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June 24, 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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Be Smart by Association with the International Foundation

Smart is not a permanent state of being. What's your maintenance plan? Take advantage of the education and information available through the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, a nonprofit educational association, and find out why over 35,000 industry professionals like Cindy Conway rely on the Foundation to stay informed and educated. Make sure you have the most comprehensive information on health, pension and compensation issues. Be smart by association. www.ifebp.org/memberkit

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Announcement 2008-63: Increase in Optional Standard Mileage Rates, Effective July 1, 2008 (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "This announcement informs taxpayers that the Internal Revenue Service is modifying Rev. Proc. 2007-70 . . . by revising the optional standard mileage rates for computing the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, medical, or moving expense purposes and for determining the reimbursed amount of these expenses that is deemed substantiated. This modification results from recent increases in the price of fuel. The revised standard mileage rates are: . . . Business: 58.5 cents per mile . . . [and] Medical and moving: 27 cents per mile." (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] Simulated Interview on the MetLife v. Glenn Holding
Excerpt: "The interview [on the target page] is obviously fictional - interviews on HPL are by invitation only, and Justice Roberts is not on our list. Nonetheless, his answers are taken from his concurring opinion in MetLife v. Glenn and the interview may be of some aid in understanding his objections to the majority opinion." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)


[Guidance Overview] New IRS Guidance on Transfers from IRAs to HSAs
Excerpt: "The guidance is effective retroactively for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2006." (Faegre & Benson LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Will MetLife v. Glenn Change the Landscape of Employee Benefits Litigation? (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "In short, MetLife v. Glenn raises a number of important issues regarding the degree of deference courts will actually apply in benefits disputes, and (possibly) the scope of discovery in such cases. However, the full impact of the Court's decision on benefits litigation in general remains to be seen." (Alston & Bird LLP)


Konica Minolta Urged Not to Terminate Domestic Partner Health Insurance of 9/11 Survivor
Excerpt: "KMBS currently interprets its policy as requiring employees to re-register as domestic partners with the state every time that they move, even though many states have no way for same-sex partners to do so." (Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson, P.C.)


America's Health Care Crisis: Cities on the Front Lines (PDF)
24 pages. Excerpt: "This spring, Families USA surveyed a sample of mayors from around the country on the topics of health care and the uninsured. The survey results show that, although each city's involvement in health care issues is different, cities organize, fund, and deliver a wide range of health care services for their citizens through public hospitals, clinics, and a variety of other health safety net programs." (Families USA)


A Survey of Washington State Businesses about the Future of Employee Health Care Benefits
Excerpt: "An AARP telephone survey of employers in Washington State in March and April 2008 indicates that Washington employers have experienced substantial increases in employee health insurance premiums over the past 3 years, and most of the respondents anticipate that it will be challenging to provide such coverage over the next 3 years." (AARP)


Employers Look to Retain Health Care Benefit Offerings as Congress Plans Reform
Excerpt: "With the advent of a new Congress 18 months ago, many senators, representatives and advocates pressed for major health care reform before the 2008 presidential election. Those heady days dissolved into a legislative grind." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Behavioral Economics Can Help Improve Health Care Quality and Costs, CBO Director Says
Excerpt: "Employees are not aware of the actual cost of employment-based health insurance, in terms of reduced wages or in actual cost of medical services -- if they were, they would require greater efficiency in health care delivery, he said." (Wolters Kluwer)


Text of Retiree Health Account Act of 2008, H.R. 6288 (PDF)
15 pages. Excerpt: "To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for tax-favored retirement health savings accounts, and for other purposes." (U.S. House of Representatives via American Benefits Council)


Public and Private Health Insurance: Comparing the Costs
Excerpt: "Analyses of data from the 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey indicate that total medical spending is much lower when coverage is provided by Medicaid or SCHIP than it is when coverage is provided by private insurance. Public insurance is particularly advantageous from the consumer's perspective because associated out-of-pocket spending is far lower." (Health Affairs)


UNUM to Pay $5.5M for not Disclosing Fee Arrangement for Group Insurance
Excerpt: "The fees were typically denoted as request for proposal (RFP), communication, or enrollment fees, and as a result of the fees, the insured unknowingly paid higher premiums. In total, the broker secretly charged the insured millions of dollars in higher premiums based on the undisclosed fees." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


USA Today Examines Online Second-Opinion Services
Excerpt: "'A limiting factor' in the use of online second-opinion services is that most health insurers do not cover such consultations, USA Today reports. However, Cigna Medical Director Lyndon Laminack in April announced that the company will become the first major insurance provider to cover the service. In July, Cigna will begin a two-year trial offering remote second opinions to select patients through e-Cleveland Clinic . . . ." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


CBO Director Says Health IT Holds Promise, But No Panacea for Health Care Costs
Excerpt: "Health information technology could improve health care quality, but it is not the cure-all solution to reducing U.S. health care costs, Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag said at a forum on Friday, CQ HealthBeat reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Washington Post Reports Next President Likely To Have 'Tough Time' With Efforts To Finance Health Care, Other Proposals
Excerpt: "The major presidential candidates have made a number of promises on health care and other issues in their campaign speeches, but whoever 'wins the White House this fall ... is likely to have a tough time enacting expensive new initiatives' because 'tax collections are slowing, the budget deficit is rising and the national debt is approaching $10 trillion,' the Washington Post reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] What Happens When the Doctor/Insurer Process Breaks Down and Sick Patients Are Left to Fight for Medical Care?
Excerpt: "Each year, thousands of Californians find themselves at odds with their health insurers over whether they, as patients, should get the treatment their doctors prescribed." (Consumer Watchdog.com)


[Opinion] Our Pen-and-Paper Doctors
Excerpt: "With electronic health records seen widely as a way to make medical care better and possibly cheaper, it is disturbing how slowly they are being adopted by American physicians. If this country does not accelerate the conversion from paper to modern technologies, many of the gauzy promises of health care reform made by politicians and health planners will become irrelevant." (The New York Times; free registration required)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Supreme Court Issues Two Decisions Affecting Benefit Plans (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "On June 19, the United States Supreme Court issued decisions in Kentucky Retirement Systems v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, . . . and in Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, . . . . The first decision discusses the disparate impact test under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); the second addresses the standard of review to be applied by the courts when reviewing a decision of a claims fiduciary that may have a financial interest in the outcome of the decision." (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Penalties Imposed for Failure to Timely Provide Severance Plan Document and SPD; No Penalties for Documents Specific to Claim
Excerpt: "The risk of penalties under ERISA calls for a careful response to all document requests received by a plan during the claims process. Under ERISA Section 502(c)(1), a plan administrator that fails to furnish requested information required by ERISA may be liable for penalties of up to $110 per day from the date of such failure or refusal. This court is not the first one to impose statutory penalties only for failure to provide documents required under ERISA's statutory language, and not for failure to provide documents relating to claims." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


Rep. Waxman Targeting Compensation Committees and Their Consultants
Excerpt: "Rep. Henry Waxman has been a leading voice in the fight against excessive executive compensation, grilling high-profile Wall Street executives on their severance pay and criticizing compensation consultants. But the California Democrat may do more to address the issue, such as focusing on other 'insiders' who are involved in the compensation-approval process." (Financial Week; free registration required)


Employers Are Changing Their Benefit Offerings, According to Survey
Excerpt: "SHRM's annual benefits survey shows continuing erosion of defined-benefit pension plans and traditional indemnity health care coverage." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


IRS Grants Tax Relief to Victims of Storms, Floods and Tornadoes in Indiana and Wisconsin
Excerpt: "The IRS has announced special tax relief for taxpayers within a 28-county disaster area in Indiana affected by severe storms, floods and tornadoes beginning May 30, 2008. . . . The IRS has announced special tax relief for taxpayers within a seven-county disaster area in Wisconsin affected by severe storms, tornadoes and flooding on June 5, 2008." (Wolters Kluwer)


The DOL Announces Disaster Relief after Severe Weather
Excerpt: "The DOL announced an extension of the Form 5500 and Form 5500 EZ annual report/returns deadline after severe weather hits Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Maine, Arkansas, and Oklahoma . . . ." (ERISA Rules and Regulations)


Employers, Employees Split on Benefit Program Perceptions
Excerpt: "A new MetLife survey shows a significant disconnect between employers' views about their workplace benefit program and the perceptions of employees.' (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


President Signs Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 into Law
Excerpt: "In addition to provisions that may affect benefits under 401(k) plans for certain participants in military service (such as survivor benefits, differential pay, and elective deferrals), the Act allows cafeteria plans to provide qualified reservist distributions from health FSAs. It also extends the mental health parity provisions of the Code, ERISA, and the PHSA." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


Ampad Implements Programs to Help Reduce Employee Commuting Costs
Excerpt: "Ampad CEO Don Meltzer stated, 'In a recent management meeting, our leadership team discussed the impact of the rising price of gasoline on our employees. The daily drive to and from work is probably the largest fuel cost they face. We implemented new employee programs in an effort to help our employees offset some of these escalating costs.'" (BusinessWire)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

WEB West Golf Outing And Summer Social
in Illinois on July 24, 2008
presented by WEB - Chicago West

You've Gotta Have HEART: New Pension Rules for Veterans
Nationwide on July 17, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Pension Funds Drive Growth of Alternative Assets, Watson Wyatt Research Shows
Watson Wyatt

Companies Continue Move Toward Selective Outsourcing Approach, Watson Wyatt Finds
Watson Wyatt

Insurance Carrier Enters Into Agreement To Cooperate With Government Investigation And Pay $5,550,000 In Fines And Penalties For Its Role Failing To Disclose Hidden Fees
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

IRS Increases Mileage Rates through Dec. 31, 2008
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Video from Wachovia Shows 401(k) Users How to Achieve Retirement Success
Wachovia Corporation

U.S. Prevention Medicine: Employers Can Help Workers Avoid Heart Attacks
U.S. Preventive Medicine

CFA Institute Launches Global Code of Conduct for Pensions Schemes
CFA Institute Centre



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Manager of Compliance, Testing, & 5500
for Retirement Alliance, Inc.
in NH

Principal
for Buck Consultants
in IL

Pension Administrator
for S & A Administrators, Inc.
in PA

Client Relations Associate
for Alliance Benefit Group of Michigan
in MI

Retirement Plan Coordinator
for The Capital Group Companies
in CA, IN, TX

Sales Manager - California Teachers Association
for The Standard
in OR

RVP / External Wholesaler - North Ohio
for Transamerica Retirement Services
in OH

Customer Service Representative
for Citi
in MA

U.S. Benefits Manager
for One of the world's top-ranked global consulting firms
in MA




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