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April 18, 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)

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)

EBIA's Form 5500 Workbook for Health & Welfare Plans

Let EBIA be your trusted resource to help you properly complete and file all your health & welfare plan Form 5500s for 2007 plan years. Form 5500 Workbook for Health & Welfare Plans (2007 Plan Years) is a user-friendly, spiral-bound workbook that focuses exclusively on health & welfare plans and covers the 2007 Form 5500 requirements from A to Z. Order your copy today!

[Guidance Overview] New Jersey to Provide Payments to Workers Taking Leave to Care for Dependent Family Members (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "On April 7, after several years of intensive lobbying and legislative negotiations, the New Jersey Senate passed an Assembly bill that, once signed by the governor, will make New Jersey the third state to provide state payments for workers on leave to care for dependent family members. Governor Corzine has announced that he intends to sign the bill. The bill amends New Jersey's Temporary Disability Benefits Law (TDBL) such that, commencing July 1, 2009, employees taking 'family temporary disability leave' shall be eligible to apply to the state for up to six weeks of disability benefit payments." (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP)


Dozens of Federal Health Plans Require High Co-Payments for Specialty Drugs
Excerpt: "More than 87,000 federal employees have health insurance that requires them to pay higher prices for certain specialized drugs than they would under standard co-payment systems, Government Executive has learned. And more insurers may turn to such pricing plans." (GovernmentExecutive.com)


Insurers Fight to Block Bills to Expand Coverage Mandates in California
Excerpt: "Earlier this week, the Assembly Health Committee approved six bills that would add services health plans are required to cover in the face of stiff opposition from health insurers, Capitol Weekly reports. Each of the measures was approved on a nearly party-line vote, with most Republican lawmakers voting against the bills." (California HealthCare Foundation; free registration may be required)


Internet Health Records: Convenience at a Cost?
Excerpt: "There are Web sites that allow you to keep information about your medical treatment online, where you and your doctor can access it easily. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday asks if electronic medical records are the next big thing in health care. The answer? When it comes to keeping these records yourself, it depends." (Morning Edition via National Public Radio)


House Committee Passes Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act
Excerpt: "On Wednesday, April 16, the Committee passed H.R. 5781, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2008, which would provide four weeks of paid parental leave for all federal employees. Employees will also for the first time be allowed to use their accrued sick leave for an additional eight weeks of paid leave. By combining the four weeks of paid parental leave with earned sick leave, many federal employees will now be able to get paid for the full 12 weeks of parental leave that is their right under the existing Family and Medical Leave Act." (U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform)


Regulators Fine-Tune HSA Rules
Excerpt: "One provision in the final regulations, which appear [April 17] in the Federal Register, establishes procedures for handling employees [who] fail to set up HSAs by Dec. 31." (The National Underwriter Company; free registration or paid subscription required)


Health Care Administrative Simplification Project Case Study (PDF)
10 pages. Excerpt: "This case study explores the goal of CAQH to reduce the time and effort associated with the traditional credentialing data collection process. Detailing how the UCD works, the study examines its attendant costs and benefits, the current level of adoption, and goals for wider dissemination." (Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare via AcademyHealth)


Court Ponders Legality of San Francisco Universal Health Care Program - Case Will Likely Set Major Precedent for Others
Excerpt: "The city's program, known as Healthy San Francisco, is aimed at providing health care for the 73,000 uninsured residents who aren't covered by other government programs. Part of the funding -- about $12 million of an estimated $200 million per year -- is to come from companies with 20 or more workers. Employers must either set up a health plan or contribute a set amount per worker to the city program. The restaurant association, supported by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, contends the employer spending mandate violates a federal law that puts regulation of worker benefit plans in the hands of federal rather than local government." (NBC11.com)


White House Backs Appeal on San Francisco Health Care
Excerpt: "The Bush administration is backing restaurant owners in their challenge to San Francisco's groundbreaking health coverage program before a federal appeals court that will hear the case today. . . . Most of the estimated $200 million annual cost would come from state and local taxes and payments from patients, based on their incomes. But large and midsize companies that do not already offer insurance to their employees, at levels set by the city, must pay a fee to cover the cost of the employees' coverage at the hospitals and clinics." (San Francisco Chronicle)


Warning on Storage of Health Records
Excerpt: "In an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, two leading researchers warn that the entry of big companies like Microsoft and Google into the field of personal health records could drastically alter the practice of clinical research and raise new challenges to the privacy of patient records." (The New York Times; free registration required)


Average Prescription Drug Copayment Decreased in 2007 Because of Increased Use of Generic Medications, Report Finds
Excerpt: "The average prescription drug copayment for patients in 2007 decreased by 25 cents to $13.20 -- the first such decrease in at least five years -- as the average total cost of such medications increased from $55.01 in 2002 to $55.93 in 2007, according to a report released on Wednesday by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts . . . ." (Kaiser Family Foundation)



Sponsored by: University Conference Services

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for University Conference Services

How Do Your Medical Planís Vital Signs Look?

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] Self-Correction Program Helps Employers Avoid 409A Penalties
Excerpt: "Under the IRS correction program, certain failures corrected in the same tax year as they occurred will result in no income inclusion or additional taxes under Code Sec. 409A." (Wolters Kluwer)


The Workplace as Clubhouse
Excerpt: "Fat paychecks, pensions and health insurance are not enough to recruit and keep employees these days. Companies are again finding that adding a bit of social context to work is crucial to keeping employees happy and productive. That is where employee clubs come in. Workplace specialists say clubs are a way to build camaraderie and help people get to know fellow employees away from work. Companies benefit, too. Clubs help create loyal employees, reduce turnover and improve morale while costing very little." (The New York Times; free registration required)


Growing Disparities in Life Expectancy (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "Increasing longevity, by itself, has clear implications for Social Security and Medicare expenditures. As beneficiaries live longer, they will receive benefits for a longer period, putting additional pressure on the programs' finances." (U.S. Congressional Budget Office)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

22nd Annual Multiemployer Benefit Plans Seminar
in Minnesota on May 29, 2008
presented by Felhaber Larson Fenlon & Vogt

Effective Management of Workers' Compensation Claims
Nationwide on May 20, 2008
presented by Lorman Education Services



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Employee Benefits Service Department Supervisor
for Rue Insurance
in NJ

Compensation & Benefits Manager
for Vera Bradley
in IN

Pension Coordinator
for White & Case LLP
in NY

Plan Administrator
for San Luis Pension Consultants, Inc.
in CA

Internal 403(b) Sales Representative
for 403b ASP
in FL




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