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August 28, 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] Summary of IRS Notice 2008-59 Providing Updated Guidance Regarding Health Savings Accounts
Excerpt: "Notice 2008-59 provides answers to 42 questions clarifying and illustrating rules regarding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) as they relate to eligible individuals, high deductible health plans (HDHPs), contributions, distributions, prohibited transactions, establishing an HSA and HSA administration. Notice 2008-59 responds to questions which have arisen regarding HSAs since the IRS last provided guidance in 2004 with Notice 2004-2 and Notice 2004-50." (Pepper Hamilton LLP)


[Guidance Overview] IRS's Question-and-Answer Guidance on HSAs
Excerpt: "In Notice 2008-59, the IRS provides much-anticipated guidance on health savings accounts (HSAs). The guidance clarifies which onsite health clinic services cancel out HSA eligibility and when employers can recoup HSA contributions, as well as addressing other eligibility issues, high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), contributions, distributions and prohibited transactions. While some of the information restates earlier guidance, the notice fills in some gaps and provides new guidance as well." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


[Guidance Overview] Should Employer Claims Against Stop Loss Carriers for Processing Errors & Delays Be Preempted by ERISA?
Excerpt: "This test for preemption, noted in Bank of La. v. Aetna US Healthcare, Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58090 (E.D. La. July 31, 2008). This framing of the preemption requirements, not uncommon, appears at odds with finding that an employer's allegations of delays in claims processing are preempted. The reason for thinking that the claims are preempted stems, I believe, from a misconception of the nature of stop loss insurance." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)


Highlights of Health Savings Accounts
Excerpt: "HSA money is mostly subject to the same investment rules as IRA money. 'Most quality administrators offer an investment option to clients when their accounts meet a certain threshold,' . . . . 'Investment options include mutual funds, asset allocation models and brokerage accounts. Current law prohibits certain types of investments, including rare coins, art and real estate.'" (Financial Planning)


Independent WHO Study Backs Universal Health Care
Excerpt: "Major inequalities in health and life expectancy persist worldwide, according to an independent World Health Organization commission which on Thursday called for all countries to offer universal health care." (Reuters via The New York Times; free registration required)


Health Plans: Hospital-Physician Price and Quality Transparency
Excerpt: "Responding to large employers' interest in greater health care price and quality transparency, health plans are developing consumer tools to compare price and quality information across hospitals and physicians, but the tools' pervasiveness and usefulness are limited, according to findings from the Center for Studying Health System Change's (HSC) 2007 site visits to 12 nationally representative metropolitan communities." (Center for Studying Health System Change)


Alabama Fights Fat, Media with New Screening Program
Excerpt: "Alabama's effort to expand its health screening program has taken over the Web recently. And while most outlets pounced on the 'fees for fat' angle, the program's steward says the media frenzy got it all wrong. . . . The state has been screening workers for 15 years and finds that 10% to 15% of at-risk employees are completely unaware of their health threat. The goal . . . is to make sure everyone gets screened. 'It's not a surcharge, it's a premium discount . . . .'" (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)


Idaho Public Employee Retiree Health Benefits - Changes To Come with GASB 45
Excerpt: "For most retirees the financial changes may not be so dramatic, but it could be for those with expensive medications. For everyone, the limitations and changes in their plan may be disruptive, because they'll be going from a premium state plan to Medicare. The legislation is coming up this session. If it passes, as is, it will take effect January 2010." (KIDK.com)


Lower Medical Cost Trend Rate Is Good News, Bad News for Health Plans and Employers
Excerpt: "First, the good news: The annual medical trend rate for health care in 2008 increased by its lowest percentage since 2001. The bad news: The average increase is still in the double digits and is three times the Labor Dept.'s Consumer Price Index, according to results of a study released Aug. 11 by Aon Corp." (AISHealth.com)


Corrective Action Plan and $100,000 Fine Illustrate Tougher HHS Stance on HIPAA Enforcement
Excerpt: "For the first time, a covered entity (CE) under the privacy and security rules has made a $100,000 payment to Uncle Sam and agreed to subject itself to three years of monitoring by HHS for losing unencrypted laptop computers and backup data more than two years ago." (AISHealth.com)


Some Hospitals Require Insured Patients to Make Larger Upfront Payments for Elective Procedures, Surgeries
Excerpt: "The South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Tuesday examined how across the U.S., 'some insured patients are being asked by hospitals to pay larger portions of their bills upfront -- and sometimes hospitals will not do the procedures until they get their copayments.'" (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] We Need a National Market for Health Insurance
Excerpt: "Freeing Americans to buy health insurance across state lines would give people more choices in health care. And giving individuals a direct tax break for purchasing coverage would put armies of consumers to work to find affordable policies. That would force states to lighten their regulations or lose out to other, less regulated states. The complex problems in our health sector are best cured by a bigger dose of market competition, not more government intervention." (The Wall Street Journal)


[Opinion] Comments to Massachusetts Connector Board on Minimum Creditable Coverage Requirements (PDF)
7 pages. Excerpt: "The proposed minimum creditable coverage (MCC) guidance approved by the Connector Board in July provides valuable and welcome guidance in many areas. However, we are concerned about the impact these requirements will have on the Massachusetts employees and retirees of many national employers. As of the date of these comments, we have reviewed the health programs of approximately 20 large national employers, several of whom are headquartered in Massachusetts. Although these employer plans provide comprehensive benefits, most of the employer programs we have reviewed have one or more options that fail to satisfy the MCC requirements based on the regulations and the comments we have received from the Connector." (Buck Consultants)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

U.S. Companies Move to Make Executive Pay More Shareholder Friendly
Excerpt: "Companies are moving to make their executive pay programs more appealing to shareholders, according to an analysis of proxy statements released earlier this year. Survey findings show that companies are also looking at overhauling portions of their executive benefit plans and severance policies." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


Mayor Signs San Francisco Commuter Mandate
Excerpt: "San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has signed an ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind for a municipality, that requires employers to offer employees at least one of three commuter benefit options." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Boeing Agrees to Keep Pension
Excerpt: "The Boeing Co.'s second contract proposal to the Machinists union does not include its request to close its pension plan to new employees. According to the Everett (Washington) Herald, the company said on Tuesday that it had eliminated three out of four of the issues the Machinists said they would strike over: pension for new employees, retaining Wichita in the bargaining unit, and outsourcing. The company is still attempting to eliminate early retiree medical benefits for Machinists hired after January 1, 2010." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

DOL Issues IRA/401(k) Advice Guidance
Nationwide on September 9, 2008
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

Fundamentals of Employee Benefits Law -- On site in Orlando or via live webcast!
Nationwide on March 5, 2009
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Cost of Caring for Aging Parents Could Be Next Financial Crisis
AgingCare.com



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in NY

Regional Director, GS-1801-15
for U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration
in KY

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in CA

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in VA

Retirement Counselors
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in UT

Product Manager
for Merrill Lynch
in NJ

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for Fiserv ISS
in CO

Director of Benefits
for OfficeMax Inc.
in IL

Pension - 401(k) - Retirement Plan Administrator / Consultant
for SuperiorUSA (TPA Firm)
in MN, WI




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