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April 17, 2008

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

Today's sponsor is International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

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E-learning Benefit Courses From the International Foundation

You don't need a navy suit to get ahead at your job. Put on those fuzzy slippers, grab your computer mouse and learn with the International Foundation. The International Foundationís e-learning courses provide the highest quality education covering all employee benefit topics, from the basics to compliance technicalities. Prove you know your stuff and get to the next level with the International Foundationís e-learning courses. And bring your pink bunny slippers along for the ride.

[Official Guidance] Federal Register Version: Final IRS Regs on Employer Comparable Contributions to HSAs (PDF)
4 pages. Effective April 17, 2008. These regulations supplement the final regulations on comparability that were issued in 2006. One item in the 2006 regulations reserved the issue of employees who have not established an HSA by the end of the calendar year. Proposed regulations released in 2007 addressed that issue. These final regulations adopt the 2007 proposed regulations, according to the IRS, 'without substantive revision." (Internal Revenue Service)

[Guidance Overview] 'Issueman' Tackles the New VEBAs: There is Much to Say
Benefits attorney Steven J. Sacher encounters his cynical old friend Issueman on a bench in D.C.; in this amusing and insightful 6-page account and transcript of their conversation, Issueman has a great deal to say and ask about the legal aspects of VEBAs for retiree healthcare liabilities. An excellent overview. (Reprinted from the BNA Pension & Benefits Reporter)

[Guidance Overview] ERISA and Arbitration Under a Collective Bargaining Agreement
Excerpt: "The Third Circuit recently considered an interesting case at the intersection of employee benefits law and labor law, involving a multiemployer benefit plan and the necessity of employees to grieve under the CBA a disability benefit claims, rather than going directly to federal court." (Workplace Prof Blog)

[Guidance Overview] ERISA Does Not Preempt Michigan's Restriction
Excerpt: "The ERISA preemption doctrine can perhaps be best understood as a triangle. The first side is the premise that federal law trumps state law in the area of benefits. The second side provides an exception for insurance, where states are free to regulate. The third side provides a clarification that self-insured benefits are not insurance. Most ERISA preemption litigation occurs at the intersection of the first two sides of the triangle. Case in point: a recent Michigan case that tested the legality of some administrative rules that took effect in June 2007." (infinisource)

[Guidance Overview] Last Known Address Important for COBRA
Excerpt: "While this case did not discuss proof of mailing, a successful COBRA compliance program includes proof that a Qualifying Event Notice is sent timely. The best manner to fulfill that is to send these important notifications via U.S. Postal Service first class mail with a certificate of mailing from the Post Office." (infinisource)

Federal Employee Paid Family-Leave Plan Is Reduced to Four Weeks
Excerpt: "A proposal to provide eight weeks of paid parental leave to federal employees was cut to four weeks by a key House Democrat yesterday as Republicans expressed concerns about the benefit's cost." (The Washington Post; free registration required)

FMLA Practices and Perspectives: Reactions to the Proposed FMLA Changes and New Military Provisions
Excerpt: "Forty-nine percent . . . of intermittent FMLA absences are scheduled, but most intermittent leave users (81 percent) are providing no more than a 24-hour notice, and over half give notice the day of the absence or later. . . . It is possible that employers don't agree on what it means for an absence to be 'scheduled,' but clearly by the notice period results, the overwhelming majority of intermittent leave users are providing little, if any, advance notice of their need to be absent." (WorldatWork)

The 2008 Presidential Candidates on Health Care Reform, Updated April 16, 2008 (PDF)
7 pages. Excerpt: "While it is still early in the campaign process and plan details are incomplete for most candidates, these summaries provide a snapshot of the candidates and their blueprint for reform. Our intent is to be thorough and accurate in compiling what they have said or indicated they want to do." (Council for Affordable Health Insurance)

Assessing the Impact of Coverage Gaps in the Medicare Part D Drug Benefit (PDF)
Excerpt: "This study illustrates how beneficiaries faced with the full cost of their prescriptions reduce their overall utilization, a phenomenon that may become more common with increasing out-of-pocket expenses. Over time it appears that the coverage gap may negatively affect those suffering from chronic conditions by exacerbating the hurdles they already face." (Changes in Health Care Financing & Organization)

As Prescription Drug Costs Rise, Some Health Plans and PBMs Putting Higher Priority on Improving Interactions With Physicians
Excerpt: "PBM and plan pharmacy executives . . . say developing a collaborative relationship with doctors is crucial to maximizing their members' pharmacy benefit, which can improve clinical outcomes and rein in costs. Pharmacy executives contend that their goal is to make drug management tools, such as prior authorization and step therapies, as seamless as possible with doctors. Some plans and PBMs also are taking a proactive approach with doctors, discussing therapeutic alternatives with high prescribers and adopting pay-for-performance (P4P) incentives around the Rx benefit." (

Outcome of San Francisco's Health Mandate Employer Payment Rule Could Have Broad Impact
Excerpt: "Businesses have to prove that they meet the spending requirement of $1.17 an hour per covered worker for medium-size firms or $1.76 an hour per worker for larger ones. At most, it amounts to about $300 per covered worker per month, or $3,600 a year." (MarketWatch)

Arizona's Lawmakers Resurrect Mental Health Parity Bill
Excerpt: "Measures seeking mental-health parity have been introduced at the state Legislature for almost two decades. Rarely have the bills made it out of committee, beaten back by opposition from small businesses and the insurance industry. But key lawmakers breathed new life into the issue late last week, reintroducing the measure in the Senate Health Committee, which passed it 5-1." (East Valley Tribune)

Weighing Costs of Health Care at the Beginning of Life
Excerpt: "We're used to thinking about costs of care at the end of life, but medical advances mean cost questions are cropping up at the beginning of life as well. Consider Synagis, a treatment that reduces the risk of respiratory syncytial virus . . . . The treatment . . . is given as a series of injections whose cost can add up to $6,000 dollars. It's been shown to cut the risk of hospitalization for RSV in half. Insurance companies typically pay for giving Synagis to premature infants in certain age and risk categories defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The trick is figuring out how wide or narrow those categories should be." (The Wall Street Journal)

House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Hearing Intended To 'Lay the Groundwork' for U.S. Health System Overhaul
Excerpt: "Health experts and lawmakers discussed ways to overhaul the U.S. health care system at a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health hearing on Tuesday, CQ HealthBeat reports. Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said the hearing was intended to 'lay the groundwork' for an expected attempt to overhaul the health insurance system next year. He noted that Congress has not seriously considered a broad health care overhaul since the Clinton administration health plan of 1993, adding, 'It's time to revisit it.'" (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Wal-Mart Sets Sights on Pharmacy Benefit Management Industry
Excerpt: "'This year we will be contracting with select employers in the U.S. to help them manage how they process and pay prescription claims,' CEO Lee Scott said to store managers in January. 'Our approach will be based on taking out unnecessary costs while providing high-quality health care products and services. With this effort, we believe we can save employers more than $100 million this year alone.'" (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Baker, Daschle, Dole, and Mitchell Launch Health Care Project
Excerpt: "Former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell today announced the launch of the Bipartisan Policy Center's (BPC) Leaders' Project on the State of American Health Care. The Leaders' Project is an unprecedented effort that will produce politically viable policy recommendations to address the delivery, cost, coverage, and financing challenges facing the nation's health care system. 'All four of us have seen many legislative battles over health care in our careers. The time has come to put aside partisanship and put forward solutions,' said Senator Dole." (Bipartisan Policy Center)

[Opinion] Are We Heading Toward Socialized Medicine?
Excerpt: "With health reform at the forefront of the national campaign, some charge that proposals to restructure our health care system represent dangerous steps moving the country towards government-run health care and socialized medicine. Similar rhetoric was heard last fall when President Bush vetoed legislation reauthorizing the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). We find this rhetoric inapplicable to both the SCHIP bill and proposals from most presidential candidates." (Urban Institute)

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

[Guidance Overview] Hot HR Compliance Issues for Small Businesses in 2008
Excerpt: "The purpose of this article is to highlight a few issues before they become critical [such as Section 409A, flex plans, qualified retirement plans, and 401(k) contributions]." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

For Top Executives, Some Perks Come Tax-Free
Excerpt: "About one in five of the nation's large public companies paid part of their chief executive's tax bill, the Corporate Library found in a study of perks reported between February 2007 and February 2008. The findings are based on more detailed public disclosures aimed at transparency in executive benefits. The group's report, published as 'Tax Reimbursement: The Grossest Perk,' was based on a study of more than 3,000 companies." (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Picking the Perks That Employees Value
Excerpt: "When it comes to employee benefits, the best plan for a small company may be to have no set plan. . . . Kahler Slater has also done something that many smaller companies haven't done: It has surveyed employees to get a sense of what the majority of them valued. Before the company began surveying employees, 'we had a clue' of what mattered to employees, 'but we didn't have a pattern,' that showed the perks employees valued most . . . . The surveys 'prioritized it in a very clear way.'" (The Wall Street Journal)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Washington on May 13, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Kansas on May 14, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

401(k) Plan Workshop
in California on May 14, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

401(k) Plan Workshop
in Colorado on May 16, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

COBRA Compliance: Take the Bite Out Of Costly Violations
Nationwide on May 7, 2008
presented by

Designing Sales Compensation Plans That Motivate And Get Results
Nationwide on May 14, 2008
presented by

Form 5500 Workshop
in Kansas on May 13, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Form 5500 Workshop
in California on May 13, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Form 5500 Workshop
in Colorado on May 15, 2008
presented by SunGard Corbel

Fundamentals of 401(k) and Other Qualified Plans Workshop
Nationwide on June 4, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Hot Topics and Trends in Employee Benefits 2008 -- All Day Forum with Separate Tracks for Health/Welfare and Retirement/Pension Plans
in Virginia on May 20, 2008
presented by Capital Chapter ISCEBS

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Statement of U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Bradford P. Campbell on House Education and Labor Committee action on 401(k) Fee Disclosure
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

ERIC Urges Mind-Set Change in Treasury's Proposed Hybrid Retirement Plan Regulations
ERIC (ERISA Industry Committee)

The SPARK Institute Raises Concerns Over Revised "401(k) Fair Disclosure Retirement Security Act"
SPARK Institute

Milliman Study Confirms 2007 Corporate Defined Benefit Pension Gains Were Wiped Out in First Quarter of 2008
Milliman USA

The (k)larity Group to Offer Synapses' Comprehensive 401(k) Education Materials
Synapses Inc.

John Hancock's 'EZ Route' Post-Enrollment Education Program Wins 2008 Insight Award for Customer Advocacy in Financial Services
Insight Forums

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