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June 2, 2008

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

Today's sponsor is University Conference Services

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Trimming the Benefits Tab Without Cutting the Value

If you're like most employers, you struggle with how to contain the cost of your health care programs without diminishing their value to employees. There are many remedies to consider, but you do you know what’s best for your organization? Health and Welfare Plan Management for Mid-Sized Employers, September 7–10, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, is the perfect place to find out if you have the right "dosage" for your benefit plans.

[Guidance Overview] Washington, D.C. Passes the Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008
Excerpt: "Effective November 13, 2008, mandatory sick leave provisions will apply to even the smallest employers." (Littler Mendelson P.C.)

[Guidance Overview] Final HSA Comparability Regulations for Catch-Up and Accelerated Contributions
Excerpt: "The current proposed rules may be relied upon, but need not be incorporated into arrangements until the final rules become effective for the plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2009." (Littler Mendelson P.C.)

[Guidance Overview] Treasury, IRS Issue 2009 Contribution Limits for HSAs
Excerpt: "On May 13, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service released Revenue Procedure 2008-29, which lists the new indexed amounts, adjusted for inflation, for high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) under Internal Revenue Code section 223(g)." (JPMorgan Chase & Co.)

[Guidance Overview] House Passes FMLA Expansion for Flight Attendants
Excerpt: "Last week, the House passed a measure to lower the hourly threshold for FMLA eligibility for flight attendants." (HR Policy Association)

[Guidance Overview] Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated May 28, 2008, for Health and Welfare Plans (PDF)
11 pages. This Federal Legislation Quick Guide provides short updates on federal legislation that is currently under active consideration by Congress or has recently been enacted into law regarding health and welfare benefit plans. (Hewitt Associates)

[Guidance Overview] Loss of Union Status Was Not a COBRA Qualifying Event, Despite Loss of Coverage
Excerpt: "COBRA specifies seven triggering events that can be qualifying events if they result in a loss of coverage while the plan is subject to COBRA. But not all losses of health care coverage are caused by one of these seven triggering events." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

[Opinion] The Childhood Obesity Numbers
Excerpt: "It is a sad commentary on the health of American youngsters that we are cheering a leveling off of childhood obesity rates. Far too many children and teenagers are still overweight. Tens of millions of young people will be at risk of illness and death unless this country commits to reversing, not just stabilizing, the epidemic." (The New York Times; free registration required)

[Opinion] ERISA Should Be Part of Health Reform Talks
Excerpt: "Absent from the ongoing debate about health care reform is a discussion about the impact of ERISA. ERISA is an onerous and oppressive law that HMOs and insurance companies love and cherish, but do not want the public to understand." (South Florida

[Opinion] Myth vs. Fact: Consumer-Driven Health Plans
Excerpt: "'Consumer-driven health care' is the euphemism for high-deductible health plans with savings accounts. It is based on the theory that increased financial exposure will encourage patients to act like consumers, comparing quality and costs and negotiating lower prices. It also, according to the rhetoric, gives people greater control over their health care. Yet many experts paint a different picture." (Center for American Progress)

For Employers - How to Choose a Health Care Plan
Excerpt: "There are two schools of thought on where to begin: One says it comes down to cost; the other says it depends on what your competition is offering." (

Health Premium Payments to Be Eliminated in Alberta, Can.ada
Excerpt: "Most employers in the province of Alberta will experience significant cost savings from government plans to eliminate premium payments for the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHICP). The elimination will take effect on January 1, 2009. Employers may need to review contractual commitments and collective agreements in light of the change." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

Savings Needed to Fund Health Insurance and Health Care Expenses in Retirement: Findings from a Simulation Model (PDF)
28 pages. Excerpt: "This Issue Brief examines the uncertainty of health care expenses in retirement by using a Monte Carlo simulation model to estimate the amount of savings needed to cover health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket health care expenses. This type of simulation is able to account for the uncertainty related to individual mortality and rates of return, and computes the present value of the savings needed to cover health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses in retirement. These observations were used to determine asset targets for having adequate savings to cover retiree health costs 50, 75, and 90 percent of the time." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

Cities Might Drastically Change Health Insurance
Excerpt: "Myrtle Beach budget director Mike Shelton got a colonoscopy in Thailand because of a change in accounting standards for local governments. The change has to do with how local governments pay their health insurance costs. It essentially creates a multimillion-dollar debt that cities and counties have to pay to cover their employees' future health costs." (The State)

Employees Receive Perks for Not Lighting Up
Excerpt: "Smokers have the best chance of stopping when they work for companies with broad workplace wellness programs and where top executives promote healthy behaviors, experts say. 'You can buy the best program, but if it's not woven into the overall solution and communication strategy, even the best ones won't work,' said Dr. Jodi Aronson Prohofsky, senior vice president of operations at Cigna's behavioral health, wellness and employee assistance programs. The company is working with 120 firms through its smoking cessation program." (Detroit Free Press via Times Argus)

Tackling Obesity via Benefit Design
Excerpt: "The Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance -- comprised of consumers, providers, government officials, labor organizations, health insurers, and numerous other stakeholders -- has taken the lead to promote the obesity problem and how it impacts the nation. DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance has also taken an active role in exploring the issue and its impact on employers and the healthcare system. Last week, DMAA raised the bar by presenting a new flexible obesity benefit design approach, which it developed with Health & Technology Vector Inc." (HCPro, Inc.)

The Uninsured Have a Friend in San Francisco
Excerpt: "San Francisco, known for its progressive social policies, is addressing a problem that has proved too complex or difficult for nearly all state, federal and local officials: how to provide regular, effective care for the uninsured." (San Diego Union Tribune)

After Caesareans, Some See Higher Insurance Cost
Excerpt: "Although many women who have had a Caesarean can safely have a normal birth later, something that Ms. Udy's group advocates, in recent years many doctors and hospitals have refused to allow such births, because they carry a small risk of a potentially fatal complication, uterine rupture. Now, Ms. Udy says, insurers are adding insult to injury. Not only are women feeling pressure to have Caesareans that they do not want and may not need, but they may also be denied coverage for the surgery." (The New York Times; free registration required)

ERISA Attacks Threaten Self-Insured Health Benefits
Excerpt: "States wrestling with health reform issues increasingly are tapping employer-sponsored health plans to help subsidize new government programs for the uninsured. This means new state fees and taxes, as well as costly assessments, added to the plan costs for employers who already cover more than half of all individuals in private plans." (LRP Publications)

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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] Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated May 28, 2008, on Human Resources & Employment Law (PDF)
10 pages. This Federal Legislation Quick Guide provides short updates on federal legislation that is currently under active consideration by Congress or has recently been enacted into law regarding human resources and employment law. (Hewitt Associates)

[Guidance Overview] The Impact of Same-Sex Marriage on Employee Benefit Plans
Excerpt: "Plan sponsors who have employees in California or Massachusetts should review their plan documents and insurance polices to determine whether same-sex spouses are covered. [I]t may be necessary to specify that certain plan provisions do or do not apply to a same-sex spouse. Any plan amendments should be timely communicated to participants via a new Summary Plan Description or a Summary of Material Modifications." (Trucker Huss)

[Guidance Overview] Health Plan Implications of California Ruling on Same-Gender Marriage (PDF)
2 pages. (The Segal Group, Inc.)

This Open Enrollment Period, Benefits Communications Take Center Stage
Excerpt: "Closing the 'guidance gap' between the benefits offered during Open Enrollment and employees' access to tools and information to make the decision-making process less complicated can pay strong dividends for employers. According to the MetLife survey, released today, among those workers that report having access to resources to help them make informed decisions, 82% were satisfied with their benefits offerings – compared to half (51%) of employees who stated that they didn't get the resources they needed." (Business Wire via Human Resource Executive Online)

'Learning 401(k)s' an Innovative Way to Encourage Employees to Increase Their Knowledge
Excerpt: "[A]nnouncing a corporate learning program is hardly earth-shattering news. But in this case, IBM created its new learning initiative to give employees who have been with Big Blue more than five years a 50 percent match of up to $1,000 contributed -- to do whatever they want with the money, as long as it's used for learning. In the extreme, if an IBM employee wanted to use his or her matching dollars to take cooking lessons or learn to speak Chinese, that's perfectly fine under the program's guidelines." (Human Resource Executive Online)

Michigan Marriage Law Affects Domestic Partner Benefits
Excerpt: "The Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that a referendum defining marriage as between a man and a woman requires public-sector employers to stop offering benefits to the domestic partners of employees. The ruling should have limited impact, however, experts say." (Human Resource Executive Online)

Employers Help with Adoptions
Excerpt: "Companies that offer adoption benefits do so out of a sense of inclusiveness, and to make themselves more competitive employers. Federal law guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave, but little else directs private employers to accommodate adoptive parents. Laws regarding additional benefits vary from state to state." (AP via Philly Online, LLC)

Look Before Making a Relocation Leap
Excerpt: "With a fear that jobs are harder to come by, you may be tempted to pick up stakes and relocate at the first offer you encounter. But experts say that it doesn't always make sense to move for just any job. For one thing, moving isn't cheap. Many employers will pay at least part of the relocation costs, but employees should get as many details as possible about their relocation package before committing." (MarketWatch)

New Legislation Enhances 401(k) Benefits for Military Personnel, Allows Qualified Reservist Distributions from Health FSAs, and Extends MHPA
Excerpt: "For some 401(k) plans, the Act's rule requiring enhanced survivor benefits may trigger accelerated vesting of matching and profit-sharing contributions for short-service participants. While not previously mandatory, treating differential military pay as plan compensation was already available for 401(k) plans in the final regulations under Code Section 415. (And while not specifically addressed, the Act may also facilitate pre-tax cafeteria plan salary reductions from differential pay.)" (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

Employers Turn to Four-Day Work Week to Save Gas
Excerpt: "When Ohio's Kent State University offered custodial staff the option of working four days a week instead of five to cut commuting costs, most jumped at the chance, part of a U.S. trend aimed at combating soaring gasoline prices. 'We offered it to 94 employees and 78 have taken us up on it,' said university spokesman Scott Rainone." (Financial Week; free registration required)

ERISA Abroad: Extraterritorial Application of ERISA to U.S. Employees in other Countries
Excerpt: "Paul Secunda . . . has just posted on SSRN his article 'The Longest Journey, with a First Step': Bringing Coherence to Sovereignty and Jurisdictional Issues in Global Employee Benefits Law." (Workplace Prof Blog)

States Seek Delay in California Marriage Ruling
Excerpt: "Concerned about the national ramifications of same-sex marriages in California, attorneys general from 10 states have asked the California Supreme Court to stay its decision legalizing the marriages, which are set to begin on June 17." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Newly Posted Events
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Understanding GINA - The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
Nationwide on June 24, 2008
presented by Seyfarth Shaw LLP

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401(k) Plan Administrator
for Pollard & Associates, Inc.
in MD

Assistant 401(k) Administrator
for Pollard & Associates, Inc.
in MD

Business Analysts
for Xcitek Consulting Services
in NJ

Retirement Plan Actuary/Consultant
for Charles Schwab
in OH

ERISA Consultant
for Charles Schwab
in TX

Tax Counsel - ERISA
for Union Pacific Railroad Company
in NE

Conversions Specialist
for The Newport Group
in NC

Director, Daily Operations
for DailyAccess Corporation
in AL

Retirement Plan Benefits Professional
for Huntington National Bank
in IN, OH, PA

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