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June 4, 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

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

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.

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Notice 2008-52: HSA Guidance Reflecting 2006 Statutory Changes (PDF)
11 pages. Rules addressed include the establishment of HSAs, annual and monthly HSA contribution limits, HSA distributions not used for qualified medical expenses, and excise taxes on excess contributions. Modifies earlier guidance issued in 2004. (Internal Revenue Service)


[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Notice 2008-51 Detailing Rules for Transfer of IRA Funds to an HSA (PDF)
The notice provides guidance on the proper tax treatment of qualified health savings account funding distributions (transfers from IRAs), effective for tax years beginning after 2006. (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Guidance on Treatment of Qualified Health Savings Account Funding Distributions in Notice 2008-51
Excerpt: "The IRS guidance reflects the rules provided in Code Sec. 408(d)(9), as added by the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-432), and includes numerous examples that illustrate how these rules should be applied." (CCH Incorporated)


[Guidance Overview] VEBAs Fund Welfare Benefits for Active Employees and Retirees (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "The . . . article highlights some of the primary reasons that an employer may use a VEBA trust to fund welfare benefits for active employees and/or retirees rather than paying for such benefits out of the employer's general assets." (Groom Law Group)


[Guidance Overview] HEART Act Provides Benefits for Those in Military Service (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "The HEART Act amends the Internal Revenue Code and the Social Security Act to provide certain tax benefits and incentives to military personnel." (Groom Law Group)


[Guidance Overview] 2009 Minimums and Maximums for Health Savings Accounts Plans and High-Deductible Health Plans
Excerpt: "On May 13, 2008, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Revenue Procedure 2008-29,1 which announced various inflation-adjusted amounts for 2009 for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs). The IRS calculates the annual adjustments using the 12-month period ending March 31." (The Segal Group, Inc.)


Urban Institute's Health Policy Center Web Site
Excerpt: "The new Web site -- www.healthpolicycenter.org, created by the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center -- provides research, commentaries, congressional testimonies, statistics and facts. It also highlights the institute's work on a variety of health-related topics, including state and federal health reform, public health coverage, Medicaid, SCHIP, Medicare and private health insurance, among others . . . ." (Urban Institute)


Health Information Technology Legislation Stalled by Privacy Concerns
Excerpt: "'[P]rivacy concerns have loomed over the health IT initiative since early efforts' in 2005, according to CQ Today. Consumer privacy advocates have expressed concerns that electronic health records would be easier to steal or disclose accidentally and that employers could use the information to discriminate against potential employees with certain health conditions." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


The Shift from Managing Illness to Promoting Health
Excerpt: "Despite an acknowledged lack of evidence of investment payoff, health plan initiatives to promote health and wellness are now commonplace, according to findings from the Center for Studying Health System Change's (HSC) 2007 site visits to 12 nationally representative metropolitan communities. Much of the impetus has come from employers -- primarily large employers -- that are incorporating health and wellness activities into benefit designs that place more responsibility on employees for health care decisions and costs." (Center for Studying Health System Change)


Business Presents Health Care Reform Ideas in Proposal Called the New Benefit Platform for Life Security
Excerpt: "ERIC thinks health care should be delivered through large, third-party benefit administrators, all of them competing for the business. A government-authorized entity would design three to five standard health plans, with input from all the stakeholders (medical, consumer, insurer, employer and regulator). Employers would have the option of keeping their current plan or -- as ERIC expects -- contracting for coverage through the new system." (Bloomberg)


Rep. Walberg Touts Market-Based Health Care Legislation in Washington Times Op-Ed
Excerpt: "The 'one-size-fits-all, Washington-based approach' to overhauling the U.S. health care system 'is wrong' and, instead, reform should focus on providing a 'patient-centered health care system that gives consumers direct control and choice over their health care decisions,' Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) writes in a Washington Times opinion piece." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Health Insurer Lobby Releases Plan To Reduce U.S. Health Care Costs by $145B
Excerpt: "Officials from America's Health Insurance Plans have proposed a plan they estimate could reduce U.S. health care spending by $145 billion by 2015, The Politico reports. The group plans to present its findings to congressional committee chairs and ranking members and to hold a policy briefing." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Emergency Departments Overcrowded by Many Patients With Health Insurance
Excerpt: "Patients seek care in EDs for a number of reasons, but a 'main one seems to be convenience' -- EDs remain open '24 hours a day, 365 days a year' and do not require appointments, according to the Sun. In addition, 'everything from blood work to X-rays to treatment can be done in a compact amount of time under one roof,' the Sun reports. Primary care physicians have become 'increasingly reliant' on EDs to treat 'overflow' patients and those who require tests not available in their offices, according to the Sun (Desmon, Baltimore Sun, 6/1)." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] McCain's Free-Market Health Plan Would Boost Role of High-Risk Pools
Excerpt: "John McCain's plan for a health-care system built around consumers shopping for their own insurance comes with a significant downside: for people with a history of illness, it can be impossible to find coverage on their own. The Republican presidential candidate's main answer is to bolster the role of high-risk pools, which sell insurance to people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, cancer and AIDS." (The Wall Street Journal via California Nurses Association / National Nurses Organizing Committee)


[Opinion] Testimony: The Case for Keeping Quality on the Health Reform Agenda (PDF)
11 pages. Testimony presented before the Senate Committee on Finance on June 3, 2008. (RAND)


[Opinion] Testimony at Hearing on 'Rising Costs, Low Quality in Health Care: The Necessity for Reform'
Statement of Paul Ginsburg, Ph.D., President, Center for Studying Health System Change, Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance Hearing on 'Rising Costs, Low Quality in Health Care: The Necessity for Reform" (Center for Studying Health System Change)



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] Military Bill with Payroll Provisions Cleared for President
Excerpt: "Congress has passed H.R. 6081, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act. The bill, which would extend and/or modify several benefit provisions for the military, contains a few payroll-related items." (Wolters Kluwer)


Brocade Settles with Arkansas Pension System over Backdating Charges
Excerpt: "The law firm representing the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (APERS) in a securities fraud class action against Brocade Communications regarding the backdating of stock options announced it has reached a $160 million settlement." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


HighRoads Launches Full-Service Summary Plan Description Management for HR Compliance
Excerpt: "HighRoads, the company giving human resources (HR) teams control over employee benefits management, now provides a full range of Summary Plan Description (SPD) services -- from planning and analysis through content development, content management and production and distribution. These expanded services can help bring companies quickly into compliance with critical regulations and ensure employees and recruits have the information they need to make informed choices about their benefits." (Business Wire)


Suit Seeks to Block New York State Policy on Same-Sex Unions
Excerpt: "Five state lawmakers, backed by a conservative Christian policy group, sued Gov. David A. Paterson on Tuesday, seeking to block the governor's order directing state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed outside New York." (The New York Times; free registration required)


Work/Life Balance Holds Steady
Excerpt: "The uncertain economy hasn't negatively affected work/life balance policies on the whole, according to a recent study. But not all of the news is positive. Paid-time off for maternity leave has decreased and some of HR's focus has shifted from work/life to wellness initiatives." (Human Resource Executive Online)


An Update on Employee Benefits Around the World
The update covers developments in Japan, Singapore, Mexico, the Czech Republic, and the UAE. (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Genetic Discrimination in the Workplace-What the New Law Demands
Nationwide on June 11, 2008
presented by Thompson Interactive, A Division of Thompson Publishing Group

Introduction to Benefits II: More Than Just Medical
in Pennsylvania on June 25, 2008
presented by PEBA --Penjerdel Employee Benefits & Compensation Assn.

Same-Gender Marriages and Benefits-How The Recent Ruling in CA May Affect All Employers
Nationwide on June 25, 2008
presented by Thompson Interactive, A Division of Thompson Publishing Group

Trashing the Timesheet: A Declaration of Independence Webcast
Nationwide on June 19, 2008
presented by National Institute of Pension Administrators



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

NIPA Launches New Business Management Education (BME) Series
National Institute of Pension Administrators

Watson Wyatt Data Services Releases 2008/2009 Survey Report on Employee Benefits
Watson Wyatt Data Services

American Century Adds Four More Target-Date Funds
American Century Investments



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