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May 16, 2008

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

Today's sponsor is BeneCom Associates, LLC

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Changes to your benefit plans can be confusing. Communicating them doesn't have to be.

No matter how benefits-savvy your employees may be, benefit plan changes can be confusing to the most sophisticated consumer. That's why companies large and small use BeneCom for their benefits communication. We make understanding benefit changes easy, so employees know exactly what you're offering and how it will work for them. And while we're at it, we'll make your life a little easier, too.

[Guidance Overview] Sixth Circuit Continues to Buck Trend on Law Governing Termination of Retiree Welfare Benefits for Unionized Employees (PDF)
At page 10. Excerpt: "Whereas most circuits have generally permitted employers to terminate retiree benefits upon the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement, absent explicit language in the agreement guaranteeing lifetime benefits, the Sixth Circuit continues to create a presumption favoring lifetime benefits. As a result, participants bringing claims for retiree benefits stand a dramatically better chance of prevailing in the Sixth Circuit than anywhere else in the country." (Proskauer Rose LLP)

[Guidance Overview] ERISA Preemption of State Bars on Discretionary Clauses in Health and Life Insurance Policies (PDF)
At page 5. Excerpt: "For years, discretionary clauses have been challenged by ERISA plaintiffs and consumer groups. State insurance regulators entered the fray in 2002, and appear to be succeeding in setting aside these clauses for insured plans. Significantly, the usual ERISA preemption defense appears to be giving way to a wave of state insurance regulation preventing insured ERISA plans from giving Firestone discretion to fiduciaries of insured plans. This article examines some recent case law on the preemption issue . . . ." (Proskauer Rose LLP)

[Guidance Overview] IRS Announces 2009 HSA/HDHP Limits (PDF)
2 pages. (Groom Law Group)

[Guidance Overview] IRS Releases Private Letter Ruling on Disability Benefits for Firefighters and Public Safety Officers (PDF)
At page 2. Excerpt: "On February 29, 2008, the IRS released a private letter ruling (PLR 200809011) related to the treatment of disability benefits paid to firefighters and public safety officers. The request for the ruling came from a governmental plan after a state court held that a state statute . . . created a 'rebuttable presumption' that an employee's heart condition 'arises out of or in the course or his or her employment.'" (Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Company)

[Guidance Overview] Continuation Coverage that Integrates Alternative Coverage and COBRA Rights (PDF)
At page 3. Excerpt: "Employers increasingly are using alternative coverage as a means of reducing their exposure to COBRA liability and decreasing administrative expenses associated with providing COBRA coverage. Alternative coverage generally refers to continued coverage that is provided independently from COBRA and that covers a period of time following the occurrence of a qualifying event." (Miller Chavalier)

[Guidance Overview] Employee Leasing Company's Self-Funded Plan Meltdown
Excerpt: "This recent unpublished Tenth Circuit opinion illustrates the troubles that may be visited on employers that experiment with employee leasing arrangements coupled with self-funded benefit plan arrangements. Theoretically, neither concept is flawed. Practically, when combined, the utmost due diligence is required to avoid difficulties of the sort evidenced in the Voyles matter." (Attorney Roy F Harmon III in the Health Plan Law blog)

Regional Coalitions for Healthcare Improvement: Definition, Lessons and Prospects
Excerpt: "Reports by the Institute of Medicine and others are spurring a national debate about how to improve health care quality. A new consensus is emerging on the value of evidence-based care, measurement and reporting of performance, as well as rewards for results. This report examines the effectiveness of regional coalitions in leading and implementing such initiatives." (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Health Savings Accounts Come Under Fire
Excerpt: "Health savings accounts were criticized as 'tax shelters' that help the wealthy at the expense of those struggling to afford insurance coverage at a Wednesday Congressional hearing." (

\Group Legal Plans Becoming More Popular
Excerpt: "Prompted by the national mortgage mess and myriad other legal issues that people face, more employers are offering group legal plans to employees." (

GAO Testimony: Participating in HSAs Grew; Individuals Opening HSAs Had Higher Incomes
14 pages. By John E. Dicken, director, health care, before the Subcommittee on Health, House Committee on Ways and Means, May 14, 2008. (U.S. Government Accountability Office)

[Opinion] Witness List and Testimonies at House Hearing on Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Consumer Driven Health Care
John E. Dicken of the U.S. Government Accountability Office; Michael E. Chernew, Ph.D. of Harvard Medical School; Linda J. Blumberg, Ph.D. of The Urban Institute; Judy Waxman of the National Women's Law Center; Wayne Sensor of Alegent Health. (Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives)

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

[Guidance Overview] Golden State Court Allows G.ay Marriages
Excerpt: "With the 172-page ruling, including a majority opinion penned by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, California becomes the second U.S. state behind Massachusetts to allow g.ay marriage, according to news reports . . . . The decision was a product of a deeply divided court that narrowly approved the final holding 4 to 3." (

[Guidance Overview] IRS Redesignates Backdated Stock Options as a Tier II Issue (PDF)
At page 2. Excerpt: "Late last month, the IRS issued a directive announcing that the issue of backdated stock options was being redesignated from Tier I status to Tier II status. Tier II issues are those where the IRS' Large and Mid- Sized Business (LMSB) division believes there is a significant risk of noncompliance." (Miller Chavalier)

[Guidance Overview] Regulatory Dissonance on Personal Use of Company Aircraft -- IRS vs. SEC vs. FAA (PDF)
Excerpt: "It is probably too much to ask of federal regulators to coordinate their rules, but the IRS, SEC and FAA rules affecting personal use of company aircraft by executives are frustratingly out of synch. Companies need to be careful that they use the correct valuation method . . . ." (Miller Chavalier)

California Court Strikes Down G.ay Marriage Ban
Excerpt: "The California Supreme Court has overturned a ban on g.ay marriage, paving the way for California to become the second state where g.ay and les.bian residents can marry. The ruling reverses a voter-approved law that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman." (National Public Radio)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Are You Ready For EGTRRA Restatements?
Nationwide on May 28, 2008
presented by

Newly Released Proposed PPA Regulations on Quarterly Contribution Requirements
Nationwide on May 22, 2008
presented by Conference of Consulting Actuaries

Smoking Discrimination in the Workplace: On and Off the Clock
Nationwide on July 9, 2008
presented by Lorman Education Services

WEB Phoenix Chapter Monthly Breakfast Meeting- June Panel Discussion, "HR Challenges"
in Arizona on June 12, 2008
presented by Worldwide Employee Benefits Network

Why Is This Guy Still on My Health Plan?
Nationwide on July 17, 2008
presented by Lorman Education Services

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

NIPA Celebrates Successful NAFE
National Institute of Pension Administrators

Newport Appoints Mid-Atlantic Regional Director
Newport Group, The Announces the Release of Their EGTRRA Plan Document Software

Financial Professionals From Across The U.S. Attend fI360 National Conference On Fiduciary Responsibility
Fiduciary360 (fi360)

Benefit Plans Plus LLC Is Certified To Industry Best Practices
Centre for Fiduciary Excellence (CEFEX)

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Employee Benefits Administration
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Retirement Services Manager
for Fiserv Investment Support Services
in CO

CEO - Pension Consultant
for M.L. Kerns & Associates, LLC
in TX

TRS - Retirement Plan Operations Specialist
for Transamerica Retirement Services
in CA

Relationship Manager
for Vanguard
in AZ

Benefit Service Representative
for Leggette Actuaries, Inc.
in TX

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