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June 27, 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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Banner ad for BeneCom Associates, LLC

Changes to your benefit plans can be confusing. Communicating them doesn’t have to be.

No matter how benefits-savvy your employees may be, benefit plan changes can be confusing to the most sophisticated consumer. That’s why companies large and small use BeneCom for their benefits communication. We make understanding benefit changes easy, so employees know exactly what you’re offering and how it will work for them. And while we’re at it, we’ll make your life a little easier, too.

[Guidance Overview] Active at Work Issue Resolved Against Health Insurer in $650,000 Benefit Dispute
Excerpt: "If a health insurer issues coverage to an employer group, stipulating that coverage is available to employees regularly working 30 hours per week, who may decide whether an employee meets the eligibility requirement - the employer or the health insurer?" (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

[Guidance Overview] Employee Benefits Developments, June 2008 (PDF)
3 pages. This edition of the newsletter focuses on HSAs. (Hodgson Russ LLP)

Is Your Wellness Program a Scattershot Effort or on Target to Serve Employees and the Organization?
Excerpt: "Successful wellness programs use education, motivation and support to guide employees, retirees and dependents to make wise lifestyle decisions, motivate those who are 'ambivalent' to take action, reduce the chance that individuals will develop chronic diseases like diabetes, and help people to be in the best health they can be." (The Segal Group, Inc.)

A Discussion of International Health Systems for Single Payer Advocates
Excerpt: "Bottom line: The most important point for single payer advocates is that every country with universal coverage has a non-profit insurance system. No country uses for-profit, investor-owned insurance companies such as we have in the U.S. (although they do have a small role in selling 'gap' coverage)." (Physicians for a National Health Program)

The Dutch Health Care System
Excerpt: "Why should we care how they deliver health care in a tiny country most of us will never visit? Few European health care systems have garnered the kind of attention from Americans that the Dutch system has received. -- especially from folks not known for their Euro-philia, including the Bush Administration. In the fall, the White House sent a delegation to the Netherlands to learn more about the Dutch system. The Wall Street Journal also has praised the Dutch system for accomplishing 'what many in the U.S. hunger to achieve: health insurance for everyone, coupled with a tighter lid on costs.'" (The Century Foundation)

Employee Health & Productivity Management Programs: The Use of Incentives (PDF)
21 pages. Excerpt: "This year's survey found that more than three out of four employers now offer health & wellness programs and almost half offer disease management programs. The results offer new insights into employer attitudes about health and disease management programs, including the nuances of when, how much and what kind of incentives are being used and how success is measured." (IncentOne)

More Employers Using Wellness Incentives, According to Survey
Excerpt: "In addition, more employers are successfully measuring return on investment in their wellness programs, according to the survey by the Washington-based ERISA Industry Committee and National Assn. of Manufacturers in conjunction with IncentOne Inc., an incentive technology provider based Lyndhurst, N.J. Among employers offering incentives, the average incentive value was estimated to be just under $200 per person per year in 2008." (Business Insurance)

Health Care Reform in Massachusetts — Expanding Coverage, Escalating Costs
Excerpt: "There are still many difficulties with access to primary care and other services. However, Massachusetts has made some strides, and given sufficient resources, more can be done. This includes identifying and reaching people who are still uninsured and helping them gain coverage, expanding employer-sponsored insurance, and improving the options for part-time employees, for low-paid workers who are offered insurance by their employers but who earn less than 300% of the federal poverty guideline and cannot afford it, and for others with hardship exemptions." (The New England Journal of Medicine)

Three Groups Announce Formation of Consortium To Fight Health Insurance Fraud
Excerpt: "The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association, the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud on Tuesday announced the formation of the Consortium to Combat Medical Fraud, which will seek to fight health insurance fraud nationwide, CQ HealthBeat reports. The consortium, which will work with the FBI and the Department of Justice, will share information on fraud claims and investigations among health insurers, hold educational programs and conduct industrywide research." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

[Opinion] Will Overweight Employees Get Fewer Benefits?
Excerpt: "[The NYT article] 'Waistlines Expand Into a Workplace Issue' is a scary read. Citing examples of employers that offer incentives to visit the gym and otherwise slim down, [the author] writes that more needs to be done, despite the fact that it is a 'sensitive' issue." (Pension Risk Matters)

[Opinion] Milliman's Consumer-Driven Impact Study Gets it Wrong
Excerpt: "A recent publication by Milliman, 'Consumer-Driven Impact Study' is another bizarre study. The biggest problem? The primary purpose of a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP) is to change utilization. These plans are designed to give consumers a reason to think twice about using health care services, so that excess utilization will be reduced. If you 'control for differences in utilization' you have eliminated the very thing CDHPs were designed to do. OF COURSE CDHPs reduce costs by reducing utilization. That is the whole point. A study that eliminates the utilization factor is useless." (Council for Affordable Health Insurance)

[Opinion] Employee Health Insurance 'Services' Migrating to Medical Underwriting
Excerpt: "[A Wall Street Journal article discusses] how smaller companies can buy services such as chronic disease management services for their employees at a reasonable price. The entire focus is on how small and medium businesses can lower healthcare cost through employee behavioral changes. But, employers are frustrated by the low level of volunteering.. . . When do rewards for good behavior cross the line to become medical underwriting?" (

[Opinion] Financing the U.S. Health System - Issues and Options for Change (PDF)
36 pages. Excerpt: "This report is part of a series commissioned by the BPC to advance the substantive work of the Leaders' Project on the State of American Health Care. It is intended to serve as an analysis of potential financing options for the nation's health care system . . . ." (Bipartisan Policy Center)

[Opinion] When Moving Away from Employer Based Coverage: Don't Forget Public Opinion
Excerpt: "As discussion of moving away from the employment-based system continues, not very much attention has been paid to a giant question: How will the public (and voters) feel about such a big change? Health reformers have learned the hard way in the past that whatever the appeal of policy proposals on their merits, they ultimately have to be acceptable to the public or they will not fly." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

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WorldatWork, a not-for-profit professional association, is a leading publisher of compensation, benefits and total rewards information. With a portfolio of books, reports, survey briefs, booklets and online learning programs, WorldatWork creates, markets and distributes publications that are critical to improved organizational performance. WorldatWork has contributed to the education and development of business professionals worldwide since 1955.

(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] U.S. Supreme Court's Rulings on Employee Benefits, Employment Practices (PDF)
2 pages. (Milliman)

[Guidance Overview] Deadline for 409A Compliance Approaching (PDF)
Excerpt: "With only six months remaining to make plans compliant with Section 409A, we advise employers to focus on their Section 409A review process now. Beginning the process now will allow sufficient time before December 31, 2008, for assessing compliance alternatives, taking advantage of the transition relief opportunities which are available only through December 31, 2008, drafting, approving, and adopting remedial amendments, and establishing operational procedures for compliance." (Haynes and Boone, LLP)

Decision Time on Same-Sex Benefits
Excerpt: "The recent California Supreme Court ruling allowing for same-sex marriages may not stick, but employers throughout the U.S. had better know now whether they will extend health care benefits to same-sex spouses." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Employers Pump Up Mileage Reimbursement, but Offer Little Relief for Costly Commutes
Excerpt: "Americans are likely to get only modest help from employers in easing pain at the pump. Two recent surveys show the primary way companies are responding has nothing to do with getting to work." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Newly Posted Events
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Benefits Plan Debit Cards: The Secrets to Cutting HR Costs and Paperwork While Increasing Employee Buy-In
Nationwide on July 8, 2008
presented by

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Trustees of Queens, N.Y., Union Benefit Plans Ordered To Pay $250,000 To Resolve U.S. Labor Department Lawsuit
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U.S. Department of Labor Sues Fiduciaries of Dadeville, Ala., Employee Leasing Company to Restore More Than $200,000 to Pension Plan
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U.S. Department of Labor’s ERISA Advisory Council Schedules Meetings for July 2008
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U.S. Labor Department Solicits Nominations For 2009 ERISA Advisory Council
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

New Survey Reveals How Much Employers Spend on Incentives for Health Management Programs
ERIC (ERISA Industry Committee)

Wilmington Trust Makes Another Acquisition
Wilmington Trust

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