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July 7, 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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[Guidance Overview] Supreme Court Finding of Conflict of Interest Adds New Wrinkle to Benefit Claims Review (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "Taking a cue from Justice Breyer, employers may want to review how their benefits claims decision-making is currently structured and take active steps, such as using third-party administrators ('TPA') that are not the payor to decide claims and evaluating the TPA's performance based on reversals of denials by courts. Insurance companies may want to build firewalls between those who pay the claims and those who decide whether a benefit is valid under the terms of the insurance policy in order to minimize (perhaps to the vanishing point) the structural conflict of interest." (Thompson Hine LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated July 2, 2008, for Health and Welfare Plans (PDF)
10 pages. This Federal Legislation Quick Guide provides short updates on federal legislation that is currently under active consideration by Congress or has recently been enacted into law regarding health and welfare benefit plans. (Hewitt Associates)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Clarifies Questions About HSAs - Guidance Seen Speeding Adoption by Employers
Excerpt: "Experts concur that the biggest issue addressed by IRS Notice 2008-59, which was released last week, involves on-site clinics. Such clinics have proliferated in recent years for a variety of reasons, including corporate belief that care can be delivered at a lower cost in a clinic compared with physician offices and other medical settings while reducing how long employees receiving care must be away from their jobs." (Financial Week; free registration required)


[Guidance Overview] COBRA TPA That Refused Disability Extension Not Liable to Qualified Beneficiary
Excerpt: "This case is a textbook example of a COBRA TPA doing everything right. The COBRA TPA had a service agreement with helpful language outlining responsibilities and disclaiming fiduciary status, provided a COBRA election notice that clearly specified how and to whom to provide the disability notice, and properly refused to grant the disability extension to the qualified beneficiary, who failed to follow the requirements for providing the disability notice." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Issues Final Regulations on Tax Exemption for Children Whose Parents Are Divorced, Separated, or Living Apart
Excerpt: "The final regulations replace regulations that are over 20 years old (and, in many instances, obsolete). Employers should know about these rules because, generally, coverage under a cafeteria plan can only be provided for someone who is a participant, the participant's spouse, or a tax dependent." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


New Japanese Law Requires Employers to Combat Obesity in the Workforce
Excerpt: "A new Japanese law requiring employers to combat obesity in the workforce or face fines will not lead to punitive measures against overweight employees in America, Japanese firms say. The law that went into effect April 1 forces companies and government, the two sources of health insurance in Japan, to measure the body fat of employees between the ages of 40 and 74." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


The Case Against Worker Vacation Policies
Excerpt: "Counting days and hours is a holdover from the industrial era that makes no sense for information workers who can do their jobs without being at their desks at set hours, proponents of such changes say. 'The reason companies have a vacation policy or time-off policy is because of the way work is structured: 8 to 5, Monday through Friday,' says Jody Thompson, one of the Best Buy HR managers who upended the company's attitude toward time." (ECT News Network, Inc.)


McCain's Health Plan - A Threat to Employer Plans?
Excerpt: "There's a great unknown about Sen. John McCain's health plan: How many employers would drop insurance coverage for their workers because of his tax policies? The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting has proposed that everyone buying health insurance get a refundable tax credit, $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families. At the same time, he would treat employer contributions toward health insurance like income, meaning workers would have to pay income, but not payroll, taxes on it." (AP via The Detroit News)


Healthy San Francisco Still Working Out Program Kinks
Excerpt: "One year ago today, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to attempt to provide universal health care to its residents. Twelve months later, some city residents wonder why the program is billed as universal when they're still getting turned away." (San Francisco Chronicle)


New Law Helps Utah's Uninsured under Utah's Premium Partnership for Health Insurance
Excerpt: "As part of health system reform, the Utah Legislature has made it easier for Utah's uninsured to enroll in their work-sponsored health plan. As of July 1, uninsured individuals and families who qualify and sign up for Utah's Premium Partnership for Health Insurance (UPP) can enroll in their employer's health plan anytime during the year. Previously, employees could enroll or make changes to their insurance only during open enrollment or if they had a 'qualifying lifetime event' like marriage or the birth of a child." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] HEART Act Provides Benefits for Employees on Active Military Duty
Excerpt: "The HEART Act amends primarily the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the Code) to provide certain benefits for military personnel and their beneficiaries, including enhanced retirement and welfare benefits." (McDermott Will & Emery)


[Guidance Overview] Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated July 2, 2008, on Human Resources & Employment Law (PDF)
9 pages. This Federal Legislation Quick Guide provides short updates on federal legislation that is currently under active consideration by Congress or has recently been enacted into law regarding human resources and employment law. (Hewitt Associates)


Apple Hit with New Backdating Lawsuit
Excerpt: "Two shareholders of computermaker Apple have sued chief executive Steve Jobs and other company officials for not disclosing the company's stock option backdating practices." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


GASB Begins Project Examining Possible Changes to Benefit Accounting and Reporting Standards (PDF)
Page 2 of 8 pages. Excerpt: "On April 24, 2008, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) revised its 2008 Technical Plan, adding a new 'Postemployment Benefit Accounting and Financial Reporting' project. The overall goal of the project is to consider improvements to accounting and financial reporting standards for state and local government pension and other postemployment benefits (OPEB) . . . ." (Gabriel Roeder Smith & Company)


Employers Offering Telecommuting to Cut Office Real Estate Costs
Excerpt: "Traditionally, employers have offered telecommuting as a perk to retain key talent, Hand says. But during the past several months, companies are citing it as a way to reduce real estate costs, observers say. The fact that it might also help employees save on gasoline costs is apparently not uppermost in their minds, but it couldn't hurt." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Employee Benefits Like Flex-Time and Showers for Cyclists Can Save Gas – and More
Excerpt: "Birmingham [Alabama] is just one of many cities, counties, and states turning to 'flex-time' to help employees cope with $4-a-gallon gas. It's not a new concept, but if public and private employers made adjustable schedules more widely available – along with telecommuting, mass-transit benefits, and bike facilities – the payoff would go far beyond fuel-cost relief." (The Christian Science Monitor)


Countrywide Workers Worried About Losing Severance Pay
Excerpt: "The 'Countrywide Change of Control Severance Plan', posted on the company's internal website, says [new owner, Bank of America Corp,] has the power to decide whether it wants to pay severance benefits to an employee who turns down a new position, even if it contains significant changes in compensation or job location, the paper said." (Reuters)


Self-Insured Plans Gaining Popularity
Excerpt: "The reason: They don't require employers to pay a tax on monthly insurance premiums and they allow companies to customize their benefits rather than pay for more general coverage packages . . . ." (Detroit Free Press)


Utah State Workers Move to Four-Day Week
Excerpt: "Many state workers in Utah are moving to a four-day work week next month in an effort to 'conserve energy, save money, improve our air quality, and enhance customer service.'" (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


[Opinion] 5 Myths About the Bust That Will Follow the Boom(ers)
Excerpt: "The warnings have rumbled for decades: Just wait till the baby boomers retire. If you think there are strains on Social Security and Medicare now, brace yourselves for the implosion as the boomers start heading out to pasture. With the first of that generation now doing just that, we should be seeing the dust cloud soon, right? Actually, if you've bought into the . . . myths about the bust the baby boom is supposed to usher in, you may be surprised." (The Washington Post; free registration required)


[Opinion] Changes in Jobs, Benefits, Housing, Health Coverage, Retirement Savings Play Crucial Roles in Families' Economic Stability
Excerpt: "ERISA's congressional authors intended the law to protect employee benefits. We know this because they said so right in the law's preamble. But over the last generation, the Supreme Court and increasingly conservative federal appeals courts have rendered a series of decisions involving ERISA that have made it easier for employers and their agents to deny benefits to workers and their families." (Los Angeles Times)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Health Savings Accounts - What the Latest IRS Guidance Means
Nationwide on July 16, 2008
presented by Thompson Interactive, A Division of Thompson Publishing Group

Hot Summer Guidance for HSAs: What's in the "Grab-Bag"?
Nationwide on July 31, 2008
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)/Thomson Tax & Accounting

Retirement Plan Pitfalls - Webcast
Nationwide on July 8, 2008
presented by Internal Revenue Service (IRS)



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Secretary of Labor's July 4th Message: Protecting Workers' Retirement and Financial Freedom
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

IRS’s July Tax Talk Today: “Retirement Plan Pitfalls”
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

IRS Approves EGTRRA Documents for ASCi's Plan Document Management System
ASC (Actuarial Systems Corporation)



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Senior Group Benefits Underwriter
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in MO

Compliance Manager - Retirement Operations
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in MD

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in CA




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