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August 12, 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 Guidance on HSAs (Part III of Guidance Overview)
Excerpt: "The IRS recently issued Notice 2008-59 and proposed regulations to address a variety of open questions about health savings accounts, or 'HSAs.' This is the third in a series of articles on aspects of the guidance which are of particular interest to employers. The focus of this article is on permitting HSA account owners to access their funds with debit cards that permit payments only for health care." (Employee Benefits Institute of America (Deloitte)


[Guidance Overview] State and Federal Laws Pose Challenge in Offering Domestic Partner Benefits
4 pages. Excerpt: "Whether called domestic partnerships, civil unions, reciprocal beneficiaries or same-sex marriages, nontraditional same- and opposite-sex relationships present benefit challenges for employers. Understanding what state and federal laws require and how they interact is critical, whether benefits are offered voluntarily or to satisfy state laws. This Update looks at federal and state law conflicts and tax issues for domestic partner benefits." (Mercer)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Provides Guidance on HSA Contribution Limits and One-Time Transfers from IRA to HSA
Excerpt: "The IRS recently issued guidance on changes in the Internal Revenue Code that affect contributions to Health Savings Accounts." (Winston & Strawn LLP)


Associations, Trade Groups Offer Members Group-Like Health Insurance
Excerpt: "An increasing number of small-business owners that do not provide health insurance to their employees and individuals without employer-based health coverage are looking to professional organizations and trade groups that offer 'group-like' coverage to their members, the Wall Street Journal reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)


Access for All America Act (PDF)
18 pages. Excerpt: "[A bill to] achieve access to comprehensive primary health care services for all Americans and to improve primary care delivery through an expansion of the community health center and National Health Service Corps programs." (U.S. Senate)


With No Paid Sick Leave, Workers Face Grim Choices
Excerpt: "As with so many other things regarding worker health and safety, the United States stands virtually alone in not guaranteeing workers paid leave when they get sick. In 145 other countries – including Japan and the top economies of Western Europe – employers are legally required to provide paid sick days or short-or long-term leave for illnesses. In 127 countries, employers must provide at least one week of paid sick leave per year. In contrast, outside of San Francisco – which recently passed its own law on paid sick leave – there is no such requirement in the United States." (San Diego Union-Tribune)


Safety-Net Providers Balance Margin and Mission in a Profit-Driven Health Care Market (PDF)
9 pages. Excerpt: "This paper describes how intensifying competitive pressures in the health system are simultaneously driving increased demand for safety-net care and taxing safety-net providers' ability to maintain the mission of serving all, regardless of ability to pay. Although safety-net providers adapted to previous challenges arising from managed care, health system pressures have been more intense and more generalized across different sectors in recent years than in the past. Providers are adopting some of the same strategies being used in the private sector to attract higher-paying patients and changing their 'image' as a safety-net provider." (Health Affairs)


Lessons from the Evolution of 401(k) Retirement Plans for Increased Consumerism in Health Care: An Application of Behavioral Research (PDF)
28 pages. Excerpt: "Retirement and health benefits following a similar evolution: The private sector's shift away from 'traditional' company-financed pension plans toward individual 401(k) accounts illustrates how benefit decision-making and responsibility have shifted from the employer to the worker. The current trend in health care design toward 'consumer-driven' health plans illustrates the same trend with health benefits." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)


Eating-Disorder Class Actions Get Federal Judge's Go-Ahead
Excerpt: "U.S. District Judge Faith Hochberg denied motions to dismiss in Beye v. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, 06-Civ.-5337, and Foley v. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, 06-Civ.-6219, following an earlier decision that allowed a similar suit against Aetna to go forward. At issue is whether eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are biologically based mental illnesses, for which state law and the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey policies at issue require benefits comparable to those for physical ailments." (New Jersey Law Journal via Law.com)


Massachusetts Gov. Patrick Signs Sweeping Health Care Legislation
Excerpt: "Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Sunday signed into law broad health care legislation that will raise $100 million in state funds and fees on private companies to fund the state's health insurance law, the Boston Globe reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] State Health Reform Flatlines (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "Massachusetts' recent health reform has generated laudatory headlines and a flurry of interest in state-based initiatives to achieve universal health insurance coverage. In 1988, a similar Massachusetts effort was also acclaimed and was imitated by several other states. Unfortunately, none of those efforts can be judged a success. The authors briefly review this earlier experience and caution against premature declaration of victory." (International Journal of Health Services via Physicians for a National Health Program)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] IRS Proposes Updated Regulations for Stock Purchase Plans
Excerpt: "The regulations are proposed to apply as of January 1, 2010, and will apply to any option issued under an employee stock purchase plan that is granted on or after that date. However, taxpayers may rely on the proposed regulations for the treatment of any option issued under a plan that is granted after July 29, 2008." (Deloitte)


[Guidance Overview] Reporting and Disclosure Issues With Small Employer Employee Benefit Plans
Excerpt: "Small employers that sponsor ERISA plans generally rely entirely on outside attorneys and consultants to draft the SPDs and other employee disclosures, or sometime use model notices published by the IRS or DOL. However, the employers still have the responsibility to understand the meaning and purpose of each and every communication, and if in their judgment the document is not written in a manner calculated to be understood by its particular workforce, then it should append the boiler-plate communication with at least a tailored cover letter." (Tax Management Inc.)


[Guidance Overview] HEART Act Affects Qualified Plans, Health FSAs, and Military Differential Pay (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "In June, the President signed the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act ('HEART Act') into law. The HEART Act amends certain provisions that were added by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 ('USERRA'). The HEART Act requires certain changes for retirement plans and permits other changes, changes the treatment of military differential pay for purposes of retirement plans and income tax withholding, permits certain changes to health FSAs, and adds special withholding provisions for certain expatriate employees." (Powell Goldstein LLP)


[Guidance Overview] 1st Circuit Says Intent Required in ERISA Retaliatory Discharge Case
Excerpt: "Kouvchinov sued the employer for violation of ERISA alleging retaliatory discharge, and for tortiously interfering with an advantageous business relationship. The trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment. The 1st Circuit affirmed. Kouvchinov argued that proof of the employer's specific intent to interfere with his ERISA benefits was not required in retaliatory discharge cases as compared to preemptive discrimination cases. The court rejected Kouvchinov's argument because, without the specific intent requirement, every discharged employee who had exercised his right to benefits would have a potential claim against the employer." (Workplace Prof Blog)


[Guidance Overview] Proposed Regs Provide Guidance on Options Granted Under Employee Stock Purchase Plans
Excerpt: "The IRS has issued proposed regulations, amending existing regulations under Code Sec. 423, which affect those who participate in the transfer of stock pursuant to the exercise of options granted under an employee stock purchase plan. Such options, under Code Sec. 423, and incentive stock options, under Code Sec. 422, are collectively called statutory options." (Wolters Kluwer)


Government Workers Have Greater Access to Benefits, DOL Data Show
Excerpt: "According to the [Bureau of Labor Statistics] release, access to and participation in retirement and medical care benefits were greater in government employment than in private industry." (PLANSPONSOR.com)


Telework for Federal Workers Becomes More Attractive As Quality-of-Life Concerns Spike
Excerpt: "In the face of all [the] challenges, the federal government is turning to the little workforce policy that could. Telework might not solve all the federal government's workforce ills, but it's providing relatively cheap and easy relief for agencies struggling to make themselves more resilient and performance-oriented. And telework is a major weapon in the fight to make the federal government an ahead-of-the-curve employer." (GovernmentExecutive.com)


[Opinion] Follow-up to the 'Beware of Beneficiary Provisions' Blog
Excerpt: "In [Ed Burmeister's blog, he] channels Andy Rooney, pointing out all that is wrong and risky about beneficiary designation provisions in stock incentive plans and ESPPs. Speaking as only someone who has been through these headaches a few times can, Ed's article points out [a] few of the pitfalls in allowing employees too much latitude in the designation of beneficiaries, given the variety of state and foreign laws, and argues compellingly for simplicity." (Michael S. Melbinger via Winston & Strawn LLP)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: 72(t) Payments
Nationwide on September 25, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Conversions and Recharacterizations
Nationwide on September 18, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Direct Rollover and Other Portability Issues
Nationwide on September 9, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Handling IRA Legal Issues
Nationwide on September 11, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Introduction to QRPs
Nationwide on September 4, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: IRA Contributions
Nationwide on September 30, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: SIMPLE Plans
Nationwide on September 23, 2008
presented by Ascensus

Cash Balance Plans Workshop
in Texas on August 22, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Cash Balance Plans Workshop
in Kansas on August 28, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Code Section 409A Workshop
in Washington on September 12, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Code Section 409A Workshop
in Missouri on September 18, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Code Section 409A Workshop
in Texas on September 19, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Code Section 409A Workshop
in Massachusetts on September 19, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Code Section 409A Workshop
in Illinois on September 24, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Code Section 409A Workshop
in Minnesota on September 25, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Code Section 409A Workshop
in Georgia on September 26, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Cross-Tested Plans Workshop
in Texas on August 21, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Cross-Tested Plans Workshop
in Kansas on August 27, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Aon Consulting's Replacement Ratio Study Shows the Impact on Workers Who are not Saving Enough for Retirement
Aon Consulting

MetLife’s Benefits Benchmarking Tool Provides Employers And Brokers Trend Insights To Help Optimize Workplace Plans
MetLife

Employee Involvement Is Key to Long-Term Pharmacy Cost Control, Finds Buck Consultants Survey
Buck Consultants, an ACS Company

OppenheimerFunds, Inc. Retirement Services Introduces New Value-Added Tools And Services
OppenheimerFunds, Inc.



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