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August 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 SunGard

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[Guidance Overview] Towers Perrin U.S. Legislative Tracking Charts -- Health and Welfare -- Updated August 12, 2008 (PDF)
23 pages. Excerpt: "These charts summarize selected federal legislation that would affect employee benefit programs. The bills included on the charts are based on judgments regarding the prominence of the issue, the likelihood of enactment, and the influence of the sponsors." (Towers Perrin)

Catamount Health: A Solution for Vermont Small Businesses (PDF)
25 pages. Excerpt: "Rising health care costs are forcing small businesses to make changes in the health care coverage they provide for employees . . . . This telephone survey, conducted in March-April 2008, found that small businesses in Vermont have experienced increases in their health insurance premiums over the past several years and would be interested in enrolling in Catamount Health, a private health plan currently offered to uninsured individuals, if it were made available to them." (AARP)

Raytheon Is Ordered to Restore Health Benefits to Early Retirees
Excerpt: "In a decision that a union group says may set an important legal precedent, a federal judge has ruled that Raytheon Missile Systems must restore health-care benefits to its employees who took early retirement. The ruling, in U.S. District Court for Arizona, was called on Thursday a 'major victory for Raytheon retirees' by the International Association of Machinists Local 933, the AFL-CIO-affiliated union that represents Raytheon's hourly employees." (Arizona Daily Star)

Investment Trusts for Other Post-Employment Benefits (PDF)
3 pages. Excerpt: "GASB 45 forces public employers to calculate a liability for their other post-employment benefits (OPEB). The cost of this liability can be staggering. What's a public employer to do? A GASB trust offers one option for prefunding these benefits." (Milliman)

Consumer-Driven Health Insurance Marketplace Continues to Grow
Excerpt: "According to Mercer, the percentage of all employers offering a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP) grew by one percentage point, from 6% to 7%, in 2007. Mercer also found that enrollment in CDHPs jumped from 3% to 5% of all covered employees, reflecting growing enrollment in existing plans, as well as the establishment of new plans." (Wolters Kluwer)

Drug Therapy Often Trumps Angioplasty, Study Finds
Excerpt: "The slim early advantage for angioplasty at relieving pain in these nonemergency cases starts to fade within six months and vanishes after three years, according to a new report from a landmark heart study. That is sooner than the five years doctors estimated last year after their first analysis of the study. The new information comes from patients' own reports of how they fared after treatment. Results are in today's New England Journal of Medicine." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Employers Seek to Gain from Weight-Loss Surgery
Excerpt: "With six in 10 American adults overweight or obese, benefit managers are desperately looking for ways to save money on the long-term costs associated with obesity-related diseases such as heart failure, high blood pressure and diabetes." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Small Number of Companies Finding New Value in Offering Retiree Health Care Benefits
Excerpt: "Employers who want to extend retiree health care fall into two camps. One believes that continuing to offer such a benefit is key in giving them an edge in recruiting. The other camp is made up of organizations that want to continue to offer retiree coverage to encourage older workers to retire, rather than continue working just to have health benefits." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Wellness Programs Can Lower Cost of Health Care Benefits, According to Study
Excerpt: "The most effectual benefits programs reflect employee involvement in determining which benefits to offer. Successful wellness programs also allow employees to tailor programs to fit their needs and continually survey employees on their satisfaction with their benefits . . . ." (Financial Week; free registration required)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Official Guidance] Correction to IRS Proposed Regs on Information Reporting of Statutory Stock Options per Code Section 6039 (PDF)
1 page; seems to be insignificant grammar corrections only although one correction eliminates a potentially confusing incorrect statutory reference. (Internal Revenue Service)

[Guidance Overview] Towers Perrin U.S. Legislative Tracking Charts -- Human Resources -- Updated August 12, 2008 (PDF)
15 pages. Excerpt: "These charts summarize selected federal legislation that would affect employee benefit programs. The bills included on the charts are based on judgments regarding the prominence of the issue, the likelihood of enactment, and the influence of the sponsors." (Towers Perrin)

[Guidance Overview] ERISA Release Enforceable
Excerpt: "Frommert v. Conkright, ___F.3d___(2d Cir. July 24, 2008), is an interesting case. The 2d reversed the lower court and held that release forms signed by employees in exchange for their receipt of severance barred them from asserting ERISA claims. Despite acknowledging the broad language of the release, the lower court held that the releases did not bar litigation because of the lack of clarity in the release." (Adjunct Law Prof Blog)

San Francisco Transit Break Would Reduce Payroll Taxes
Excerpt: "San Francisco employers are likely to face new legislation requiring them to provide employees with the opportunity to use pretax earnings to pay for passes on public transportation." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Beach Erosion on the ERISA Waterfront
Excerpt: "These are interesting times for those who contend for clients along the Maginot Line of ERISA's preemption provisions. Never a particularly easy line to follow, the perimeter has become increasingly uneven on several fronts. [These include provider reimbursement cases, equitable or promissory estoppel, state prohibitions on discretionary clauses, and state law actions against service providers.]" (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

Newly Posted Events
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2008 Chicago Advanced Pension Conference - Early Registration Discount Extended to 8/15/08.
in Illinois on September 3, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Newly Posted Press Releases
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NTSAA Names Ron Wilson As Executive Director
National Tax Sheltered Accounts Association

Survey: Most Companies Pay for Employee Tuition, Professional Development

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International Consulting Associate
for Towers Perrin
in IL

Client Service Representative - Consultative
for Unifi Companies - Union Central Life, Ameritas Life, and Acacia Life
in OH

Senior Compensation Analyst
for ESPN, Inc.
in CT

Director, Defined Contribution Solutions
for ULLICO Inc.
in DC

Benefits Administrator
for Randstad, on-site at Discovery Communications
in MD

Compliance Analyst
for Wachovia
in MN

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