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June 12, 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] New Federal Law Prohibits Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Genetic Information (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "[The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)] applies to all employers that are covered under Title VII. GINA prohibits these employers from discriminating on the basis of genetic information in hiring, firing, compensation, promotion and other personnel decisions. It also prohibits retaliation against covered individuals for exercising their rights under GINA. These nondiscrimination provisions go into effect November 21, 2009." (Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.)


[Guidance Overview] Assignment of Benefits Does Not Preclude Provider from Suing on State Law Theories
Excerpt: "N. Utah Healthcare v. BC Life provides further support for the view that health care providers may sue in state court for reimbursement. In this case, the provider had taken an assignment of benefits - one of the indicia that may support ERISA preemption - but the court found this fact unimpressive in the overall evaluation of the preemption defense." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)


[Guidance Overview] 11th Circuit Declines to Expand ERISA 'Full and Fair Review'
Excerpt: "In Glazer v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co., the Eleventh Circuit decided an issue of first impression: whether a long-term disability claimant was deprived of a 'full and fair review' when the claims administrator did not provide her with a copy of an independent medical review it performed before it decided the appeal of her claim for benefits. The Eleventh Circuit held that, under ERISA, the claims administrator was not required to provide the claimant with a copy of the review until after it completed its decision on appeal." (The Florida Appellate Blog)


Helping Patients Plug In: Lessons in the Adoption of Online Consumer Tools
Excerpt: "Surveys suggest that three out of four patients would like to have some sort of electronic connection with their medical provider, such as the ability to make an appointment via the Web, view lab test results, or email their doctor. However, a significant disparity remains between what patients want to do online and what they are able or allowed to do. To better understand the role of patient-centered health information technology (PCHIT) in clinical care, the authors of this report examined five types of medical practice settings in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia; interviewed physicians, patients, and others; and reviewed the relevant literature. They also looked at PCHIT from a regional perspective to learn about recent developments." (California HealthCare Foundation)


Kaiser Permanente Signs Up Employees for Microsoft's Online Health Record Service
Excerpt: "Nonprofit health insurer Kaiser Permanente announced this week that its 159,000 employees would be the first employees to participate in Microsoft's online health record, Healthvault." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Surprising Lessons on Health Care Reform from Small Island of Taiwan
Excerpt: "In the middle of May, two Taiwanese officials, Hou Sheng-Mou and Michael S. Chen, came to Washington facing a tough assignment: promote single payer health care in a city where it's widely regarded as a non-starter in the debate over revamping the U.S. system. Their visit didn't command much attention from reporters covering that debate; countries like the Netherlands or Switzerland that have universal coverage based on strong private health care systems loom larger as potential models for a U.S. overhaul." (Congressional Quarterly Inc.)


Personal Health Data on the Net: States Address Privacy Concerns
Excerpt: "'A major concern is that PHRs are generally not subject to any privacy act,' explained Robert Gellman, a privacy consultant and author of a recent report on PHR privacy. 'This is a surprise to almost everybody. People expect that their health records are subject to [privacy] laws… and for the most part they are -- when those records are held by doctors and insurers. When you agree to give your records to a third party there may be no privacy protections that apply at all.' To protect patient confidentiality, states are beginning to act. To date, Alabama and California have enacted privacy protections." (National Conference of State Legislatures)


Estimates of the Potential Reduction in Health Care Costs from AHIP's Affordability Proposals (PDF)
11 pages. Excerpt: "AHIP's affordability proposals could yield substantial savings for the U.S. health care system, provided that a large-scale and coordinated set of public and private initiatives is launched in the coming years. Taken together, AHIP's proposals have the potential to trim national health expenditures (NHE) by as much as 9 percent by the year 2025, compared with current baseline trends." (America's Health Insurance Plans)


Massachusetts Insurers to Expand Health Plans with Physician Ranking System Despite Lawsuit
Excerpt: "Two of Massachusetts' largest health insurers are expanding or launching health plans that feature physician ranking systems despite opposition to those systems by the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Boston Globe reports. Under such ranking systems, patients who seek care from a top-rated, or top-tiered, physician have lower copayments." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


House Bill Would Allow Small Businesses to Form Statewide, Nationwide Pools for Purchasing Insurance
Excerpt: "A bipartisan coalition of House members on Tuesday introduced a bill (HR 6210) that would allow small businesses to form statewide or nationwide pools to purchase insurance and provide them with tax credits to lower the cost of coverage, CongressDaily reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] What is ERISA and How Does it Affect My Injury Case?
Excerpt: "What ERISA has done is permit employers to fund health and benefit (including retirement) plans, and then insulate those plans from the employer. While ERISA law provides some enforcement mechanisms for employees who are mistreated by their employers' plans, by and large the employer and the plan are immune from lawsuits by employees. The opportunities to sue to protect your rights are limited, there are essentially no suits for damages (you can sue for benefits), and because ERISA is a minefield of regulation and obstruction, and cases must be filed in federal court (where many lawyers fear to tread), there are virtually no lawyers who accept cases against ERISA plans." (Grossman & Waldman, LLP)


[Opinion] The Plight of the Underinsured
Excerpt: "It is well known, by now, that almost 50 million Americans lacked health insurance for all or part of last year. What is less well known is that 25 million Americans who did have health insurance often found it pitifully inadequate when a medical crisis hit. They were only marginally better off than those who had no coverage at all." (The New York Times; free registration required)



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(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

[Official Guidance] Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities Releases Seventh Report (PDF)
367 pages. Excerpt: "On June 11, 2008 the [committee] presented six recommendations to the IRS Commissioner and TE/GE." (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] The Impact of California's Same Sex Marriages on California Employers (PDF)
Excerpt: "While California employers certainly should be aware of this decision [in In re Marriage Cases holding that California's state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional under the state Constitution], and use the opportunity to revisit existing policies and practices, the actual impact of this ruling on California employers' day-to-day operations is fairly limited." (Baker & McKenzie LLP)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Grants Tax Relief to Victims of Storms and Tornadoes in Missouri, Georgia, Colorado and Iowa
Excerpt: "The IRS has announced special tax relief for taxpayers within . . . ." (Wolters Kluwer)


[Guidance Overview] Stock Options Revisited: A Renewed Focus on Net Exercise Provisions (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "Recent changes in the tax laws and accounting pronouncements have spawned a renewed interest in equity grants that are settled in stock. Until the issuance of Accounting Principles Board Opinion No. 25, most stock options provided optionees with the choice of exercising the option by making a cash payment equal to the exercise amount (the exercise price multiplied by the number of shares subject to the option) by surrendering shares with a value equal to the exercise amount. However, FAS 123(R) has renewed the viability of net exercise provisions in stock options as well as other cashless equity awards, such as stock-settled stock appreciation rights (SSARs)." (Powell Goldstein LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Are Your Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans 409A-OK? (PDF)
Pages 1-4 of 12 pages. (Milliman)


Flexible Work Arrangements Gain Attention of Lawmakers
Excerpt: "The U.S. is behind the majority of developed nations when it comes to having statutes in place to allow for flexible work arrangements. Of the 21 'high income' countries examined in a recent study, the U.S. finished last." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


U.S. Life Expectancy Has Reached 78 Years
Excerpt: "Despite the good news, the USA ranks 29th in life expectancy among the United Nations' member nations. Tops is Andorra, which has an average life expectancy of 83, followed closely by Japan, Sweden, Australia and Switzerland." (USA TODAY)


Factsheet: Update on the Aged 55+ Worker: 2007
Excerpt: "This fact sheet by Sara E. Rix of AARP's Public Policy Institute highlights the employment situation of workers aged 55 and older and those under age 55 in 2007, reporting on employment gains and losses, the growth in full-time employment, age discrimination in employment, and labor force projections." (AARP)


Tech Workers Would Trade Pay Cut for Telecommuting OK
Excerpt: "If they could work out of their homes, 37% of U.S. technology workers would take a pay cut of up to 10%, a new survey found." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Health Benefits More than 7% of Compensation Costs, According to Latest BLS Data
Excerpt: "Employer costs for employee compensation averaged $28.46 per hour worked in March 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).' (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

403(b) Plan Workshop
in Massachusetts on July 15, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

403(b)Plan Workshop
in Georgia on July 18, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Achieving Medicare Advantage Growth Just Got Harder CMS Proposes New Marketing and Sales Rules for MA and PDP - Are You Ready?
in California on June 25, 2008
presented by Healthcare Web Summit

Are you ready for EGTRRA restatements?
Nationwide on June 24, 2008
presented by ftwilliam.com

EGTRRA Pre-approved Plan Workshop
in Georgia on July 17, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Ethical Challenges for Employee Benefits Lawyers
Nationwide on July 15, 2008
presented by ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits

Form 5500 Refresher Course
Nationwide on June 18, 2008
presented by ftwilliam.com

Fundamentals of 401(k) and Other Qualified Plans
in Kansas on July 9, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Fundamentals of 401(k) and Other Qualified Plans
in Minnesota on July 16, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Youth Entitlement Summit (YES)
in District of Columbia on June 16, 2008
presented by Americans for Generational Equity and Mobilize.org



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

ING's Institute for Retirement Research Names Top Retirement Industry Leaders To its Board
ING Group

Alpha Advisors LLC Is Certified For Fiduciary Excellence
Centre for Fiduciary Excellence (CEFEX)

Health of Defined Benefit Pension Plans at S&P 500 Companies Improves During 2007 for Second Straight Year, Mercer Reports
Mercer



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