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July 10, 2008

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

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[Guidance Overview] IRS Issues New Q's and A's on Health Savings Accounts (PDF)
2 pages. (Milliman)

[Guidance Overview] ERISA Claim Regarding Termination for Smoking (PDF)
Pages 4-5 of 5 pages. Excerpt: "A United States District Court of the District of Massachusetts has ruled that a plaintiff who was terminated from employment because he was a smoker could proceed with a claim under Section 510 of ERISA against the employer. See Rodrigues v. Scotts Company, LLC, 2008 WL 251971 (D. Mass.)." (Miller & Chevalier Chartered)

Kaiser Issue Brief Addresses Tax Subsidies for Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance (PDF)
20 pages. Excerpt: "This issue brief by Kaiser Family Foundation researchers uses examples of workers with different wages earnings to illustrate how the current tax code affects families depending on whether they have health coverage, and whether that coverage is provided through their employer. By excluding the value of employer-sponsored health benefits from taxable income, the current law generally provides a larger subsidy to higher-income families, since higher-income workers pay federal and state income taxes at a higher marginal tax rate than lower-income workers." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Accounting Quandary for Health Benefits in Retirement (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "A common reaction to the new accounting standard increased contributions to a pension-like trust, which will be recorded as an expense. There are two predominant views on how best to select the discount rate for measuring OPEB liabilities during the phase-in period. But each has serious deficiencies." (Mark Shemtob via Contingencies)

Cuts in Paid Sick Days Puts Unhealthy Employees in the Workplace
Excerpt: "As many as 43% of American workers in private industry don't have paid sick days, according to 2007 data from the federal government. If they call in sick, they lose their pay and, sometimes, their jobs. That number has risen over the years, part of a larger trend to cut back on sick leave. Among workers who do still have the once-venerable benefit, many have found their days reduced or lumped together as part of their vacation time." (Los Angeles Times via

Small Business Is Latest Focus in Health Insurance Fight
Excerpt: "As the number of people without health insurance continues to rise, many states and Congress have begun to focus on one of the biggest causes: the growing number of small business owners and their workers who are unable to afford coverage. The states are taking a variety of approaches. To help ease the burden of insurance premiums that have roughly doubled since 2000, some, like Arizona, are extending tax credits to small employers that provide medical coverage." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Washington Post and Wall Street Journal Examine Issue of Medical Tourism
The target page contains summaries of three developments related to medical tourism. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Proposed Bipartisan Bill to Spur U.S. Health Care Reform Could 'Cause Large-Scale Disruption,' According to Business Coalition
Excerpt: "The legislation would effectively eliminate the employer-sponsored health care system and replace it with a system in which individuals would purchase private health coverage through state-run purchasing pools." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Giving Time Off Work to Help Save a Life
Excerpt: "Organ transplant advocates push for paid leave and new laws protecting jobs of donors, but small firms say they can't always accommodate such requests -- even for a good cause." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Employers Reach Out to Children With Wellness Programs
Excerpt: "This year, [IBM] introduced the Children's Health Rebate, which encourages families to set 'healthy living goals' for themselves and keep track of whether they are meeting those targets over a 12-week period. Participants are eligible for a $150 rebate on their health insurance premiums. This year, 22,000 of the 52,000 families in IBM's health care plan have signed up for the rebate." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

[Opinion] National Coalition on Benefits Comments on Healthy Americans Act (S. 334) (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "We are writing as members of the National Coalition on Benefits (NCB) to express our opposition to the core provisions of the Healthy Americans Act, S. 334 (as amended). We believe that S. 334 would have a major adverse impact on employer-sponsored health coverage." (National Coalition on Benefits)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] California Decision Portends Broad Changes in Spousal Eligibility (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "The most common employee requests for same-sex spouse benefits are for coverage under health and dental plans and spousal survivor annuity coverage under defined benefit pension plans. When presented with a request to provide benefits to same-sex spouses under any employee benefit plan, an employer should ask the following questions . . . ." (Thompson Publishing Group Inc.)

[Guidance Overview] Tax-Effective Disaster Relief -- Direct Employer Payments to Employees (PDF)
Pages 2-3 of 5 pages. Excerpt: "Code Section 139 allows individuals to exclude from gross income (as well as from payroll taxation if they are employees, and self-employment taxes if they are independent contractors), any 'qualified disaster relief payment.'" (Miller & Chevalier Chartered)

Beware That Company Changes Can Cause Havoc on Your Plan (PDF)
Page 3 of 6 pages. Excerpt: "Any circumstance affecting ownership, the number of your employees, a change in the way your business is managed, a change in the way your product or service is sold, or a change in the way your employees are managed, may adversely affect your plan." (The ERISA Law Group, P.A.)

[Opinion] Another Potential Trap Under 409A
Excerpt: "IRS and Treasury Department officials recently discussed a trap that (in my opinion) emphasizes the absurdity of so much of Code Sec. 409A." (Michael S. Melbinger via Winston & Strawn LLP)

[Opinion] Setting the Stage for OPEB bonds
Excerpt: "It's now a 'perfect storm' for state and local governments who already face acute budgetary pressures -- just as they begin to budget money to fund their retiree medical benefits (OPEB). And many underfunded pension plans could soon see their actuarial status erode, requiring increased employer contributions." (

[Opinion] General Motors' Dubious Habit of Steadily Increasing Worker Benefits Threatens Future of Company
Excerpt: "The immediate cause of G.M.'s distress, of course, is the surging price of oil, which has put a chill on the sale of gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and trucks. The company's failure to invest early enough in hybrids is another culprit. Years of poor car design is another. But none of G.M.'s management miscues was so damaging to its long-term fate as the rich pensions and health care that robbed General Motors of its financial flexibility and, ultimately, of its cash." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Employer Solutions to Rising Gas Costs and Commuting Challenges Webcast
Nationwide on July 17, 2008
presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Information sessions to learn about the nation's only LLM degree in Employee Benefits for attorneys and MS degree in Employee Benefits for non-attorney benefits professionals
in Illinois on July 15, 2008
presented by The Center for Tax Law and Employee Benefits at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago

New IRS Guidance on HSAs Webcast
Nationwide on July 24, 2008
presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

SPARK Accredited Retirement Plan Consultant (ARPC) Classroom Session
in Illinois on September 18, 2008
presented by SPARK -- Society of Professional Asset-Managers and Record Keepers

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Prudential Debuts New Retirement Workbook
Prudential Financial, Inc.

Retirement Plan Sponsors Demand Certified Service Providers
Roland|Criss Fiduciary Services

EPIC Advisors, Inc. Names New Sales Consultant For Company
Venture (k) Corp.

AIFLP Announces New Free Publication: The Integrative Adviser
Association for Integrative Financial and Life Planning

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