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June 17, 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] House Approves the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act
Excerpt: "The act would enable more flight attendants and crewmembers to qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These employees would qualify for unpaid leave after working at least 60 percent of the employer's full-time schedule or the equivalent during the 12 months preceding the leave." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


[Guidance Overview] Plan's One-Year Time Limit for Filing Benefit Lawsuits Is Unenforceable Unless Disclosed in Denial Notice
Excerpt: "The enforceability of plan-imposed time limits for filing suit has not been addressed in all jurisdictions, but many courts have enforced such limits, provided they are reasonable. The courts have been less clear about what kind of notice, if any, a plan must give, with some courts requiring notice before the limit will be enforced and others apparently excusing any notice requirement." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Issues Inflation-Adjusted HSA Limits for 2009
Excerpt: "The Health Opportunity and Patient Empowerment (HOPE) Act of 2006 included a number of provisions to enhance health savings accounts (HSAs). Perhaps the least-publicized of these provisions requires the IRS to publish inflation-adjusted HSA limits by June 1 of each year." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


Policymakers' Interest In Health Care Reform Intensifies
Excerpt: "At this point, however, few lawmakers seem to know where to start tinkering with a health-care system so vast and so complex -- and so critical, . . . to 'economic growth, wages and living standards, and government budgets.'" (The Washington Post; free registration required)


Study Shows Health Costs to Rise Nearly 10 Percent
Excerpt: "Employer health care costs are poised to rise almost 10 percent in 2008 -- more than double the annual inflation rate -- and nearly that much again in 2009, according to an industry report released Tuesday. The study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicts that medical costs will increase 9.9 percent in 2008 and an additional 9.6 percent in 2009." (AP via The New York Times; free registration required)


Insurer Partners With Google on Health Records
Excerpt: "Google and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts are partnering to allow plan members to create online personal health records with Google Health. The Boston-based health insurer's members will be able to download claims data into a personal health record hosted by Google Health." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Intel Executive Vents About Health Care Debate at Senate Committee Event
Excerpt: "A prominent business leader expressed frustration with the focus and pace of health care reform deliberations in Washington on Monday, June 16, at an event designed to prepare a foundation for congressional action next year." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Bipartisan Symposium Convened by Senate Finance Committee on Health Care Reform
Excerpt: "At the end of the day, Democrats and Republicans appeared to agree on this much: All Americans should be insured, but they should have a choice of private health plans competing in the market alongside government programs." (The New York Times; free registration required)


With Eyes on the Bottom Line, Companies Try to Get Workers to Slim Down and Shape Up
Excerpt: "[A growing number of companies are trying to] open their employees' minds and otherwise encourage them to eat better, lose weight, exercise, tend to dormant medical issues - in short, to be healthier. In recent years 'wellness' has become quite the corporate buzzword: The magazine publisher Meredith Corporation is one of a rising number of firms with a 'wellness manager UPS employees can volunteer to be 'wellness champions' and inform colleagues of company resources; Scholastic has an on-site 'wellness center' in its SoHo offices." (New York Post)


Company Wellness Plan Can Have Big Return on Investment
Excerpt: "'There are a lot of activities small employers can implement and a lot of benefits they can receive by doing so,'. . . . Some of these benefits can include increased employee morale, lower absenteeism and potentially reduced health-care costs, particularly if you have a self-insured health plan. In general, the average return on investment is $3.50 for every $1 invested in a wellness program . . . ." (Chicago Tribune)


Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to Launch Compulsory Health Care System
Excerpt: "A compulsory health care system largely funded by employers will be launched next year by the Dubai Health Authority." (Business Insurance)


Public/Private Health Systems Promote Innovation
Excerpt: "The United States can learn from the experience of Australia, England and continental Europe where blended public/private health care systems effectively deliver universal health care coverage, according to research for a new book ['Global Health Care Systems: A perspective on issues, practices and trends among OECD nations'] recently released by Aon Consulting." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts To Become First Insurer To Participate in Google Health
Excerpt: "Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts on Thursday announced that it will be the first insurer to participate in Google Health, an online personal health record service, the AP/Boston Herald reports. The insurer said it expects to begin offering the no-cost service to its three million members this fall." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] Testimony--Public Programs: Critical Building Blocks in Health Reform
Excerpt: "Currently, most Americans either have group health insurance through employers (55 percent) or are covered by Medicare or Medicaid (22 percent). Building on the strengths of these sources of coverage has many advantages: it minimizes disruption in current coverage, it builds on what works, and it requires minimal new administrative mechanisms." (The Commonwealth Fund)


[Opinion] CBO Statement: Opportunities to Increase Efficiency in Health Care (PDF)
10 pages. Statement of Peter R. Orszag, Director, on Opportunities to Increase Efficiency in Health Care, at the Health Reform Summit of the Committee on Finance, United States Senate on June 16, 2008. (U.S. Congressional Budget Office)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Rev. Rul 2008-32: Qualification as 'Outside Director' Under Section 162(m) After Serving as Interim CEO (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "Section 162(a)(1) allows as a deduction all the ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business, including a reasonable allowance for salaries or other compensation for personal services actually rendered. Section 162(m)(1) provides that, in the case of any publicly held corporation, no deduction is allowed for applicable employee remuneration with respect to any covered employee to the extent that the amount of the remuneration for the taxable year exceeds $1,000,000." (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] New Heroes Act Improves Pay and Employee Benefits for Military Personnel (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "Recently, Congress passed the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (the 'Heroes Act'), which changes certain rules pertaining to retirement plans, health flexible spending accounts ('health FSAs'), and group health plans with the goal of increasing or improving the pay and employee benefits provided to employees in military service." (Dechert LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Plan Language Required Dismissal of Fiduciary Breach Claim Based on Alleged Misclassification of Employees as Exempt
Excerpt: "As we learned from earlier cases (for example, the Vizcaino case against Microsoft . . .), employee misclassifications for other purposes, such as payroll tax withholding, or as here, for FLSA purposes, can have consequences for 401(k) and other employee benefit plans. While the court dismissed the fiduciary breach claim, we note that nothing in the opinion prevents the employees from renewing a claim for benefits if they are ultimately successful in making their FLSA claim, are awarded overtime pay retroactively, and do not receive contributions based on that award." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] Public Employers in Michigan May Not Offer Same-Sex Domestic Partner Benefits, Michigan Supreme Court Rules
Excerpt: "Michigan's Constitution prohibits public entities in that state from providing health insurance benefits to their employees' same-sex domestic partners, according to the Michigan Supreme Court. National Pride at Work, et al. v. Governor of Michigan, et al., No. 133429 (Mich. S.C. May 7, 2008)." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


Company Size and Performance Not the Biggest Factors for Executive Pensions
Excerpt: "The median value of accumulated pension benefits for a CEO at an S&P 500 company is $6.1 million, according to Equilar. Compensation experts say there's a good reason why executives at midsize companies can find themselves staring at outsize pensions. 'Size and performance aren't always the biggest factors in an executive's pension,' said Peter Oppermann, an executive compensation consultant at Mercer. 'Their years of service and compensation can often be the major drivers.'" (Workforce Management; free registration required)


The IRS on Lost Fica Payments for Lost Deferred Compensation
Excerpt: "Last week, the IRS released a Memorandum from the Office of Chief Counsel (CCA 200823001) on whether certain former employees could recover FICA taxes that were withheld on their non-qualified plan benefit accruals after the former employees forfeited the benefits. The IRS concluded that they could not." (Michael S. Melbinger via Winston & Strawn LLP)


Some Companies Provide Loans, Grants and Counseling to Workers Mired in Mortgage Debt
Excerpt: "In the wake of the mortgage crisis, a small but growing number of workers are getting help avoiding or coping with foreclosure from an unlikely source: their employers. So far, a handful of companies -- from small manufacturers to large companies like home-financing behemoth Fannie Mae -- are offering assistance, such as interest-free loans, grants and support in securing rental properties. They're also beefing up their employee-assistance programs, or EAPs, and adding more educational seminars on personal finance." (The Wall Street Journal)


Benefit Cost Comparisons Between State and Local Governments and Private-Sector Employers (PDF)
Pages 2-6 of 12 pages. of Excerpt: "Major reasons for the differences in total compensation costs between state and local government employers and private-sector employers are the different composition of their respective work forces and the different nature of public- vs. private-sector work." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)


Employee/Employer Gas Cost Idea Runs on Fumes
Excerpt: "What are the chances of getting my employer to pay me a gas-offset perk, and how do I present the idea?" (Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.)


West Virginia State Employees Can Start Cashing in Sick Days July 1
Excerpt: "The Legislature this year passed a bill that allows eligible state workers to trade their sick days for cash in an effort to ease debt from members of the Public Employees Insurance Agency. Certain state employees hired before 2001 can convert unused sick days into free PEIA coverage after retirement." (Charleston Daily Mail)


Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Scheduled for June 11, 2008, Suspended
The hearing, 'Short-change for Consumers and Short-shrift for Congress? The Supreme Court's Treatment of Laws that Protect Americans' Health, Safety, Jobs and Retirement' was suspended because of an objection on the Senate floor. (U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary)


Telework: A Green Solution for the 21st Century's Employee Crisis
Excerpt: "Experts have debated at length the cost/benefit analysis of telework from productivity, security, and work-life standpoints, but one thing is for certain. Rising energy costs and the trickling economy have lead to a nationwide cash crunch. New data suggests that telework can contribute strongly to reducing pollution, energy consumption and overhead costs for companies." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Employees Looking for Help on Managing Finances, Maximizing Benefits
Excerpt: "Nearly half of workers (49%) are interested in receiving financial advice and guidance at the workplace, according to the sixth annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends, a national survey of 1,380 full-time employees." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

2009 Chicago Advanced Pension Conference
in Illinois on September 2, 2009
presented by SunGard Relius

2009 Orlando Advanced Pension Conference
in Florida on February 9, 2009
presented by SunGard Relius

2010 Orlando Advanced Pension Conference
in Florida on February 17, 2010
presented by SunGard Relius



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

'Savingsman' PSA Captures Regional Emmy Award
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

SouthWest Benefits Association Elects New Board of Directors
SouthWest Benefits Association

New Networking Capabilities Introduced for Retirement Plan TPA Firms
Venture (k) Corp.



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