spending, health industry leaders, policymakers and consumers must work together on system-wide goals and incentives to address the waste that imperils the health of us all. In this paper, we view waste as costs that could have been avoided without a negative impact on quality." (PricewaterhouseCoopers; lengthy free registration is required)


As FMLA Use Grows, Misuse is Questioned
Excerpt: "More than three-quarters of U.S. employees know someone who has taken Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, according to a Tell It Now poll by ComPsych Corporation. Of those who said they knew someone who had taken FMLA leave, 6% said they believe the reason for taking the leave was questionable . . . ." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


More than Half of $2.2 Trillion U.S. Health Tab Called Wasteful
Excerpt: "[A new PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute study] found the top three areas of wasted spending are defensive medicine ($210 billion annually), inefficient claims processing (up to $210 billion annually), and care spent on preventable conditions related to obesity ($200 billion annually). The study report said the $1.2 trillion in waste, defined in the research as costs that could have been avoided without hurting service quality, has to be dealt with at a macro level because targeted cost-cutting leaves inefficiencies in other parts of the health system." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Health Insurance Industry Functions Similar to 'Mafia,' WSJ Opinion Piece States
Excerpt: "The health insurance industry is 'closest to the parasitic relationship imposed by the Mafia,' with companies 'raking in hefty profits and bloating cost, without providing any benefit at all,' Jonathan Kellerman, a clinical professor of pediatrics and psychology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and a novelist, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] Lower Insurance Premiums and Better Care: Un-American Health Delivery
Excerpt: "If your latest battle with your H.M.O. has you pounding your head with frustration, 'Sick Around the World' on PBS may spur you to more drastic action, like leaving the United States altogether. In this 'Frontline' report on Tuesday night, the Washington Post reporter T. R. Reid travels to five countries -- Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland -- that manage to provide some form of universal health coverage to their populations." (The New York Times; free registration required)


[Opinion] When Drug Costs Soar Beyond Reach
Excerpt: "It doesn't take a health policy expert to recognize that something has gone terribly wrong when patients have to pay thousands of dollars a month for drugs that they need to maintain their health -- and possibly save their lives. Congress needs to determine why this is happening and what can be done about it." (The New York Times; free registration required)



Sponsored by: University Conference Services

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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.

(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] CRS Report for Congress: Summary of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) (PDF)
76 pages; April 10, 2008. Excerpt: "The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) provides a comprehensive federal scheme for the regulation of employee pension and welfare benefit plans offered by employers. ERISA contains various provisions intended to protect the rights of plan participants and beneficiaries in employee benefit plans. These protections include requirements relating to reporting and disclosure, participation, vesting, and benefit accrual, as well as plan funding. ERISA also regulates the responsibilities of plan fiduciaries and other issues regarding plan administration. ERISA contains various standards that a plan must meet in order to receive favorable tax treatment, and also governs plan termination. This report provides background on the pension laws prior to ERISA, discusses various types of employee benefit plans governed by ERISA, provides an overview of ERISA's requirements, and includes a glossary of commonly used terms." (Congressional Research Service, U.S. Library of Congress)


[Guidance Overview] Additional Guidance Regarding Minnesota Taxation of Deferred Compensation, Severance and Stock Option Income Paid to Nonresidents
Excerpt: "The Minnesota Department of Revenue is preparing guidance addressing withholding and reporting issues raised by the new law taxing some deferred compensation, severance and stock option income paid to nonresidents. The law now taxes income earned in Minnesota but received when the taxpayer is not a state resident. The new law requires employers to withhold tax from such payments beginning April 1, 2008." (Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly LLP)


AFL-CIO Blames Executive Pay for Credit Crisis
Excerpt: "The AFL-CIO said . . . that 'outrageous' pay packages for banking industry executives were partly to blame for the credit crisis, encouraging risky investment strategies that ended up hurting shareholders and consumers." (AP via The Washington Post; free registration required)


Generation Y Causing Employment Policies Change
Excerpt: "Gen Y, it seems, expects a constant flow of promotions, flexible schedules, lots of leave and more moneyas if those benefits were its right, not something to be earned. But because Gen Y represents the workforce of the future, employers are changing their HR policies in response to its demands, according to a US survey of 2546 hiring managers at HR professionals conducted by CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive." (Human Resource Executive Online)


Arizona Proposal Would Expand Domestic Partner Benefits
Excerpt: "The Governor's Regulatory Review Council has voted to extend domestic partner benefits to employees of the state and university. Unmarried straight couples, not just g.ays and les.bians, would be covered." (Eastern Arizona Courier)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Are You Ready For EGTRRA Restatements?
Nationwide on May 1, 2008
presented by ftwilliam.com

Coping with Benefit Cutbacks: 204(h) Notice Requirements from Regulatory and Litigation Persepectives
Nationwide on May 13, 2008
presented by ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Modest Number Of Uninsured Families Have Sufficient Assets To Cover Cost Sharing In HSA-Qualified Plans
Kaiser Family Foundation

The ESOP Association Announces Silver ESOP Award Winners
ESOP Association

Testimony of U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabral before the House Committee on Financial Services
U.S. Department of Treasury

ASPPA and CIKR Support Uniform 401(k) Fee Disclosure Act
American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA)

Northern Trust Achieves a Milestone in Cross-Border Pooling With U.S. Department of Labor Opinion Regarding ERISA Plan Assets
Northern Trust



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Pension Administrator/TPA
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for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA

Pension Director
for UFCW-Employers Benefit Plans of Northern California
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Member Services Director
for UFCW-Employers Benefit Plans of Northern California
in CA

Transition Manager
for Diversified Investment Advisors
in NY

Client Relationship Consultant
for Gallagher Retirement Services
in FL

Regional Sales Manager
for Milliman, Inc.
in NY

TPA Sales Support Consultant - Retirement Services
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA

Manager, International Benefits
for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
in AR

Relationship Manager - West Coast
for MassMutual Financial Group
in CA




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