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June 19, 2008

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


Today's sponsor is Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)

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[Guidance Overview] Workplace Blood Testing of Smokers and their Spouses
Excerpt: "[Howard] Weyers, owner of a health care benefits administrator in Lansing, Mich., gave his 200 employees an ultimatum in 2004: Quit smoking in 15 months or lose your job. He refused to hire smokers. Ultimately, he extended his smoking ban to employees' spouses and monitored compliance through mandatory random blood testing." (Workplace Prof Blog)


[Guidance Overview] Genetic Information: Employers and Health Plans Under New Restrictions Beginning Next Year (PDF)
Page 4 of 10 pages. Excerpt: "One concern already being raised by employers and others is the potential for unintended consequences created by GINA's broad definition of 'genetic information.' The new law defines this term to include not just information about, or results from, genetic tests taken by the employee or his or her family members, but also information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder within the employee's family." (Deloitte LLP)


Supreme Court Sides with Employee in Benefits Case
Excerpt: "The court ruled 6-3 Thursday in the case of an Ohio woman who sued MetLife Inc. over a disability claim. She contended insurance companies have a financial incentive to deny claims and that conflict of interest should weigh heavily in employees' favor when they challenge benefit claims in court." (AP via The New York Times; free registration required)


High Costs Keep Doctors from Switching to Electronic Records, According to Survey
Excerpt: "The survey, appearing in Wednesday's online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, found that only 4% of U.S. physicians use comprehensive systems of electronic health records. These include key patient safety features, such as prompts when a medication may react badly with another drug the patient is already taking." (USA TODAY)


HSA Balances Are Growing, According to Research
Excerpt: "The number of HSA accounts grew 73% over that period, to 2.1 million, and the HSA asset total increased to $2.9 billion, according to researchers in the San Francisco office of Celent L.L.C." (The National Underwriter Company; free registration or paid subscription required)


ERIC's Health Policy Conference Features Foremost Health Policy Leaders
Excerpt: "ERIC's Health Policy Conference held June 11 in Washington, DC, featured many of the nation's leading health policy stakeholders who discussed consumer directed health plans, the Patient Centered Medical Home, designing and implementing wellness programs, health care reform proposals, compliance with new legislation, and cutting edge strategies in employee benefits. . . . [links on the target page] include the presentation materials of the speakers, and other background information." (The ERISA Industry Committee)


Sen. Baucus and CBO Director Orszag Discuss Independent Health Policy Board
Excerpt: "Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) at a hearing on Tuesday expressed interest in a federal health board that could make controversial health policy decisions without interference from special interests, CQ HealthBeat reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Employers Not Doing Enough to Curb Health Care Costs Say Insurers
Excerpt: "Employers have been passive in helping to drive change in the health care system, even as they fret about the soaring costs of providing health care, several industry and government officials said earlier this week." (Reuters via Financial Week; free registration required)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] IRS Guidance on Proper Income Tax Withholding for Nine Common Supplemental Wage Payment Scenarios
Excerpt: "For each of the situations discussed, the IRS assumes that there is no constructive receipt or constructive payment of wages before the actual payment of wages, that no amounts are required to be included in income under section 409A before the actual payment of wages, and that all payments are made on or after January 1, 2007." (Littler Mendelson P.C.)


[Guidance Overview] HEART Act Requires Employers to Provide Benefits to Employees Called to Military Service (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Certain HEART Act provisions are immediately effective for employee benefit plans. Plans generally must be amended to comply with the HEART Act provisions by the 2010 plan year." (Ballard Sphar Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP)


[Guidance Overview] DOJ releases opinion interpreting Social Security Act in way that will benefit families headed by same sex couples in some states
Excerpt: "Although the opinion was about Social Security health insurance benefits, it may apply to other federal statutes and regs worded in the same way. (And so may reach federal employees or other insurance programs--thus the tie-in to the workplace)." (Workplace Prof Blog)


[Guidance Overview] Bush Signs Military Reservist Benefits Measure
Excerpt: "Employees no longer will have to forfeit unused balances in their health care flexible spending accounts when called up from the reserves for active military duty." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


[Guidance Overview] Milliman's Monthly Benefit News and Developments, June 2008 (PDF)
2 pages. The newsletter provides a summary of the previous month's legislative, regulatory, and judicial information on employee benefits. (Milliman)


[Guidance Overview] When Federal and State Definitions of 'Marriage' Conflict - Overview for Employee Benefit Plan Sponsors (PDF)
Pages 6-7 of 10 pages. Excerpt: "The fact that same-sex spouses are not treated as 'spouses' under federal laws does not mean employers cannot extend comparable rights to their employees' same-sex spouses. For example, as some employers now do for domestic partners, an employer might create parallel COBRA-type rights for employees' same-sex spouses. Likewise, an employer could offer FMLA-type rights for employees to take unpaid leave to care for same-sex spouses even though they are not required to do so under federal law." (Deloitte LLP)


[Guidance Overview] HEART Act Requires Employers to Provide Benefits to Employees Called to Military Service
Excerpt: "Certain HEART Act provisions are immediately effective for employee benefit plans. Plans generally must be amended to comply with the HEART Act provisions by the 2010 plan year." (Ballard Sphar Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP)


[Guidance Overview] New Military Law Impacts Treatment of Wages and Benefits (PDF)
Excerpt: "President Bush has just signed the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 into law. In addition to providing tax breaks and incentives for military personnel, the law impacts employers' treatment of differential wage payments and their retirement plans. It could also affect their health flexible spending arrangements." (Buck Consultants)


[Guidance Overview] A Discussion of Amschwand v Spherion Corp.
Excerpt: "In Amschwand v Spherion Corp., 505 F.3d 342, 41 EBC 2697 (5th Cir. 2007), Mr. A was on medical leave for terminal cancer and still covered by Spherion's life insurance plan. At the end of the year, Spherion changed to a new insurance carrier and was supposed to list Mr. A as one of the carryovers to the new policy -- but didn't." (Pension & Benefits Blog)


[Guidance Overview] Understanding the Option Dating Controversies: Practical Problems and Issues
Excerpt: "The prior installment of this article series discussed the myriad of legal problems and issues that option backdating participants face. If those were not enough, option manipulation activity raises a host of practical and business-related issues. This installment of the series highlights some of the more common practical issues, although it is by no means an exclusive list of problems that such companies are facing or will face in the future." (Employee Benefit Plan Review via Blank Rome LLP)


Helping Employees Fight Rising Fuel Costs
Excerpt: "Helping employees fight increasing gas prices doesn't have to cost you anything but a little time; however, if you have the budget available, small incentives may mean a lot to employees. These can include raffles for gas gift cards for carpoolers; train tickets for commuters; even movie tickets or restaurant gift cards, since employees are probably cutting back on entertainment with the extra cost of gas." (The Precept Employee Benefits Blog)


Updated Employee Ownership 100 List
The National Center for Employee Ownership presents the latest version of the Employee Ownership 100 list, which lists the largest U.S. companies that have at least 50% of their stock owned by an ESOP, a stock purchase plan in which most full-time employees can participate, a profit sharing plan or other trust, or some combination of such plans. (National Center for Employee Ownership)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

403(b) Plans Issues and Answers Forum
in Texas on August 18, 2008
presented by SPARK Institute

403(b) Plans Issues and Answers Forum
in Florida on September 4, 2008
presented by SPARK Institute



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Pensions Outperformed 401(k) Plans During Last Bull Market, Watson Wyatt Analysis Finds
Watson Wyatt

Baucus, Grassley Military Tax Relief Package Becomes Law
U.S. Senate Finance Committee

The SPARK Institute Announces 403(b) Plan Conferences
SPARK Institute

Groundbreaking New Survey Asks American Workers, Ages 44-70, About Longer Working Lives
MetLife

Understanding Retirement Plans Is Essential For Plan Administrators and Business Owners
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

CPI Names National Director of Broker Dealer Relationships
CPI Qualified Plan Consultants, Inc.

Twenty National Organizations Dispute Portrayal of State & Local Retirement Systems In Letter To Congress
National Association of State Retirement Administrators



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Tax Manager - Technical Editor
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Benefit Analyst
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in WA

Plan Document Specialist
for Preferred Pension Planning Corporation
in NJ

Client Services Manager
for SunTrust Retirement Services
in DC

Senior Compliance Manager-HR Services Risk & Compliance
for Fidelity Investments
in MA, NC, NH




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