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August 13, 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

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

E-learning Benefit Courses From the International Foundation

You don’t 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 Foundation’s 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 Foundation’s e-learning courses. And bring your pink bunny slippers along for the ride.

[Guidance Overview] IRS Guidance on Transfers from IRAs to HSAs
Excerpt: "Employees may now make a one-time, tax-free transfer from their individual retirement account (IRA) to their health savings account (HSA). . . . There is an exception to the one-time limit: Individuals who change from self-only, high-deductible health plan (HDHP) coverage to family HDHP coverage may make a second transfer within the same year." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


[Guidance Overview] Proposed HSA Regulations Under Internal Revenue Code Sections 4980B, 4980D, 4980E and 4980G
Excerpt: "On July 16, 2008, the IRS released proposed regulations under Code sections 4980B, 4980D, 4980E and 4980G pertaining to health savings accounts (HSAs). The proposed regulations provide guidance in the areas of tax reporting and paying, HSA contributions, and qualified HSA distributions. In this article, we review the proposed regulations with respect to Code sections 4980B, 4980D, 4980E and 4980G." (JPMorgan Chase & Co.)


Military Health Care Benefit Extended to Reservist Family Members
Excerpt: "Families of some active-duty Reserve and National Guard members will get a break on paying annual deductibles associated with the military's health care system, according to a final rule published on Tuesday in the Federal Register. The rule, which was proposed in August 2006 and took effect on Tuesday, makes permanent the Defense Department's authority to waive the annual TRICARE deductibles for eligible dependents of reservists and Guard members who are called to active duty for more than 30 days. It applies to those who choose to participate in TRICARE Standard or Extra, rather than TRICARE Prime." (GovernmentExecutive.com)


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Seeking Public Comments on Its Healthy People 2020 Initiative
Excerpt: "Every 10 years, the department examines scientific data and new trends that are emerging from the health and wellness space. By having the public weigh in on health and wellness issues, officials hope to develop a national agenda that will improve the health and fitness of U.S. citizens." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


GM to Crack Down on Health Care Coverage of Ineligible Dependents
Excerpt: "GM is giving its 67,000 hourly workers until Aug 20 to voluntarily remove ineligible dependents from their health policies, after which, they would have to prove the eligibility of covered-family members through an official document, the paper said." (Reuters via The New York Times; free registration required)


House Bill Would Allow Students on Medical Leave to Keep Coverage
Excerpt: "On July 30, 2008, the House passed 'Michelle's Law' (H.R.2851), which would enable full-time students on a medically necessary leave of absence to keep their health insurance for up to one year. Under most health plans, college-age dependent students who are not enrolled in school full-time are no longer eligible for coverage under their family's health insurance plan. If the bill becomes law during this legislative session, it would apply to medically necessary leaves of absence beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2010." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


Medical Tourism: Health Care Free Trade (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "BlueShield of California has a health plan, Access Baja, designed for Americans and Mexicans who choose to receive medical care in northern Mexico. In 2007, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina established Companion Global Healthcare, a network of foreign-based hospitals that includes internationally accredited medical facilities in Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Costa Rica and Ireland. Denver-based BridgeHealth International also has a provider network of offshore hospitals, clinics and physicians." (National Center for Policy Analysis)


Corporate Wellness Programs Provide Incentives for Employees to Manage Their Health
Excerpt: "Corporate wellness programs are popping up all over the United States as companies search for ways to lower healthcare costs by encouraging healthy employee behaviors. A survey of 225 major U.S. companies shows the trend continues to catch on. The number of employers using incentives to promote company health and wellness programs rose from 62% in 2007 to 71% in 2008, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), ERISA Industry Committee and IncentOne Inc." (IndustryWeek)


More Turn to Professional Groups for Health Insurance
Excerpt: "As health-insurance premiums rise and the economy struggles, an increasing number of small-business owners and individuals without job-based insurance are turning to professional associations and trade and affinity groups that offer grouplike health coverage to their members." (The Wall Street Journal)


Senate Blocked from Considering Tax Extenders Legislation with Mental Health Parity Compromise
Excerpt: "After weeks of negotiations, a compromise mental health parity bill was inserted into an omnibus tax and energy extenders package (S.3335, The Jobs, Energy, Families, and Disaster Relief Act of 2008) that stalled last week after Senate Democrats failed to break a Republican filibuster." (The ERISA Industry Committee)


Research Network Pilot to Study Effectiveness of Medical Treatments
Excerpt: "The Joseph H. Kanter Family Foundation and the eHealth Initiative Foundation have launched an 18-month pilot project to test a distributed research network that aims to use electronic health records to study the clinical effectiveness of certain medical treatments." (California HealthCare Foundation)


No Help Coming for Massachusetts City's Retiree Medicare Cost
Excerpt: "It looks like Worcester's municipal retirees will not be getting help from the city anytime soon when it comes to paying their Part B Medicare costs. City Manager Michael V. O'Brien said there is no 'fiscally feasible means' for the city to pick up the tab for any portion of the retirees' Part B Medicare costs without a reduction in municipal services or raising property taxes." (Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.)


Health Benefits Inspire Rush to Marry - or Divorce
Excerpt: "In a country where insurance is out of reach for many, it is not uncommon for couples to marry, or even to divorce, at least partly so one spouse can obtain or maintain health coverage. There is no way to know how often it happens, but lawyers and patient advocacy groups say they see cases regularly." (The New York Times; free registration required)


Employer Was Not Off Base in Disability Cutoff
Excerpt: "A federal appellate court has cleared an employer of wrongdoing in the firing of an employee who returned to work while receiving disability benefits. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that found Parametric Technology Corp. (PTC) did not run afoul of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by carrying out the termination while Alexei Kouvchinov was receiving short-term disability benefits. Circuit Judge Bruce M. Seyla found there was no evidence of discriminatory intent by PTC." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Employers Count on Workers to Help Control Pharmacy Benefit Costs
Excerpt: "The success of pharmacy benefit cost management strategies cited by respondents to a survey from Buck Consultants will depend largely in part on employee involvement." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Strapped Americans Scrimping on Insurance, Medical Care
Excerpt: "In a survey of 686 consumers, the [National Association of Insurance Commissioners] discovered that 22% have cut back on the number of trips they take to a doctor as a result of today's economy. Eleven percent of respondents have reduced the number of prescription drugs they take or the dosage of these medications to stretch the prescription over a longer period of time." (Investment News; free registration required)



Sponsored by: ALM

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for ALM

Complete Benefits Law Guidance from Law Journal Press

The nation's workforce and health care system are constantly evolving and so are the legal issues. Law Journal Press helps you handle any benefits law question with up-to-date, authoritative books on all aspects of the field. Get legal and practical advice from leading experts on everything from COBRA to ERISA, "contingent" employees to family and medical leave, and more. Browse our product listings for detailed information and special offers.

(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] IRS Guidance on Withholding from Supplemental Wages
Excerpt: "In Revenue Ruling 2008-29, the IRS provides guidance on when and how to withhold income taxes from supplemental wages such as commissions, severance pay and signing bonuses. The ruling presents different scenarios to clarify issues that have sometimes puzzled payroll departments." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


[Guidance Overview] The Final 415 Regulations: Post Severance Compensation and Post Year End Compensation
Excerpt: "Few concepts are more confusing than how post severance compensation and post year end compensation actually work in a defined contribution plan. The concepts were introduced in the proposed section 415 regulations and included in the final 415 regulations released in April of 2007. This article will define and compare each term and apply the definitions to a plan with a participating employee terminating in December. Finally, the implications of each definition of compensation on employee elective deferral elections, employer contributions and reporting will be discussed." (Fort William LLC)


Former CareFirst CEO Sues State of Maryland, Calls Decision Over Severance 'Irrational'
Excerpt: "William L. Jews, former CEO of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, is suing state insurance regulators who decided last month to cut in half his $18 million severance package from the health insurer. In a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Aug. 11 against Maryland Insurance Commissioner Ralph Tyler, Jews calls the decision 'irrational' and alleges the reduction of his severance to about $9 million violates federal law. CareFirst also is named in the suit." (Baltimore Business Journal via bizjournals.com; free registration required)


A Public Employer's Ability to Modify Retiree Benefits
Excerpt: "Three trends pushing public-sector employers to reduce retirement costs are: (1) new accounting rules requiring employers to show on their books how much promises to retirees will cost; (2) the spiraling cost of providing medical benefits to retirees; and (3) the increasing longevity of retirees." (Jones Day)


Benefits Costs Rise More Slowly Than Wages for Second Consecutive Quarter
Excerpt: "Benefits costs rose at 0.6% and compensation increased 0.7% for the period from March 2008 to June 2008, according to the most recent Employment Cost Index from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In the last quarter's BLS statistics, benefits costs also rose at a slightly slower pace than salaries." (Wolters Kluwer)


Verizon Contract Includes Health Care, Pension Reform
Excerpt: "A new tentative three-year union contract with Verizon will continue providing health care for both active and retired workers and increase wages and pensions for 65,000 workers." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Document Institute-8 week training
Nationwide on August 27, 2008
presented by pensionpodcasts.info

EPCRS Workshop: Preventing and Correcting Qualified Plan Problems
Nationwide on August 25, 2008
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)

Executive Compensation Highlights: § 409(A) Drafting, Design, Corrections, and Severance
Nationwide on August 21, 2008
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)

Hot Summer Guidance for HSAs: What's in the "Grab Bag"?
Nationwide on July 31, 2008
presented by EBIA / Thomson Reuters

Pension, Profit Sharing, Welfare and Other Compensation Plans
in California on March 18, 2009
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)

Proposed Regulations on 401(k) Fee Participant Disclosure – Be Prepared Webcast
Nationwide on August 28, 2008
presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Section 409A Compliance and Corrections: Ask the Experts - Part II
Nationwide on October 29, 2008
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)

Summary Plan Descriptions for Health and Welfare Plans: A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing, Revising, and Distributing SPDs
Nationwide on September 11, 2008
presented by EBIA / Thomson Reuters



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Newport Reminds 403(b) Plan Sponsors About End-of-Year Deadline
Newport Group, The

New Research from EBRI: 401(k) Participant Experience May Hold Lessons for Consumer Engagement in Health Plans
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

Former Congressman Rob Portman and McKay Hochman Partner on Seminar
McKay Hochman

CFDD Launches New Online Advertising, Marketing & Web Development Services For Providers & Advisors
Center for Due Diligence

IFLC Announces Plan Sponsor Task Force
Investment Fiduciary Leadership Council (IFLC)

Industry Veteran Joins OneFiduciary Group, LLC
OneFiduciary Group, LLC

HealthFitness’ HRA Detects Health Risks of Client’s Global Employees
HealthFitness



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