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June 9, 2008

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

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[Guidance Overview] Penalty Set for Violations of HSA Contribution Rule
Excerpt: "Employees taking advantage of a 2006 law allowing them to make the maximum annual contributions to health savings accounts will face stiff financial penalties if they don't meet all of the law's conditions." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

[Guidance Overview] IRS Notice Details Procedures for IRA Transfer to HSA
Excerpt: "In Notice 2008-51, the Internal Revenue Service details guidance to implement a 2006 amendment to health savings account (HSA) legislation that provides plans the option to allow employees to start an HSA by making a one-time tax-free transfer of individual retirement account (IRA) funds." (Wolters Kluwer)

Massachusetts Employers Form Group to Fight Health Care Fee Increases
Excerpt: "The Coalition for Affordable Health Care says it will focus on ways to reduce health care costs. The group opposes efforts to get businesses to contribute more for employees' health care." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Text of H.R. 6179, ''Promoting Health Information Technology Act of 2008'' (PDF)
35 pages. Excerpt: "To encourage and enhance the adoption of interoperable health information technology to improve health care quality, reduce medical errors, and increase the efficiency of care." (U.S. House of Representatives via American Benefits Council)

Companies Actively Provide Ways to Kick Smoking Habit
Excerpt: "Your company's health plan may lower your monthly insurance premium, provide a coach to help you stop or help pay for prescription smoking cessation medicines. Many businesses have become more aggressive and creative in helping workers quit." (Detroit Free Press via Belleville News-Democrat)

Domestic Partner Benefits Improved for Nevada State Employees
Excerpt: "A Nevada panel that oversees health insurance benefits for state employees voted Thursday to extend coverage to domestic partners, including those of the same sex, despite budget problems that could make the $2.7 million cost unaffordable." (AP via San Francisco Chronicle)

Uncooperative Benefits Applicant Loses Appellate Legal Battle
Excerpt: "A federal appellate court has turned away an appeal of an employee fighting for benefits under her employer's disability plan because she did not play an active role in the disability determination process as mandated by the plan rules." (; free registration required)

Massachusetts Employers, Insurers Lobby Against Higher Employer Fees for Uninsured Workers, Support Cost Control Efforts
Excerpt: "Massachusetts businesses and most of the state's health insurers on Wednesday announced the formation of the Coalition for Affordable Health Coverage, a lobbying group that will work to control rising health care costs in the state and prevent cost-shifting to employers, the Boston Globe reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Concerned About Costs, Congress Pushes Curbs on Doctor-Owned Hospitals
Excerpt: "The special treatment for a handful of hospitals has drawn criticism from conservative Republicans, who support unfettered growth of doctor-owned hospitals, and liberal Democrats, who favor stringent rules with no exceptions." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Business Leaders Envision a New Rx for Health Insurance
Excerpt: "ERIC contends that 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." (The Washington Post; free registration required)

[Opinion] Employers Need to Better Understand Terms Used in Many of the Healthcare Reform Proposals
Excerpt: "Most employers and employer groups (that are made up of employers that provide health insurance) now share a common desire for a level 'access' field, a level 'paying' field, and a level 'tax subsidy' field. The definitions of these commonly used words leave a great deal of room for disagreement, however." (Dallas Salisbury via Human Resource Executive Online)

[Opinion] Failure of Profit-Centered Health Insurance
Excerpt: "The U.S. averages twice as much spending on health care, with worse outcomes, than any other industrialized nation. Our country is unique in its dependence on over 1200 for-profit health insurances that function as gatekeepers to health care. Shareholder and CEO profits trump access to quality health care. No health care reform proposal by any presidential candidate addresses the failure of the private health insurance industry, characterized principally by rising premiums and decreasing benefits." (Rocky Mountain News)

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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.

(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] Plaintiffs Argue Fiduciary Exception to Attorney Client Privilege
Excerpt: "Exceptions to the attorney client privilege rank along side inadvertent loss of the privilege as anxious topics for defense counsel. ERISA presents a variant on a trust law exception to the privilege which has been given discussion in two recent cases." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

[Guidance Overview] New Law Provides Additional Benefits to Employees in Military Service
Excerpt: "The [target page] chart summarizes the most significant provisions of the Heroes Act that apply to employee benefit plans and includes information about mandatory and optional action steps that employers may need to take." (Davis Wright Tremaine LLP)

[Guidance Overview] A Bonus Paid in Stock - Why You Might Refuse
Excerpt: "Why would any employee want to refuse a bonus in stock? Well, that would depend. What would the tax effect be to him on the receipt of the stock? How much value would the stock have for tax purposes? Where would the cash to pay the tax come from? Could any of the stock be sold to raise the cash to pay the tax? And if the stock couldn't be sold now, when could it be sold and what if the stock loses value by then?" (Tax Management Inc.)

Bankrup.tcy Bill Would Tie Executive Compensation to Workers' Wages
Excerpt: "[A] House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on a bill that would limit the flexibility companies have in bankrup.tcy to restructure their labor costs and retain management staff. The 'Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act,' H.R. 3652, by Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) would, among other things, limit the ability of the company or bankrup.tcy trustee to restructure collective bargaining agreements, retirement plans and other benefits by tying such changes to changes in executive compensation practices." (HR Policy Association)

Recovering Executive Pay Based on Incorrect Financial Statements
Excerpt: "The data on the growing acceptance of clawback provisions emerged in a study by the Corporate Library, an independent research concern specializing in executive pay and corporate governance. It surveyed 2,121 companies and found that 295 of them, or 14 percent, had clawback provisions." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Government Asks Supreme Court to Broaden Remedies Under ERISA
Excerpt: "In response to a U.S. Supreme Court request for input, the Solicitor General has asked the Court to hear a case in hopes of broadening the types of equitable remedies available under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)." (HR Policy Association)

Who Benefits from Tax-Advantaged Employee Benefits? Evidence from University Parking
Excerpt: "We use university parking permits to study how firms and employees split the value of employee benefit tax subsidies." (National Bureau of Economic Research; paid subscription or individual purchase required to retrieve fulltext)

U.S. Economy not Affecting Overseas Assignments
Excerpt: "Despite U.S. economic stress, the vast majority of multinational corporations surveyed by GMAC Global Relocation Services are optimistic about their global business outlook and have no plans to reduce overseas business assignments." (; free registration required)

[Opinion] A Career Killer for HR Pros—The Employee Free Choice Act
Excerpt: "This piece of legislation would cripple the competitiveness of American business, limit the rights of employees and eliminate the need for independent-thinking HR pros, all in one easy-to-sign law." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

COBRA for Rookies: Understanding the Basics to Avoid Liability
Nationwide on June 26, 2008
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)/Thomson Tax & Accounting

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

401k Training Group Launches Online Retirement Designation Program
Financial Service Standards, LLC

Free & Clear® Analysis Shows Workplace Smoking-Cessation Incentives Work
Free & Clear

DAK Americas Deploys Synapses Total Benefit Statement for Employees
Synapses Inc.

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401 (k) Expert
for RBC Wealth Management
in WI

Attorney - Assistant General Counsel (In-house, Non-Profit ERISA Funds)
for 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds
in NY

Family or Adult Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant
for MassMutual Financial Group
in MA

Plan Analyst
for Acuff & Associates, Inc.
in TN

Executive Compensation/Benefits Attorney
for CBS Corporation
in NY

Retirement Plan Administrator
for Pacific Rim Financial Group
in WA

Employee Benefits Attorney
for USAA
in TX

Pension Administrator
for Estate & Pension Advisory Board, Inc.
in PA

Account Manager I
for The Standard
in OH

Defined Contribution Analyst II
for The Standard
in CA

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