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June 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 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

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[Guidance Overview] ERISA and Cartman and Respecting Authority
Excerpt: "Our good friend Ross Runkel provides the goods on a new ERISA case from the 4th Circuit, Woods v. Prudential (4th Cir 06/11/2008), which finds that conferral of 'authority' to a plan administrator (as opposed to the conferral of 'discretionary authority') is insufficient to merit application of an 'abuse of discretion' standard of review under ERISA . . . ." (Workplace Prof Blog)


[Guidance Overview] Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Clarifies Position on Maternity Leave Law and Application to Male Employees
Excerpt: "Consistent with its current guidelines and the plain language of the statute, male employees who become parents (whether through birth or adoption) remain ineligible for the eight weeks of maternity leave provided by the MMLA to women who give birth or adopt a child." (Seyfarth Shaw LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Statute of Limitations for Contract Actions Applied to an ERISA Appeal of a Denial of Benefits
Excerpt: "[T]he District Court held that while Pettaway's claims accrued upon denial in August 2004, the limitations period was tolled until September, 2005 when the internal appeal process was concluded. Thus, the lawsuit was timely filed and the motion to dismiss was denied." (Melville Johnson, P.C.)


U.S. Faces Tough Choices on Health Costs, According to Bernanke
Excerpt: "U.S. health care costs are likely to claim a bigger share of household spending in years to come, pressuring the government to absorb more health care costs, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Monday." (Reuters via The New York Times; free registration required)


Use of Electronic Personal Health Records Could Increase Substantially
Excerpt: "Many employers have been skeptical about the value of personal health records, saying employees are concerned about privacy and likely won't take the time to maintain the records. But with companies such as Google rolling out its Google Health PHR and Microsoft Corp. launching a similar product, which so far is limited to its business partners, experts say the concept may take off." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Health Care IT Legislation Must Overcome Privacy Concerns
Excerpt: "With the number of days remaining in the congressional session dwindling, supporters are urging faster action. They tout health IT as a way to improve care and reduce costs." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Family Responsibilities Discrimination Lawsuits Increase
Excerpt: "A growing number of workers are filing lawsuits, some as class-actions, against organizations they say punish them for attending to family and caregiving responsibilities." (Human Resource Executive Online)


Benefits Brokers Must Play Multiple Roles As They Help Clients Wrestle with Soaring Healthcare Costs
Excerpt: "Whatever the combination of strategies and skills, today's leading benefits brokers are making true believers out of their clients. To find out who is making that happen, Human Resource Executive® , along with its sister publication Risk & Insurance®, created this special section, which provides a brief insight into what some successful benefit brokers are doing to maximize their clients' benefit situation." (Human Resource Executive Online)


EBRI Testimony: Trends in Employment-Based Health Benefits for Workers and Retirees (PDF)
Statement for the Senate Finance Committee Health Reform Summit 2008, held June 16, 2008, at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, submitted by Paul Fronstin. (Employee Benefit Research Institute)


Prepare for Launch: Health Reform Summit 2008 to Be Held June 16
Excerpt: "On June 16, 2008, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley are co-hosting a bipartisan summit at the Library of Congress to discuss options for health care reform in 2009. 'Prepare for Launch: Health Reform Summit 2008' is part of the Finance Committee's year-long series of hearings, roundtables, and events to prepare for congressional action on health reform." (U.S. Senate Committee on Finance)


Colorado's Small-Group Health Market Faces More Turmoil
Excerpt: "With rising fuel prices driving up the costs of doing business, more small companies in Colorado may be inclined to drop or reduce health insurance coverage when they find out they no longer qualify for 'healthy group' discounts, under a law that Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter and Colorado lawmakers approved last year." (Denver Business Journal via bizjournals.com; free registration required)


Employers Wary of New Role Embodied in Presidential Candidates' Health Care Platforms
Excerpt: "'Rather then focusing on how the proposals will affect their benefit designs, employers are asking broader questions about how the proposals will redefine their role, and whether the [Employee Retirement Income Security Act] will change,' says Steven Wojcik, vice president of public policy at NBGH." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Ranking Health Plans on Member Satisfaction
Excerpt: "The mammoth study from J.D. Power and Associates can be summed up pretty easily. Health plans do a bad job communicating with members, and they're getting worse at it." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Quality Monitoring and Management in Commercial Health Plans (PDF)
Excerpt: "This survey of 252 HMOs found that almost all measure their performance on multiple indicators of quality and most use these data in quality improvement activities." (The American Journal of Managed Care)


Comprehension and Choice of a Consumer-Directed Health Plan: An Experimental Study (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "This study highlights the difficulty many consumers have in understanding comparative plan information. It also suggests that presentation strategies may help consumers understand choices better." (The American Journal of Managed Care)


The Value of Ambulatory Care Measures: A Review of Clinical and Financial Impact from an Employer/Payer Perspective (PDF)
9 pages. Excerpt: "Given the current emphasis on pay-for-performance and pay-for-reporting programs, and recent studies showing a lack of relationship between measures and clinical/economic value, this analysis informs payers, purchasers, providers, and policymakers about the importance of choosing the right metrics and the methods for collecting them." (The American Journal of Managed Care)


Aetna Fights Drug Duplication
Excerpt: "Aetna announced it has expanded its therapeutic duplication program after it achieved a 70% reduction in members who receive multiple prescriptions for the same ailment." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Alabama Small Businesses Get Health Insurance Premium Deduction
Excerpt: "Alabama Governor Bob Riley on Tuesday signed into law a bill that makes health insurance more affordable for small businesses and their employees." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


[Opinion] Massachusetts's Pioneering Plan to Provide Universal Health Coverage Off to Good Start
Excerpt: "The state requires that all residents take out health insurance or suffer tax penalties if they don't. It also requires employers to offer coverage to their workers or make alternative payments if they don't. As it enters what could be a critical year in determining its viability, the plan can claim some substantial successes." (The New York Times; free registration required)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Protecting Members of the Military at Work
Excerpt: "USERRA -- which relates to employer treatment of military service members -- is probably the most employee-friendly federal statute that exists. A primer for HR leaders on its requirements is included in this month's column . . . ." (Human Resource Executive Online)


[Guidance Overview] Compliance Required with Section 409A before December 31, 2008
Excerpt: "December 31, 2008, looms as a crucial deadline for employers to comply with Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code and the final Section 409A regulations (Section 409A). Further, employers must reduce unwritten arrangements that are subject to Section 409A to written plans/agreements by December 31, 2008." (Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati)


[Guidance Overview] Top-Hat Plan: Oral Promise May Be Enforceable
2 pages. Excerpt: "A federal district court recently concluded that an executive may base a claim for top-hat plan benefits on oral, rather than written, misrepresentations. This is notable because the court distinguished top-hat plans from plans that are subject to ERISA's plan document requirement, where the court indicated that oral promises would often be unenforceable. The case is Hay Group, Inc. v. Bassick (N.D. Ill. 2008)." (Utz, Miller, Kuhn & Eickman, LLC)


Bodie on Yahoo's 'Unconscionable' Employee Severance Plan
Excerpt: " Here is Matt's thoughtful post on the employee benefits angle of the Microsoft/Yahoo! take-over brouhaha . . . ." (Workplace Prof Blog)


White House Memo Ordering Regulations Cutoff Doesn't Apply to IRS, Officials Say
Excerpt: "A recent White House memorandum directing agency heads to finalize regulations by November 1, 2008 will not apply to the IRS, according to Treasury Department officials. However, the memorandum, which was issued with little fanfare or explanation, does not expressly exclude the IRS." (Wolters Kluwer)


Michigan Law Affects Domestic Benefits
Excerpt: "Pedro Ramos commented on a lawsuit dealing with a Michigan referendum that defined marriage as between a man and a woman, creating an impact on the benefit offerings of public employers in the state. . . . 'Marriage Law Affects Domestic Benefits' by Tom Starner appeared in the Human Resources Executive on June 2, 2008." (Blank Rome LLP)


A Benefits Primer for Young People Starting Their First Job
Excerpt: "[I] offer a proper primer on health insurance, taxes and retirement plans for employees starting their very first jobs." (The New York Times; free registration required)


CEO Pay Rose Higher in '07 Despite Economic Woes
Excerpt: "As the American economy slowed to a crawl and stockholders watched their money evaporate, CEO pay still chugged to yet more dizzying heights last year, an Associated Press analysis shows." (AP via The Washington Post; free registration required)


New Jersey Lawmakers Sanction Benefit Reform Package
Excerpt: "Despite a fierce battle by Garden State unions, a New Jersey state Senate committee has approved a package of six reform proposals for pensions and health care coverage for future government workers." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

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

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



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

InFRE Notes Upcoming Changes for CRC Certification
International Foundation for Retirement Education (InFRE)



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