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June 25, 2008

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


Today's sponsor is BeneCom Associates, LLC

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[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Notice 2008-59: Questions and Answers About Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) (PDF)
28 pages. (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] Does a Conflict of Interest Matter? Supreme Court Clarifies Method for Reviewing Benefits Claims Under ERISA
Excerpt: "In a long-awaited decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the answer is 'maybe.' In Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, 2008 WL 2444796 (U.S. June 19, 2008), the Supreme Court clarified the methodology that courts must apply when reviewing challenges to administrative denials of claims for employee benefits under section 502(a)(1)(B) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended ('ERISA'), 29 U.S.C. §1132(a)(1)(B), when the plan administrator acts under an asserted conflict of interest." (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP)


[Guidance Overview] A Look at What Metlife v. Glenn Portends from the Dissent's Point of View
Excerpt: "Justice Scalia's dissent provides a useful perspective on the implications of the majority opinion in Glenn. If the majority's opinion does what Justice Scalia says, then the opinion accomplishes more for ERISA claimants than has been claimed for it thus far. A list of implications follows the overview presented [on the target page]." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)


[Guidance Overview] MetLife v. Glenn: Much Ado about Not So Much
Excerpt: "The ERISA world has been anxiously awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, a case out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. In Glenn, the Supreme Court touched upon the standard of judicial review in ERISA benefit claims and addressed, without much specificity or direction, how conflicts-of-interest in the claims process should be evaluated." (ERISA on the Web)


[Guidance Overview] HSA Contribution Continuation Under Family-Coverage High-Deductible Health Plan
Excerpt: "The husband's HSA is no longer eligible to receive regular HSA contributions due to his enrollment in Medicare. His wife is covered under an HDHP, presumably is not covered under a non-HDHP, and is not enrolled in Medicare. She therefore remains eligible for contributions to an HSA in her name." (Wolters Kluwer)


[Guidance Overview] New Federal Law Bans Genetic Information Discrimination in the Workplace
Excerpt: "This law comes in response to a growing fear that employers are relying on genetic information in an attempt to screen out potentially unhealthy employees, and to lower healthcare costs." (Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC)


[Guidance Overview] Impact of MetLife for Plan Sponsors
Excerpt: "What is the impact of the decision for plan sponsors? As noted [in this blog], Justices Scalia and Thomas emphasize that the Majority's holding is mere dictum when it is applied to employers who administer their own ERISA-governed plans in determining whether or not they are 'conflicted' as the insurance company was deemed conflicted in the Majority's holding." (Attorney B. Janell Grenier via Benefitsblog.com)


Anorexia and Bulimia May Soon Be Covered Under Mandatory Health Insurance in Illinois
Excerpt: "Illinois lawmakers can't do much about the physical and emotional toll, but they did move to ease the financial burden on families, recently approving legislation that would require insurance companies to pay for treatment of anorexia and bulimia. If Gov. Rod Blagojevich signs the bill, Illinois will become the 17th state to mandate such coverage." (Chicago Tribune)


Report Shows California HMOs Spend $6B on Costs Unrelated to Health Care
Excerpt: "California HMOs spent $6 billion on administrative costs in 2007, some of which could have gone toward driving down insurance premiums or better protecting the insured, according to an annual report by the California Medical Association slated for release . . ., the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports." (California HealthCare Foundation)


Mental Health Parity Bill Moving Closer to Final Passage
Excerpt: "House and Senate negotiators have resolved the remaining differences in the benefit-related provisions in mental health care benefits parity legislation . . . ." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: Election 2008 -- June 2008
Excerpt: "The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: Election 2008 poll finds that the recent economic downturn continues to create serious financial problems for most Americans. When asked about the impact of recent economic changes, nearly six in 10 adults (59 percent) report having a 'serious problem' with one of seven major financial issues, including one in four who cite paying for health care as a serious problem." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Issue Report - A Framework for Decision Making on Funding State Retiree Health Care Benefits
Excerpt: "Written by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) at Michigan State University with a grant from the Center. It is the result of a request from the Michigan House of Representatives Committee on Retiree Health Care Reforms for research on retiree health care funding options." (Center for State and Local Government Excellence)


Summary of the Protecting Records, Optimizing Treatment, and Easing Communication through Healthcare Technology Act of 2008 (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "To amend the Public Health Service Act to promote the adoption of health information technology, and for other purposes." (American Benefits Council)


New San Francisco Health Benefit Mandate May Force Employees Into Consumer-Directed Health Plans
Excerpt: "The legal challenges to the new law -- which mandates that employers spend a minimum amount on worker health care regardless of employment status -- is being closely watched throughout the country. Although the law does not require account-based benefits, a CDH approach may be the most prudent way for most small companies to comply." (AISHealth.com)


Study Will Provide Cash Payments To Encourage People With Chronic Diseases To Take Medications
Excerpt: "The Hartford Courant on Sunday examined a new lottery-like program that offers patients a chance at winning daily cash prizes of $10 or $100 if they promptly take their prescription medications." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Reps. Barton, Dingell To Introduce Legislation That Aims To Spur Nationwide Adoption of Electronic Health Records
Excerpt: "According to CongressDaily, the lawmakers last month released a draft of the legislation that 'generated a torrent of comments from the health care, high-tech and consumer advocacy communities,' many of which focused on patient privacy concerns. In response to those concerns, the lawmakers clarified the definition of a security 'breach' and increased patient privacy protections in the bill." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] United States Conference of Mayors Endorses HR 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act
Excerpt: "The next politician who tells you that national health insurance is not politically feasible, tell him or her to discuss that opinion with the nation's mayors. For those who say that all politics is local, national health insurance is the only reform that is politically feasible." (The United States Conference of Mayors via Physicians for a National Health Program)


[Opinion] The Idea of 'Comparative-Effectiveness' Research Has Become a Hot Topic in Health Care Circles
Excerpt: "Before choosing sides, let's clarify what measuring 'comparative-effectiveness' means –and how it is different from what we do today. One might think that we already test treatments to make sure that they are more effective than existing products before welcoming them into the marketplace. One would be wrong." (The Century Foundation)


[Opinion] High Medicare Costs, Courtesy of Congress
Excerpt: "For years, Congress has set the price for walkers and various medical equipment, and it has consistently set them well above the market rate, effectively handing out a few hundred million dollars of corporate welfare every year to the equipment makers. But as of July 1, this system is set to change. Companies will instead have to submit bids -- to compete with one another, just as Wal-Mart competes with Target -- if they want to continue selling products to Medicare." (The New York Times; free registration required)



Sponsored by: University Conference Services

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(Please visit our sponsors. We try to make sure their products and services will be of interest to you. Thanks! --Editor)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Heroes Act Signed Into Law
Excerpt: "The act eases withdrawals from retirement accounts and health flexible spending accounts (FSAs), and protects survivor and disability benefits for men and women in the military and their survivors. It also addresses the treatment of differential wage payments, imposes new tax and withholding requirements on the property of some expatriating individuals and extends the Mental Health Parity Act." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


Defining 'Spouse': Higher Stakes Than Ever for Employers (PDF)
13 pages. Excerpt: "An employer has much to do to keep up with the developments concerning same-sex marriage and whether it can provide benefits to any same-sex spouses its employees may have. Developments in early 2008 highlight the complicated and often conflicting state, federal and local regulations applicable to same-sex partner benefits." (Thompson Publishing Group, Inc.)


Senate Judiciary Committee Examination of Supreme Court Rulings on ERISA Preemption
Excerpt: "The Senate Judiciary Committee on June 11 held a hearing that examined recent Supreme Court rulings on preemption under ERISA, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and federal consumer credit and banking laws. The hearing's title was certainly an indicator of the tone of 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." (The ERISA Industry Committee)


IRS Increases Mileage Rates
Excerpt: "The Internal Revenue Service has bumped up 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." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Executive Summaries of Articles in Benefits Quarterly, 3rd Quarter, 2008
The articles are titled: The Supreme Court Gives a 'Green Light' to Individual 401(k) Lawsuits; FMLA Expanded for Leaves Related to Family Members Serving in the Military; Nationwide Savings Plan Automatic Enrollment Getting Associates PREPared for Retirement; Work Options for Older Americans: Employee Benefits for the Era of Living Longer; Alternatives to Cash in Ensuring the Solvency of Defined Benefit Pension Funds; Lessons From Pension Reform in the Americas; and, The Future of Retirement: An Exploration and Comparison of Different Scenarios. (International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

3rd Annual Employee Benefit Adviser Summit
in New York on August 4, 2008
presented by Employee Benefit Adviser

3rd Annual Employee Benefit Adviser Summit
in Illinois on August 11, 2008
presented by Employee Benefit Adviser

3rd Annual Employee Benefit Adviser Summit
in Maryland on September 22, 2008
presented by Employee Benefit Adviser

Effectively Communicating "Sustainable" Benefits to your Employees
Nationwide on July 11, 2008
presented by USI

Filling Our Empty Nest Eggs
in District of Columbia on July 9, 2008
presented by New America Foundation



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Treasury Department Releases New Guidance on Health Savings Accounts
U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service

Treasury Releases Fifth in a Series of Social Security Papers
U.S. Treasury Department

National Business Coalition on Health Elects New Officers for Board of Directors and Adds New Members
National Business Coalition on Health

National Business Coalition on Health Announces November 9-11 Annual Conference Speakers
National Business Coalition on Health

ING Launches Managed Retirement Accounts from Morningstar
ING Group

URAC Releases Standards And Measures For Wellness Programs For Public Comment
URAC

CIEBA Testifies that Implementing Policies Restricting Commodity Investments Will Undermine Americans' Retirement
Committee on Investment of Employee Benefit Assets (CIEBA)

401k Service Training Program Releases Training Dates
Financial Service Standards, LLC

Alliance Benefit Group Carolinas Partners with FOLIOfn Institutional
Alliance Benefit Group Carolinas, LLC

Award-Winning Book Provides Employees with a "Roadmap to Wellness"
Maverick Health



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