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April 30, 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] Answers to Two Important Questions Regarding High Deductible Health Plans and HSAs (PDF)
4 pages. Attorney Allen Buckley gets out a calculator and crunches the numbers for various scenarios. Excerpt: "Question 1: When is a High Deductible Health Plan/HSA Arrangement Appropriate? . . . Question 2: Should an HSA participant pay for medical expenses from the HSA or from personal funds?" (Smith Moore LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Final HSA Comparability Guidance Clarifies Fair Worker Benefits
Excerpt: "A long-awaited final guidance on employer comparable contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) was released April 17 by the Treasury Dept. and IRS. The guidance clarifies the obligations to other employees when some are offered an HSA as part of their benefits." (AISHealth.com)


McCain Offers Market-Based Health Plan
Excerpt: "Sen. John McCain on Tuesday rejected calls by his Democratic opponents for universal health coverage, instead offering a market-based solution with an approach similar to a proposal put forth by President Bush last year." (The Washington Post; free registration required)


Survey Findings: Two Roads Diverged: Hewitt's Annual Health Care Survey 2008
Excerpt: "For more than two decades, Hewitt Associates' health care survey has tracked employer health care practices, benefit programs, and efforts to provide and manage workforce health benefits. In 2008, Hewitt commissioned two surveys focusing on employer and employee health care trends and views." (Hewitt Associates; registration required to access findings)


Health Care Value Not Good; Cost-Cutting Efforts Risk Benefits Erosion
Excerpt: "When it comes to health care, 'We do not get very good value for our money,' said Joseph P. Newhouse, a health economist and John D. MacArthur professor of health policy and management at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. 'We do not do cost containment very well,' he said, and expressed concern that cost-containment tools could give up more benefits than any costs that they might save." (Wolters Kluwer)


Bridges to Excellence Lauds Health Plans
Excerpt: "Aetna, CareFirst and CIGNA are the first health plans to receive program endorsements from Bridges to Excellence, a national initiative to reward doctors who deliver high-quality care." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Northern Kentucky University Board Approves Extended Family Benefits Plan
Excerpt: "The program will permit the university to offer additional coverage for a qualified extended family member when an employee is not covering a spouse. This will give employees the opportunity to cover qualified extended family dependents under various benefit programs, including health, dental and vision. The university will not contribute toward the cost of this additional coverage, according to a news release issued by the university. Employees will pay the full cost of their extended family benefits coverage." (Business Courier of Cincinnati via bizjournals.com; free registration required)


First Payments to San Francisco Health Fund Due Wednesday
Excerpt: "The law leaves it up to employers to decide how they will make the expenditure, which this year is as much as $1.76 per hour per covered employee. For example, the expenditure can be for an employer's group health insurance premium contribution and/or its contribution to employees' health savings accounts. Employers that do not offer health insurance coverage can satisfy the spending requirement by contributing to a city fund." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Federal Money in Health Care Plan from McCain
Excerpt: "Senator John McCain detailed his plan to solve the nation's health care crisis in a speech here Tuesday, calling for the federal government to give some money to states to help them cover people with illnesses who have been denied health insurance." (The New York Times; free registration required)


Biologic Therapy Management: The Need for Value-Based Health Benefits Models (PDF)
48 pages. Excerpt: "With the emergence of biologic therapies to treat chronic diseases, new models of health insurance and health care financing are needed. Personalized medicine adds yet another dimension of complexity to the challenges that managed care decision makers face. For patients, biologics offer improved quality of life and life-saving options. The higher cost of biologics presents affordability issues that employers must address if they are to continue to offer health benefits to their workers and their dependents. This special supplement presents a peer-reviewed white paper by The Biologic Finance and Access Council that forms the framework for BFAC�s fully integrated approach to resolving difficult health care financing and benefit design issues." (Managed Care Magazine)


Health Care Coverage in America: Understanding the Issues and Proposed Solutions (PDF)
24 pages. Excerpt: "The United States has an incredibly complex and convoluted system for financing and delivering health care. Americans get coverage through their jobs, the federal government, the military, state programs or on their own. At the same time, they pay for coverage through their employers, through state and federal taxes, and out of their own pocket." (Alliance for Health Reform)


How Costs for Insuring Families are Outpacing Income
Excerpt: "This article reveals how the cost of family health insurance nationwide is increasing dramatically for employees without anywhere near an equivalent increase in family income. If this trend continues, more workers are likely to become uninsured because of the expense." (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)


Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Premiums for Family Coverage Rose 10 Times Faster Than Income, Report Finds
Excerpt: "According to the report, monthly premiums for family coverage increased 34.6% from $1,921 in 2001 to $2,585 in 2005, while median family income rose 3.1% from $40,818 to $42,068 during the same period . . . ." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Whirlpool Case Highlights How Smoker Fees for Health Insurance a Hazy Issue
Excerpt: "A little history is in order. The workers' union challenged [Whirlpool's] smoker fees in 2006, citing a state law, and an arbiter ruled the company had to pay back the surcharges collected during a 28-month period through June 2006. The amount was expected to be about $1,000 per employee . . . . Last month, Whirlpool's suit to overturn the ruling was dismissed in a sealed settlement, setting the stage for rebates. The suspended workers drew attention to their smoking when they asked for the rebates, prompting the company to check to see whether they had paid the fees. Apparently they hadn't." (Chicago Tribune)


[Opinion] Remarks by John McCain on Health Care on Day Two of the 'Call to Action Tour'
Excerpt: "We want a system of health care in which everyone can afford and acquire the treatment and preventative care they need, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are covered. Health care in America should be affordable by all, not just the wealthy. It should be available to all, and not limited by where you work or how much you make. It should be fair to all; providing help where the need is greatest, and protecting Americans from corporate abuses. And for all the strengths of our health-care system, we know that right now it falls short of this ideal." (www.JohnMcCain.com)


[Opinion] Let's Keep Health Care Reform Simple
Excerpt: "The status quo in American health care is indefensible -- an expensive regulatory and bureaucratic mess. What that calls for, however, is not more layers of regulation and complicated mandates. Nor should government take over health care completely and run it as part of a political spoils system." (Americans for Free Choice in Medicine)


[Opinion] The Viability of Employer-Sponsored Insurance in Its Current Form (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "With mounting health care costs and the weight of the administrative burden, it would seem that employers would be racing to the exits, embracing alternatives to ESI. But large employers seem wary of relinquishing responsibility for providing health insurance." (Alliance for Health Reform)



Sponsored by: University Conference Services

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

Walking the Benefits Management Tightrope

Do you sometimes feel like a high wire acrobat performing without a net? That's how it can seem as you try to span the chasm between managing an attractive benefits program and reigning in costs. The Health and Welfare Plan Management for Mid-Sized Employers, June 8–11, 2008, in Chicago, guides you through today’s complex benefit issues and offers solutions to help you master your technique.

(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] Severance Pay Under Section 415
Excerpt: "One of the major changes in the Regulations related to the necessity to include certain post severance compensation in the definition of Code §415 Compensation. Apparently, some plan documents (not McKay Hochman's) had previously been drafted to state that any amounts paid after separation of service (termination of employment), even regular pay, would be disregarded for all plan purposes. While this language was not wrong, the IRS/Treasury became concerned that some amounts of compensation that were actually earned during the participant's period of employment would be disregarded." (McKay Hochman Co., Inc.)


New Accounting Rules in Spain Introduce a Spanish Set of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles
Excerpt: "New accounting rules take effect for accounting periods beginning on or after January 1, 2008. While the rules for long-term employee benefits liabilities may on the surface seem similar to international standards, a few differences could force employers to explore whether their accounts will qualify as equivalent under the new rules and could affect the valuation and accounting of their defined benefit pension liabilities." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


Hearing on Leading by Example: Making Government a Role Model for Hiring and Retaining Older Workers
The page provides links to the Witness Testimony of Barbara Bovbjerg, Director, Education, Workforce and Income Security Issues, US Government Accountability Office; Robert Goldenkoff, Director, Strategic Issues, US Government Accountability Office; Nancy Kichak, Associate Director, Strategic Human Resources Policy, Office of Personnel Management; Thomas Dowd, Administrator, Office of Policy Development and Research, Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor; Max Stier, President and CEO, Partnership for Public Service; and, Chai Feldblum, Co-Director, Workplace Flexibility 2010. (U.S. Senate, Speical Committee on Aging)


Flex-Time and Telecommuting on Par with Total Compensation in Weighing Job Offers
Excerpt: "Ft. Lauderdale-based IT search and staffing specialist, PROTECH, released the results of its fourth annual IT Professionals Survey in which flex-time and telecommuting tied total compensation as deciding factors in accepting a job offer from a prospective employer. The recent survey of technology professionals in Florida's Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties had 544 respondents." (Business Wire via NewsEdge via Human Resource Executive Online)


House Passes Taxpayer Rights Bill, Including Provisions on IRAs and HSAs
Excerpt: "The House on April 15, 2008, passed H.R. 5719, The Taxpayer Assistance and Simplification Bill of 2008, this year's version of taxpayer rights legislation. Among the items included in the legislation are provisions affecting IRAs and health savings accounts (HSAs)." (Wolters Kluwer)


Australia Will Recognize Same-Sex Couples in Tax, Pension Laws
Excerpt: "The Australian government said today it plans to remove discrimination against same-sex couples from about 100 laws covering taxation, welfare and employment entitlements . . . ." (Bloomberg)




Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Newkirk "Profiler" Simplifies Targeting Participants
Newkirk

Rebecca Anne Batts Appointed PBGC Inspector General
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)

ExpertPlan Acquires Trust Service Company, Inc. (TSCI)
ExpertPlan

MetLife Launches New Patent-Pending Online Social Security Decision Tool to Simplify the Decision of When to Take Social Security Benefits
MetLife



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