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July 14, 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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Banner ad for International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

E-learning Benefit Courses From the International Foundation

You donít need a navy suit to get ahead at your job. Put on those fuzzy slippers, grab your computer mouse and learn with the International Foundation. The International Foundationís e-learning courses provide the highest quality education covering all employee benefit topics, from the basics to compliance technicalities. Prove you know your stuff and get to the next level with the International Foundationís e-learning courses. And bring your pink bunny slippers along for the ride.

[Guidance Overview] Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated July 9, 2008, for Health and Welfare Plans (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 health and welfare benefit plans. (Hewitt Associates)


[Guidance Overview] Updated Medicare Part D Notices (PDF)
1 page. Excerpt: "The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services ('CMS') recently updated the model notices required under Medicare Part D, including the model notices of creditable and non-creditable coverage. For any notice of creditable or non-creditable coverage provided after June 15, 2008, plan sponsors should utilize these updated notices." (Haynes and Boone, LLP)


[Guidance Overview] No COBRA Liability for Insurer That Terminated Coverage for Nonpayment After Employer Stopped Deducting Premiums
Excerpt: "If a COBRA violation is ultimately found to have occurred in this case, the employer will be responsible for it. This result often surprises employers that sponsor insured plans, but the court in this case traveled a well-worn path in its consideration of the insurer's potential COBRA liability. The COBRA statute does not apply directly to insurers, and responsibility for COBRA violations generally falls on the employer as plan sponsor." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] Conflicted Plan Administrators Face Slightly More Rigorous Judicial Review of Benefit Determinations
Excerpt: "ERISA authorizes companies to fulfill both fiduciary and nonfiduciary functions as long as they do not in actuality commingle those functions. See 29 U.S.C. ß 1108(c)(3). ERISA permits dual roles because ERISA's protections in combination with judicial scrutiny, provide adequate structural safeguards to ensure the just administration of employee benefit plans." (Palmer Kazanjian Wohl Perkins, LLP)


Linking Wellness and Voluntary Funding
Excerpt: "Payroll deduction has proven to be a powerful employee motivational tool in meeting health and wellness goals at Nature's Sunshine Products Inc. . . . . Employees enjoy the convenience and affordability of paying for a discounted membership to their nearest Gold's Gym, which is $18 a month. But there's also a built-in incentive to show up for a workout: They can earn a $1 credit up to $12 applied to the following month's payroll deduction." (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)


Medical Tourism Gains Appeal, But HR Needs to Say If Right for the Company
Excerpt: "[HR] questions include issues of proper credentialing, comparative provider training and access to quality post-operative care. They want to know how the quality of care is measured. How are physicians credentialed? How are provider hospitals regulated? What happens in a post-operative emergency? What is the employer's liability if something goes wrong?" (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Massachusetts Proposes Changes to Health Reform Rules
Excerpt: "More employer plans will likely meet requirements of Massachusetts' health care reform law if draft rules approved Thursday, July 10, are implemented. The rules were unanimously approved by the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority board, the state agency charged with implementing key elements of the 2006 law." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


New Jersey Law Raises Age Limit for Dependent Health Benefits, Promotes Individual Market
Excerpt: "New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine signed legislation extending to age 31 the age to which children of insured persons are eligible to remain on their parents' health insurance plans. The new law also expands marketing and eligibility notifications to encourage more young adults to enroll." (BestWire Services via NewsEdge via Human Resource Executive Online)


Sen. Barack Obama Proposes Tax Breaks for Small Business As Incentive to Provide Health Insurance
Excerpt: "The plan, which would cost $6 billion a year, would provide small businesses a refundable credit of up to 50 percent on premiums for employees." (The New York Times; free registration required)


Low Health Insurance Caps Leave Patients Stranded
Excerpt: "Only 1 percent of employer-offered group plans -- the largest health insurance segment -- had caps as low as $1 million last year, according to a survey by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. But 22 percent had caps of less than $2 million, and some want to see all these relatively low maximums eliminated." (The Detroit News)


Senate, House Reach Agreement on Policy Framework for Mental Health Parity Legislation
Excerpt: "Under the agreement, the terms of which will be set this week, mental health benefits would be required to be on par with medical and surgical benefits, including treatments such as hospital stays, physician visits and cost sharing such as copayments, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. If a plan offers medical coverage for treatment outside its provider network, it must offer the same for mental health treatment." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


House Panel Votes To Extend Health Coverage for College Students Who Take Medical Leave
Excerpt: "The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on Wednesday by voice vote approved to extend a bill (HR 2851, S 400) that would allow college students who are forced to leave school for a serious illness to continue to receive health care benefits under their parents' health insurance policies, CongressDaily reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


IRS and Treasury Officials Provide Informal Views on Health Benefits, Wellness Incentives, and More
Excerpt: "The Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) of the American Bar Association has posted a report on the May 2008 question-and-answer session between JCEB representatives and IRS and Treasury officials. Highlights include the following informal, nonbinding comments about post-termination health benefits, wellness incentives, health coverage for non-dependents, and COBRA under health FSAs." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)



Sponsored by: BeneCom Associates, LLC

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Banner ad for BeneCom Associates, LLC

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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] The Basics of the HEART Act
Excerpt: "AHI's Benefit Alert provides some useful information on The Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (HEART) Act. The Act provides benefits preferences to employees who are in the National Guard and Reserves. It may also impact 401(k) plans and health flexible spending accounts (FSAs)." (Workplace Prof Blog)


[Guidance Overview] Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated July 9, 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)


[Guidance Overview] Deferred Compensation for My Future? Or Take the Money Now?
Excerpt: "Rules have long been in effect regarding non-qualified deferred compensation arrangements. One of those rules provides that the amount deferred must not be constructively received by the taxpayer or it will be taxed currently. This means that the deferred amount must remain subject to claims of creditors of the employer. Depending on the financial condition of the employer, this might be a real problem for the taxpayer employee--especially if the arrangement is to continue for a long period of time." (BNA Tax Management)


Retirement Plans and Insurance Policies Offer Quick Money with Real Disadvantages
Excerpt: "While tapping these funds may seem like a convenient way to address an immediate need, such as a looming medical or tuition bill, financial advisers urge caution. They say that consumers should carefully weigh the ramifications -- the possibility of a big tax bill and far less savings in retirement, for example -- before dipping into a 401(k), Individual Retirement Account or life-insurance policy." (The Wall Street Journal)


Pensioners Battle Qwest Over Insurance Benefit
Excerpt: "Seven retirees led by Edward J. Kerber of Warrenton, near Astoria, sued Qwest in March 2007 saying the company violated pension law by reducing payouts from the life insurance program. Those retirees want a federal judge in Denver, where Qwest is headquartered, to include all retirees in their case, including about 11,300 in Oregon and Washington." (Oregon Live LLC)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

COBRA for Rookies: Understanding the Basics to Avoid Liability
Nationwide on June 26, 2008
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America (EBIA)/Thomson Tax & Accounting

EPCRS Workshop: Preventing and Correcting Qualified Plan Problems Webcast
Nationwide on July 22, 2008
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Still River Announces 403(b) Loan & Hardship Withdrawal Software for Rev. Proc. 2007-71 Compliance
Still River Retirement Planning Software, Inc.

The SPARK Institute Releases New 403(b) Plans Best Practices Document, Announces Involvement Of DTCC In Information Sharing Effort
The SPARK Institute



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Technical Editor - Employee Benefits Plan/Taxation
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