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July 29, 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] How Do Health and Welfare Plans Handle Same-Sex Marriages? July 23, 2008, Update
Excerpt: "First Massachusetts and now California have legalized same-sex marriages, and other states may recognize the legal status of these unions. Yet federal and many state laws do not recognize same-sex marriages, creating unique issues for health and welfare plans offering spousal benefits. This Update unravels the differing legal requirements for insured and self-insured plans and reviews same-sex marriage issues that all private-sector employers sponsoring health and welfare plans should keep in mind." (Mercer LLC)


[Guidance Overview] Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 Signed Into Law (PDF)
Pages 1-2 of 4 pages. Excerpt: "Under GINA, genetic information includes any information about an individual's genetic tests, genetic tests of an individual's family member or the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members. For this purpose, a genetic test is any analysis of human DNA, RNA, chromosomes, proteins or metabolites that detects genotypes, mutations or chromosomal changes. Title I of GINA covers discrimination with respect to health insurance, and Title II covers discrimination in an employment context." (Dow Lohnes PLLC)


[Guidance Overview] Proposed Regs Permit Higher Employer Contributions to HSAs of Nonhighly Compensated Employees
Excerpt: " Generally, if the employer fails to make comparable contributions to the HSAs of its employees during a calendar year, an excise tax equal to 35% of the aggregate amount contributed by the employer to the HSAs of its employees during that calendar year is imposed on the employer." (Wolters Kluwer)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Representatives Discuss Tax Issues Affecting COBRA, Wellness Incentives in May 9 Meeting
Excerpt: "Several of the questions addressed COBRA continuation of coverage tax issues." (Wolters Kluwer)


[Guidance Overview] CMS Posts Spanish-Language Versions of Model Disclosure Notices for Medicare Part D Eligible Individuals
Excerpt: "CMS officials have informally indicated that the Medicare Part D rules do not require group health plan sponsors to provide the disclosure notices in languages other than English. Nevertheless, sponsors of plans with participants who speak Spanish may find the Spanish-language versions of the notices to be useful in educating portions of their workforce about Medicare Part D." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] COBRA Was Required for Former Employee Receiving Social Security Disability Benefits
Excerpt: "Medicare entitlement can affect an individual's COBRA rights in several different ways, and keeping all the rules straight is not an easy task. This case illustrates that one source of confusion can be the various benefit programs that the SSA operates. As this court explains, receipt of Social Security disability benefits does not justify a failure to provide COBRA." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Proposes Regulations on HSA Comparability and Excise Tax Reporting
Excerpt: "Although the comparability provisions of the proposed regulations reflect prior IRS guidance and come as no surprise, employers that make HSA contributions outside of a cafeteria plan will want to familiarize themselves with these provisions. (The HSA comparability rules do not apply to employer HSA contributions made through a cafeteria plan.) And although the various excise taxes have been in effect for years, the proposed regulations are the first IRS guidance on reporting and paying those taxes." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Issues New Guidance on HSAs - Part I
Excerpt: "The IRS recently issued Notice 2008-59 and proposed regulations to address a variety of open questions about health savings accounts, or 'HSAs.' Depending on the outcome of the November election this could be the last comprehensive HSA-related guidance for some time. No doubt mindful of that possibility, it appears IRS is trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible during the Bush Administration's final year." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] Medicare Reform Bill Passes Over President Bush's Veto
Excerpt: "The Medicare reform law will creates issues for plan sponsors that provide retiree health coverage. If a plan sponsor currently offers Medicare Advantage Private-Fee-for-Service (PFFS) plans, it may want to look into a switch or migration in the next couple of years into other Medicare Advantage (MA) plan types or consider offering coverage that supplements traditional Medicare." (The Segal Group, Inc.)


2009 Retiree Drug Subsidy Application Deadline Is Near
Excerpt: "Retiree medical plan sponsors that want to receive the Medicare Part D retiree drug subsidy (RDS) for the 2009 calendar year should begin the application process now. Calendar-year plans must apply for the 2009 RDS by Oct. 2, 2008 -- 90 days before the start of the plan year for which the subsidy is sought. The RDS requires a new application for each plan year, even if a sponsor previously received the subsidy. Applications that fail to include a new actuarial attestation, signed plan sponsor agreement and list of qualifying covered retirees will be denied." (Mercer LLC)


Massachusetts Governor Wants Employers to Pay More to Fund Universal Health Plan
Excerpt: "How Massachusetts employers would pay more under Patrick's proposal: To avoid a $295 per-employee assessment, employers would have to enroll at least 25 percent of full-time employees in their health plans and pay at least 33 percent of premiums for individual coverage. If revenue from Fair Share assessments does not generate $38 million a year, the per-employee assessment would be increased. Fair Share assessments would be paid quarterly." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Report Predicts Health Care Cost Trends Will Level Off
Excerpt: "The growth in health care costs paid by employers is expected to level off in 2009 after five years of deceleration, a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute predicts. Based on a survey of more than 500 employer and health plans providing coverage to 11 million lives, New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers found that medical costs will increase by 9.6 percent on average next year, compared with an average of 9.9 percent this year." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Financing Retiree Health Care: Assessing GASB 45 Estimates of Liabilities (PDF)
9 pages. Excerpt: "If a government uses pay-as-you-go financing for its retiree medical plan, the actuarial accrued liabilities (AAL) are equal to the unfunded actuarially accrued liabilities (UAAL). Using these data, the actuary also determines the annual required contribution (ARC), which is equal to current expenditures plus the additional contribution needed to completely fund the UAAL over a 30-year period. This Issue Brief discusses these assumptions and their importance in determining financial challenges facing state and local governments." (Center for State and Local Government Excellence)


The Nuts and Bolts of Consumer Driven Health
Excerpt: "Russell Head, VP and partner at Augusta, Ga.-based Group and Benefits Consultants agrees. The health insurance industry has conditioned people to think about benefits backwards, he says. The current system's first line is co-pays and first-dollar benefits, then deductibles and finally out of pocket limits. Head says benefits should be approached in the opposite direction: first, out of pocket limits; second, deductibles; and finally, co-pays and first-dollar coverage." (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)


Owner Says His Unique Business Can Salve Pains of Health Care Crisis
Excerpt: "Because every person who enrolls in the W.I.N. Association must sign an employment agreement, so the company can call itself a self-funded Association Health Plan (AHP) - making it exempt from state and federal laws that regulate health benefit plans . . . ." (The Salt Lake Tribune)


Webinar Examines How the Health Reform Landscape Has Changed Since 1994
Excerpt: "[T]he Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured (ERIU) assembled [the following participants: Henry J. Aaron, The Brookings Institution; Joseph P. Newhouse, Harvard University; Mark Pauly, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; Uwe E. Reinhardt, Princeton University; Susan Dentzer, Editor-in-Chief, Health Affairs (moderator); Catherine McLaughlin, Director, Economic Research Initiative on the Uninsured, University of Michigan; and, Brian C. Quinn, Program Officer, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation] for an interactive Webinar to discuss the current landscape for health reform and what has changed since 1994." (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] New HEART Act Affects Benefit Plans
Excerpt: "Compliance with the HEART Act will require plan amendments to many retirement plans by Dec. 31, 2010 (for calendar year plans). In addition, any employer that wants to add qualified reservist distributions to a cafeteria plan must amend the plan and distribute a revised summary plan description or summary of material modification by the appropriate deadlines for the effective date the employer chooses for implementation of the change." (Faegre & Benson LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Employee Benefits Update, July 2008 (PDF)
5 pages. The newsletter covers select compliance deadlines, retirement plan developments, and health and welfare plan developments. (Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.)


[Guidance Overview] Required Changes to Deferred Compensation Plans (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "IRS regulations regarding Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code will become effective on January 1, 2009. By that date, all plans providing for compensation governed by 409A's new statutory and regulatory restrictions will need to be made compliant, both in form and in operation, with Section 409A's strict rules." (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Are You Ready for the Section 409A Compliance Deadline? (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "All nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements must satisfy, or be exempt from, the requirements of Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code by December 31, 2008." (Holme Roberts & Owen LLP)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Proposed Regs on Reporting Requirements for Statutory Stock Options Under IRC Sec. 6039
Excerpt: "The Internal Revenue Service has issued proposed regulations governing the return and information statement requirements under IRC Sec. 6039 that reflect changes to that section made by the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006. The proposed regulations, which relate to statutory stock options, appeared in the July 17 Federal Register." (Wolters Kluwer)


[Guidance Overview] American Benefits Council Summary of IRS Proposed Regs on Options Granted under an ESPP (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "On July 28, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department released proposed regulations relating to options granted under an employee stock purchase plan (ESPP) as defined in Section 423 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). The regulations provide guidance on complying with Section 423 and also amend regulations under Code Sections 421 and 422." (American Benefits Council)


Familiarity with USERRA Regulations Doesn't Always Guarantee That an Employer Will Be in Full Compliance
Excerpt: "As of July 11, according to [the Pentagon's office of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve], more than 9,200 contacts were made to the organization through e-mail, phone or its Web site form this year -- of which more than 2,000 were determined to be employer-violation cases that required mediation through an ombudsman affiliated with ESGR." (Human Resource Executive Online)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Benefit Plan Audits- What You and Your Clients Need to Know!
Nationwide on August 6, 2008
presented by ASPPA (American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries)

Defined Contribution Concepts for DC People
Nationwide on August 13, 2008
presented by ASPPA (American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries)

Learn how to use the ftwilliam.com 409A Plan Document Software
Nationwide on July 30, 2008
presented by ftwilliam.com



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

U.S. Labor Department Obtains Order Restoring $125,000 In Pension Assets To Employees Of Defunct Phoenix Company
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

New University of Pennsylvania Study Finds S ESOPs Yield Billions in New Benefits for U.S. Workers and the Economy
Employee Owned S Corporations of America

Registered Investment Adviser Offers Unique Service
OneFiduciary Group, LLC



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