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May 13, 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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Be Smart by Association with the International Foundation

Smart is not a permanent state of being. What's your maintenance plan? Take advantage of the education and information available through the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, a nonprofit educational association, and find out why over 35,000 industry professionals like Cindy Conway rely on the Foundation to stay informed and educated. Make sure you have the most comprehensive information on health, pension and compensation issues. Be smart by association.

[Guidance Overview] Unambiguous Terms Trump Grant Of Discretion In Dispute Over Exclusionary Clause
Excerpt: "This case attracts my attention for a several important reasons. First, it points up the potential for mischief in the give and take of trigger events and exclusions, an area that has generated considerable litigation. Second, it provides insight into interpretative canons that can neutralize the typical advantage of the plan fiduciary when a plan grants discretion to the administrator." (Attorney Roy F Harmon III in the Health Plan Law blog)

[Guidance Overview] Claims Manual Policies Rejected As Irrelevant In Disability Offset Case
Excerpt: "The interesting legal points of the case lie in the district court's assessment of probative value of UNUM's internal claims manual, its perspective in applying the standard of review and as an illustration of the felicitous effects of de novo review for a claimant's case." (Attorney Roy F Harmon III in the Health Plan Law blog)

[Guidance Overview] Text of 'Compliance Quarterly' for California HR Professionals
Excerpt: "In this issue: San Francisco Health Care Security Ordinance in effect - for now; New laws impact California employers; New leaves for military families in California . . . ." (Mercer)

California Lawmakers Take a Stab at Legislating Healthy Habits
Excerpt: "Last week, an Assembly committee approved a bill that would require companies bidding on California state contracts to provide wellness benefits for employees." (CaliforniaHealthline)

High Healthcare Costs Caused in Part by Power of Healthcare Systems, Wisconsin Study Says
Excerpt: "High health care costs in the Milwaukee area stem from the market power of health care systems, according to a study by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. The study contends that health care systems have increased their market power by employing physicians, which gives them a referral base for their hospitals, which makes it harder for would-be competitors to enter the market." (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

More Tying the Knot to Get Health Insurance
Excerpt: "Some people marry for love, some for companionship and others for status or money. Now comes another reason to get hitched: health insurance. In a poll released Tuesday, 7 percent of Americans said they or someone in their household decided to marry in the past year so they could obtain health-care benefits via their spouse." (Chicago Tribune)

Commuter Benefit Plans Increasing
Excerpt: "As of March, 4,011 Milwaukee-area employees had value passes, subsidized by 65 employers. That matches the highest ridership in the program ever and is up 8% from the same time last year, said Jackie Janz, marketing director for Milwaukee County Transit." (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Health Insurance Cost Increases Outpace Family Income, Study Says
Excerpt: "Americans with employer-provided health insurance have seen their premiums increase ten times faster than their income in the past few years, according to a study released on April 29 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation." (Wolters Kluwer)

Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Considers Expanding State-Subsidized Coverage to Low-Income Residents Who Cannot Afford Employer-Based Coverage
Excerpt: "Between 30,000 and 40,000 Massachusetts residents are offered health insurance by their employer but have incomes less than 300% of the federal poverty level and cannot afford the premiums, according to a report released Thursday by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, the Boston Globe reports." (

Study Says Individual Health Insurance Policy May Be More Stable Than Group Coverage
Excerpt: "For workers in fair or poor health, owning individual health insurance seems to offer more security than relying on employer-sponsored small-group health coverage does." (Life and Health Insurance News)

Maine Employers Fight Health Plan Bailout
Excerpt: "The coalition, Fed Up With Taxes, comprises a dozen business trade groups and is leading a drive to put a proposal on the November ballot to repeal the taxes that state legislators approved in April." (

[Opinion] Universal Mandatory Health Insurance in The Netherlands: A Model for the United States?
Excerpt: "Not a single-payer system -- a policy approach often considered a nonstarter in U.S. policy circles -- the Dutch approach combines mandatory universal health insurance with competition among private health insurers." (The Commonwealth Fund)

[Opinion] Where Does The Insurance Industry Stand On Health Reform Today?
Excerpt: "With another national health care debate on the horizon, many assume that health plans will present a major source of opposition to universal coverage and other reforms. But a closer look reveals signs of change." (Health Affairs)

[Opinion] The Role of Employment-Based Health Benefits Under a Universal Coverage Reform Option
Excerpt: "Increased reliance on the individual insurance market in its present form is unlikely to meet society's goals, but directing those without access to employer coverage who receive subsidies to regional insurance exchanges could make such coverage much more attractive. But real-world experience with such a reform is needed before considering the substitution of individual coverage for employer-based coverage." (Paul B. Ginsburg via Center for Studying Health System Change)

[Opinion] Forced Reversal of 45% of LTD Denials Means Something is Wrong
Excerpt: "In an announcement May 5, 2008 The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance released a report documenting the results of a multi-state settlement concerning disability claim practices by Unum and its subsidiaries since 2004 and the results are fascinating; 45.1% of group LTD claim decisions were reversed resulting in an additional $558.6M of additional benefits either paid or reserved for future benefit payment. . . . Keep in mind the majority of these contracts were likely to be ERISA plans." (Dan Buckle on

Sponsored by: University Conference Services

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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

[Opinion] A Reconsideration of Tax Expenditure Analysis (PDF)
87 pages. Excerpt: "This document, prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation . . . reconsiders the utility of the JCT Staff's current implementation of tax expenditure analysis. . . . Driven off track by seemingly endless debates about what should and should not be included in the 'normal' tax base, tax expenditure analysis today does not advance either of the two goals that inspired its original proponents: clarifying the aggregate size and application of government expenditures, and improving the Internal Revenue Code." (U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on Taxation)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Employee Benefit Plan Filing Update with DOL and IRS
Nationwide on May 15, 2008
presented by U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service

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

Implementing the Final 403(b) Regulations: Changes in the 403(b) World and What Employers and Providers Should be Doing About Them
in Connecticut on June 10, 2008
presented by National Institute of Pension Administrators-CT Chapter

Promoting Individual Savings For Retirement
Nationwide on May 15, 2008
presented by AARP

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Watson Wyatt Data Services’ Releases New! 2008/2009 Survey Report on Health Care Clinical & Professional Personnel Compensation
Watson Wyatt Data Services

Datapath Inc. announced a partnership with Atlanta-based RelayHealth
DataPath, Inc.

U.S. Labor Department Resolves Lawsuit With Trustees of Ohio Sheet Metal Workers Pension Plan
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

401(k)-Type Plans, Participants Grow at Slower Pace
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

Carris Reels Named 2008 ESOP Company of the Year by The ESOP Association
ESOP Association

Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement to Honor Six American Heroes for Their Leadership in Helping to Secure the Economic Future of Women
Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER)

Aon Study Finds Stability in Nationwide Liability Costs in the Long Term Health Care Sector
Aon Consulting

National Business Group on Health Honors Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles
National Business Group on Health

Walgreens Health Initiatives Reports Negative Drug Trend for Highly Managed Plans

Compliance with Massachusetts Healthcare Reform Simplified by New Software from Benefit Corporation of America
Benefit Corporation of America

Richmond Fed's 2007 Annual Report Features Essay on Savings and Retirement
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

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ERISA Consultant
for Vanguard
in PA

Assistant Manager, Health Plan Operations
for Ralcorp Holdings, Inc
in MO

401(k)/DC Administrator (Junior)
for Columbia Benefits Consultants, Inc.
in MD

Retirement Plan Administrators
for Actuarial Consulting Group, Inc.
in VA

Benefits Consultant
for HR Consulting Firm in Western Pennsylvania
in PA

401(k) / Defined Contribution Consultant
for USI Consulting Group, Inc. (USICG)
in CT

401(k) Enrollers/Independent Contractors – Part Time
for Transamerica Retirement Services/Diversified Investment Advisors
in AZ, CA, DC, FL, IL, KS, MI, MO, NV, TX, WI

Actuarial Analyst
for Van Iwaarden Associates
in MN

Legal Secretary/Legal Assistant
for Sherman & Howard L.L.C.
in CO

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