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June 18, 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

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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.

[Guidance Overview] Can One Take a Qualified Health Savings Account Funding Distribution from More Than One IRA?
Excerpt: "No. According to IRS Notice 2008-51, a qualified HSA funding distribution must come from a single IRA." (Wolters Kluwer)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Guidance on Health Savings Accounts (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Code Sections 408(d)(9) and 223(b)(4)(C), allowing qualified HSA funding distributions from IRAs to HSAs, were effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2006. . . . Code Sections 223(b)(2)(A) and 223(b)(8), allowing full contributions for months preceding the month that an individual is an eligible individual, were effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2006." (Seyfarth Shaw LLP)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Issues More Guidance on Health Savings Accounts
Excerpt: "The Internal Revenue Service on June 4, 2008 issued guidance on certain changes to the rules for health savings accounts (HSAs) made by the Health Opportunity Patient Empowerment (HOPE) Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-432). [Notice] 2008-52 provides guidance on certain changes to the HSA contribution rules. The latter is of particular interest to employers because it describes how new employees and others who first become eligible to fund an HSA during the middle of a year can still make a full contribution to their HSA for that year." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] New HSA Guidance from Treasury (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "On June 3, 2008, the Department of Treasury issued Notices 2008-51 and 2008-52, which provide guidance on amendments to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) made by the Health Opportunity Patient Empowerment Act of 2006 (the HOPE Act)." (Miller & Chevalier Chartered)


Imagine a Month of Mandatory Paid Leave
Excerpt: "BKD forces partners . . . to truly unplug. 'We basically won't talk to partners when they're on sabbatical,'. . . . 'If they call, we will not forward their phone calls. We turn off their E-mail.' When clients call looking for a partner who's away, the receptionist reminds them that the person is on sabbatical and directs the call to a manager. Hultz says the program helps ensure that partners don't get burned out and that managers and junior staffers get a chance to test their skills while a partner is away; it also gives BKD a recruiting edge." (CFO.com)


Report Traces $200B in U.S. Health Costs To Claims Processing Errors
Excerpt: "AMA released the report at its annual meeting in Chicago to coincide with the launch of its 'Cure for Claims' initiative to reduce inefficiencies in payment claims . . . ." (California HealthCare Foundation)


Evidence-Informed Case Rates: Paying for Safer, More Reliable Care
Excerpt: "Created by Prometheus Payment, evidence-informed case rates (ECRs) are designed to create fair payments for all providers delivering care to a patient for a particular condition. ECRs would combine global fees with an allowance for complications and performance incentives." (The Commonwealth Fund)


State of Administration Policy on H.R. 5781 – Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2008 (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Given the significant benefits already available to Federal employees and the more comprehensive option proposed by the Administration to fill the short-term disability gap, the Administration does not support passage of H.R. 5781." (Executive Office of the President)


CBO Testimony: The Long-Term Budget Outlook and Options for Slowing the Growth of Health Care Costs (PDF)
14 pages. Statement of Peter R. Orszag, Director, on The Long-Term Budget Outlook and Options for Slowing the Growth of Health Care Costs before the Committee on Finance, United States Senate, June 17, 2008. (U.S. Congressional Budget Office)


GAO Testimony: Long-Term Federal Fiscal Challenge Driven Primarily by Health Care (PDF)
21 pages. Excerpt: "GAO was asked to provide its views on the long-term fiscal outlook. This statement addresses four key points: (1) the federal government's long-term fiscal outlook is a matter of utmost concern; (2) this challenge is driven primarily by health care cost growth; (3) reform of health care is essential but other areas also need attention which requires a multipronged solution; and (4) the federal government faces increasing pressures yet a shrinking window of opportunity for phasing in needed adjustments." (U.S. Government Accountability Office)


How Can We Improve Long-Term Care Financing?
Excerpt: "While experts generally agree that the existing system is inefficient and ineffective, they disagree on how it should be reformed. This brief . . . will review several options for change. These options include enhancing private long-term care insurance, replacing the current welfare-based system with a public social insurance program, and introducing a hybrid public-private system. None of these alternatives is optimal, but each has significant advantages over the current system." (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College)


Connecticut Governor Vetoes Health Care Bill That Would Have Expanded State Employee Health Insurance Plan
Excerpt: "Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R) on Friday vetoed legislation that would have allowed municipalities and small businesses to join the state's health insurance plan, the Hartford Courant reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Employer Medical Costs to Jump Nearly 20% in the Next Two Years, According to PricewaterhouseCoopers
Excerpt: "The reasons for the projected increases? The boom in the health-care industry has triggered the construction of replacement facilities, the expansion of private hospital rooms and the development of outpatient venues. The cost of construction is adding to the overall medical costs for employers, PWC found." (Financial Week; free registration required)


[Opinion] 'I Think I See a Few Dollars on That X-Ray: We'll have to Operate'
Excerpt: "As a primary care doctor, I live with one foot in the horse and buggy era and one in the silicon age. I spend most of my time talking to patients and wielding a stethoscope, and I also use the latest high tech gadgets. But the gadgetry is getting out of hand; its overuse threatens patients and is blowing the lid off health care costs." (David Himmelstein via Physicians for a National Health Program)


[Opinion] ERISA Wouldn't Block Single-Payer, Dan Weintraub Says, But Others Say Different
Excerpt: "An important provision of the ERISA regulations is that self-insured plans of large employers be exempt from state regulation. In fact, comprehensive reform proposals, such as the single payer model, are often rejected simply because the design would not comply with existing ERISA regulations since exempt programs would be folded into a state regulated system." (San Diego Union Tribune)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Heroes Earnings Assistance Act Awaiting Signature By President
Excerpt: "Passed unanimously by the House and Senate, The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (H.R. 6081) now awaits signature by the President. Sponsored by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (DN.Y.), the Act provides a panoply of adjustments aimed at providing financial relief to military families." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] When Federal and State Definitions of Marriage Differ - An Overview for Employee Benefit Plan Sponsors
Excerpt: "The different definitions of 'marriage' and 'spouse' under federal and state law can raise a number of complicated legal questions for employee benefit plan sponsors. For example, what is the appropriate tax treatment of health coverage provided to an employee's same-sex spouse?" (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] White House Calls for Regulations to Be Finalized by November 1, 2008
Excerpt: "On May 9, 2008, the White House issued a Memorandum to the Heads of Executive Offices and Agencies stating that, 'except in extraordinary circumstances, regulations to be finalized in this Administration should be proposed no later than June 1, 2008, and final regulations should be issued no later than November 1, 2008.' It is not clear how this Memorandum will affect the many pending regulations relating to employee benefit plans, including those relating to the Pension Protection Act of 2006." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] Arbitration of ERISA Claims Proves Expensive Dispute Resolution Alternative
Excerpt: "In this fascinating decision, the marked disparity between an arbitrated employee benefits dispute and the likely outcome were the issue litigated in federal court could not be more dramatic. The case encompassed, among other things, an ERISA Section 510 claim. One need not read ERISA cases for long before developing the impression that these claims often miss the mark." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)


Web Resource Helps United Services Automobile Association Employees Help Themselves
Excerpt: "The Personal Balance Tool (PBT), developed in 2006 by USAA, Harris, Rothenberg International (HRI) and ValueOptions, is a web resource that more than half of USAA employees use to address a variety of personal concerns that will impact their work life." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Bush Signs Bill Protecting Survivor Benefits of Military Members
Excerpt: "Legislation to protect the survivor benefits of service members killed in action was signed into law by President Bush on Tuesday." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)




Newly Posted Press Releases
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Bloomberg TV Investigates Hidden Fees in 401k Plans
Bloomberg Television



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