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September 3, 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] When There Is More Than One Authorized Signer on a Health Savings Account
Excerpt: "If a Health Savings Account (HSA) owner allows his/her spouse to be an authorized signer on the account, does that make the HSA a joint HSA? No, there is no such thing as a joint HSA." (Wolters Kluwer)

[Guidance Overview] New Guidelines Proposed for HIPAA Transaction Standards
Excerpt: "The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed two rules to update transaction standards and code sets for the administrative simplification provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of (HIPAA). The proposed rules appeared in the August 22 Federal Register." (Wolters Kluwer)

[Guidance Overview] 'Metlife v. Glenn': The Court Addresses a Conflict Over Conflicts in ERISA Benefit Administration (PDF)
11 pages. Excerpt: "A case concerning disability benefits could have important ramifications for how health benefits are administered as well. . . . This paper analyzes the history of the conflict in the courts over this issue; the Supreme Court's resolution of it in MetLife; and the implications of this decision for plans, beneficiaries, and health policy." (Health Affairs)

Paid Sick Days Highly Valued by Employees
Excerpt: "More than three-quarters of workers view paid sick days as a basic right of employment that should be guaranteed by the government, according to a survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center and funded by the Public Welfare Foundation. About 77% of workers say having paid sick days is 'very important,' while 86% think that employers should be required by law to provide them." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Few California Workers Aware of Family Leave Law, According to Study
Excerpt: "Four years after California gave workers the right to take paid time off to care for a sick family member, workers are largely unaware of the benefit and fewer have taken time off, according to a study . . . . by the Rand Corp. to be published in the September 3 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association [which] says only 18 percent were aware that the paid-family-leave law existed. Five percent have taken time off." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Annual Statistical Report on the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, 2007
Excerpt: "Size and Scope of the Social Security Disability Program: Disability benefits were paid to more than 8.1 million people. Awards to disabled workers (804,787) accounted for about 90 percent of awards to all disabled beneficiaries (901,114). In December, payments to disabled beneficiaries totaled almost $7.8 billion. Benefits were terminated for 522,349 disabled workers. Supplemental Security Income payments were another source of income for about 1 out of 6 disabled beneficiaries." (U.S. Social Security Administration)

Companies Offering On-Site Health Care
Excerpt: "While many manufacturers historically had doctors or nurses around to treat injuries or give drug tests, the Cardone center follows a new template that offers work-site primary care plus preventive services such as vaccines, health screenings, and weight-loss counseling. Employers see the centers as an attractive perk for employees, but also a way to increase worker productivity and hold down health costs by treating problems early and efficiently." (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Tax Break on IRA-to-HSA Rollover May Have Little Impact on Enrollment
Excerpt: "In an effort to spur funding of health savings accounts, the Internal Revenue Service recently issued guidance on boosting HSA balances with money from individual retirement accounts. Individuals covered by a high-deducible health plan that also own a traditional or Roth IRA can make a one-time IRA-to-HSA funding transfer without facing federal income taxes or penalties. The transfer amount, however, cannot exceed the individual's maximum HSA contribution limit." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Newsweek Examines Whether Preventive Care Programs Proposed by Major Presidential Candidates Can Reduce Costs
Excerpt: "Newsweek on Monday examined whether preventive care programs proposed by Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) would reduce health care costs. According to both candidates, preventive care 'makes for healthier patients and lower health care costs,' but a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that such programs 'usually result in higher payouts, not lower ones,' Newsweek reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Federal Judge Approves VEBA Established Under Contract Between UAW and Ford
Excerpt: "U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland in Detroit on Friday approved a voluntary employees' beneficiary association plan established under a contract between the United Auto Workers and Ford Motor, Reuters reports. The VEBA, scheduled to begin in 2010, will assume responsibility for health benefits for about 200,000 Ford retirees represented by the union and their dependents, company officials said." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Business Week Examines Practice of Balance Billing by Medical Providers
Excerpt: "Business Week on Thursday examined how 'millions of confused consumers' are being asked by hospitals to pay the remaining balances of medical bills not covered by their insurers, even though the practice, called 'balance billing, often is illegal.' Balance billing can occur when 'medical providers participating in a managed care network believe the plan's insurer is imposing too deep a discount on medical bills or is taking too long to pay' and demands the balance from the patient, according to Business Week." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

[Opinion] Health Care Cost Worries Will Keep Workers on the Job
Excerpt: "Regardless of how the numbers are calculated -- and there are a multitude of ways to calculate those numbers -- the cost of health insurance is almost sure to delay retirement for many workers. Very few employees will have the means to easily pay for coverage when employer-provided health insurance concludes." (Dallas Salisbury via Human Resource Executive Online)

[Opinion] An Actuary Weighs the Candidates' Health Reform Proposals (PDF)
Excerpt: "The next president and Congress will need to address the many challenges facing the health care system, and the success of their efforts will depend on the approaches they use to attend to access, cost, and quality issues. I will focus on just a few aspects of the presidential candidates' plans." (Cori Uccello via Contingencies)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Official Guidance] Text of OMB Advance Notice of Proposed Regs on Harmonization of PPA Funding Rules with Federal Cost Accounting Standards for Contractor Reimbursement
Excerpt: "SUMMARY: The Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Cost Accounting Standards Board, invites public comments concerning an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the harmonization of Cost Accounting Standards 412 and 413 with the Pension Protection Act of 2006. DATES: Comments must be in writing and must be received by November 3, 2008." (U.S. Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Office of Management and Budget)

[Guidance Overview] IRS Issue Paper Concludes That Employee Tool and Equipment Plans Generally Fail Accountable Plan Rules
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: According to the IRS, tool plans, as described in the issue paper, don't work -- the conditions for income exclusion under the accountable plan rules are routinely failed. Furthermore, the IRS views the practice of temporarily recharacterizing wages as reimbursements until the employee's tool inventory is zeroed out (only to reinstate the original wage amount at that point) as a 'pattern of abuse' that bars accountable plan treatment. Of course, each tool plan should be reviewed to determine whether it differs from those described in the issue paper. But if it seems too good to be true, it probably is." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

Golf Club Dues and Other Executive Fringe Benefits Trimmed Way Back
Excerpt: "A growing number of companies are finding that there's a pretty simple way to avoid taking heat over lucrative fringe benefits that are dished out to top executives: Just pull the plug on perks. Now that the Securities and Exchange Commission requires companies to disclose executive benefits valued at more than $10,000, large corporations are shedding some of the smaller -- yet most frequently offered -- fringe benefits provided to their top officers." (Financial Week; free registration required)

New Intel Benefit Offers Free Homework Help
Excerpt: "Through a connection with, Intel offers free online homework help to the roughly 20,000 children and grandchildren of the company's U.S. employees.'s service allows students to access a virtual classroom where they can instant message with a tutor and utilize a virtual whiteboard to solve homework problems. The service is available on demand and operates 24/7." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Segal Examines What Motivates Employees of Different Ages
Excerpt: "The incentives that motivate 30-year-old employees are not going to have the same effect on their 60-year-old colleagues. Individuals from different age groups have diverse interests and needs. What exactly is it that motivates people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and older? The data from Sibson Consulting's 'Rewards of Work' study, based on 1,059 respondents, reveal the elements that employers can use to drive employee performance over the course of their careers." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

[Opinion] Funding Executive Plans: Good Planning or Pension Manipulation?
Excerpt: "A front page article in the August 4th edition of the Wall Street Journal outlines a method by which companies are transferring portions of their non-qualified deferred compensation obligations of senior executives into their qualified plans. . . . The program outlined in the Journal article may very well be reasonable. The IRS should examine this practice to determine whether it violates the anti-discrimination rules. If it does, the IRS should eliminate it administratively or request Congress to pass clarifying legislation." (Pension & Benefits Blog)

[Opinion] Happy (Belated) Birthday, ERISA!
Excerpt: "Today marks the 34th anniversary of the date that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, known to those in the field of pensions as ERISA, was signed into law. In a tribute to the workers who would be helped by the new law, that day, September 2, 1974, fell on Labor Day." (Pension Rights Center)

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

And Theyíre Off! Ė The Race to Gather QDIA Assets - An Assessment of Selection and Evaluation Criteria of QDIA Options by Plan Sponsors and Their Intermediaries
Chatham Partners

Employee Understanding and Adequacy Of Benefits Are Top Concerns for SERP Sponsors in Canada, Finds Buck Consultants Survey
Buck Consultants, an ACS Company

Fiduciary360 Introduces Enhanced Web-Based Training Program for Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) Designation
Fiduciary360 (fi360)

American Workers Overwhelmingly Support Paid Sick Days, Labor Day Survey Finds
University of Chicago

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Pension Administrator
for Primark Benefits
in CA

Pension Administrator
for Pension Administration Firm located in Westchester, NY
in NY

Plan Administrator/ Account Manager
for Pension Specialists, Inc.
in CA

Daily 401k Plan Administrator
for The Newport Group
in NC

Conversions Specialist
for The Newport Group
in NC

Pension Analyst
for T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc.
in MD

DC or DB Plan Administrator
for Derby and Company, Inc.
in MA

Defined Contribution Analyst I
for The Standard
in OH

Chairman of Administration Services for TPA Firm
for Dana Consulting Group, Ltd.
in IL

Sr. Defined Benefit Client Consultant
for Prudential Financial
in CT

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