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September 4, 2008

Here are the Web's best new links about compliance and cost aspects of plan operation, design and policy.


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[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Notice 2008-74: Extension of Time for Transit Systems to Comply with Voucher Requirements (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "The purpose of this notice is to delay the effective date of Revenue Ruling 2006-57 [which] provides guidance to employers on the use of smartcards, debit or credit cards, or other electronic media to provide qualified transportation fringes under Internal Revenue Code 132(a)(5) and 132(f). . . . [T]he ruling's effective date is . . . delayed until January 1, 2010. Nevertheless, employers and employees may rely on Revenue Ruling 2006-57 with respect to transactions occurring prior to January 1, 2010." (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] Privacy of Genetic Information and GINA in an Electronic Health Information Age: Issues for Employers
Excerpt: "[The Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act] does not go into effect until November 2009. This gives employers plenty of time to review their policies and procedures to make sure they are ready and in compliance. In most cases, this will not be a difficult or burdensome process. Employers should use the [check list on the target page] to ensure GINA compliance . . . ." (Nixon Peabody LLP)


Universal Health Care Promised by Democrats Initially Will Be Modest, Observers Predict
Excerpt: "Rather than quickly seeking enactment of a universal health care reform plan -- a costly and difficult venture, an Obama administration's first steps in the health care arena are likely to focus on expanding coverage through existing popular public programs." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Abstract: Awareness and Use of California's Paid Family Leave Insurance Among Parents of Chronically Ill Children
Excerpt: "Conclusions Parents of children with special health care needs receiving care at a California hospital were generally unaware of PFLI and rarely used it. Among parents of children with special health care needs, taking leave in California did not increase after PFLI implementation compared with Illinois." (The Journal of the American Medical Association)


Battle Brewing Over High-Deductible Plans
Excerpt: "A contractual battle pitting major health insurers in California against brokers and employers casts a bright light on whether recent attempts to assist employees with high-deductible health plans in the face of rising medical costs defeats the purpose of helping them spend out-of-pocket dollars more wisely a philosophical hallmark of the worksite market." (Employee Benefit News and SourceMedia, Inc.)


Workers to Pay More for Health Care, According to Study
Excerpt: "Get ready for another hike in copays and deductibles. A survey being released Thursday by the Mercer consulting firm found 59 percent of companies intend to keep down rising health care costs in 2009 by raising workers' deductibles, copays or out-of-pocket spending limits. On average, health care costs will go up by an estimated 5.7 percent next year for both workers and their employers, the study found. That repeats this year's 5.7 percent hike and a 6.1 percent jump in 2007." (The Houston Chronicle)


CMS's Summary of Proposed Mandatory Reporting Requirements Under the Medicare Secondary Payer Rule; Comments Requested
Excerpt: "Effective January 1, 2009, as required by the MMSEA, an entity serving as an insurer or third party administrator for a group health plan and, in the case of a group health plan that is self-insured and self-administered, a plan administrator or fiduciary must: (1) Secure from the plan sponsor and plan participants such information as the Secretary may specify to identify situations where the group health plan is a primary plan to Medicare; and (2) report such information to the Secretary in the form and manner (including frequency) specified by the Secretary." (International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)


Presence in Virtual Worlds Could Help Health Plans Achieve Real-World Behavior Change
Excerpt: "Second Life is a virtual world of avatars, sims and Linden dollars, and CIGNA, Corp., Partners HealthCare System, Inc. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are among the first health organizations to establish beachheads on its shores. But it's not, they say, because Second Life and other social networking media (e.g., Web sites) are new and flashy. Rather, their ventures are a response to changes in the way consumers are communicating and accessing health information." (AISHealth.com)


Coverage for Autism Therapy Prompts State Mandates and Lawsuits Against Blues Plans
Excerpt: "An explosion in the number of children diagnosed with autism has led to lawsuits against Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans and other carriers over health insurance coverage for controversial therapies. Concerns over autism therapy also have prompted several states, such as Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania, to enact new autism benefit mandates, forcing Blues plans to revise coverage policies." (AISHealth.com)


Wall Street Journal Examines Insurer WellPoint's Strategy To Raise Premiums, Retain Plan Members
Excerpt: "The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday examined how WellPoint CEO Angela Braly 'is attempting a delicate balancing act: raising premiums enough to placate investors but not so much as to send customers fleeing elsewhere.' According to the Journal, the 'conundrum of how to reassure investors that profit will be maintained without losing business is confronting the entire health insurance industry,' but 'the challenge is acute at WellPoint, which covers or administers health benefits for 35 million people across 14 states.'" (Kaiser Family Foundation)


President Bush Signs Law To Ensure Health Benefits for 'Sole Survivor' Veterans
Excerpt: "President Bush on Friday signed into law legislation (HR 5825, S 2874) that will guarantee health benefits for 'sole survivor' veterans who receive honorable discharges, the Los Angeles Times reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


HIPAA Update: HHS Proposes Adoption of ICD-10 Code Sets and Updated Electronic Transaction Standards
Excerpt: "The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a long-awaited proposed regulation that would replace the ICD-9-CM code sets now used to report health care diagnoses and procedures with greatly expanded ICD-10 code sets, effective Oct. 1, 2011. In a separate proposed regulation, HHS has proposed adopting the updated X12 standard, Version 5010, and the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs standard, Version D.0, for electronic transactions, such as health care claims. Version 5010 is essential to use of the ICD-10 codes." (International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)


[Opinion] Is American Health Care Uniquely Inefficient?
Excerpt: "The U.S. health system has been described as the most competitive, heterogeneous, inefficient, fragmented, and advanced system of care in the world. In this paper, we consider two questions: First, is the U.S. health care system productively efficient relative to other wealthy countries, in the sense of producing better health for a given bundle of hospital beds, physicians, nurses, and other factor inputs? Second, is the U.S. allocatively efficient relative to other countries, in the sense of providing highly valued care to consumers? For both questions, the answer is most likely no." (National Bureau of Economic Research; paid subscription or individual purchase required to retrieve fulltext)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Do Your Benefit Plans Comply With the HEART Act?
Excerpt: "The recently enacted Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (the 'HEART Act') provides tax relief and protections to members of the armed forces. This Act impacts a number of employee benefit plan provisions, and some provisions of the HEART Act will require employers to amend their benefit plan documents." (Poyner Spruill)


[Guidance Overview] San Francisco Will Require Employers to Offer Transportation Benefits (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law an ordinance that will require employers with at least twenty employees to offer their workers at least one of three transportation benefit options. Under the new mandate, employers must have appropriate programs in place by mid-January 2009." (Buck Consultants)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

ASPPA's QPFC Program Informational Webcast
Nationwide on September 24, 2008
presented by American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA)

Cafeteria Plans: Complying with New IRS Regulations by 1/1/09 Mandatory Deadline Webcast
Nationwide on September 18, 2008
presented by ALI-ABA (American Law Institute-American Bar Association)

Employee Plan Examination Priorities
in Illinois on September 19, 2008
presented by Chicago Bar Association, The

EPCRS 2008: A New Look
Nationwide on September 23, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Investments and Fees: The New Disclosure Regulation - A Repeat Presentation
Nationwide on September 16, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Second Annual Executive Compensation Institute
in Illinois on September 9, 2008
presented by Chicago Bar Association, The

The Relius 403(b) Prototype: Making It Work for You - A Special Two-Part Web Seminar
Nationwide on October 1, 2008
presented by SunGard Relius

Voluntary Insurance Products in the Workplace: Avoiding Pitfalls and Limiting Employer Obligations
Nationwide on October 2, 2008
presented by EBIA / Thomson Reuters



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

The SPARK Institute Releases Answers To Technical Questions Regarding Its 403(b) Plans Information Sharing Best Practices
SPARK Institute

U.S. Institutional Investors Boost Ownership of U.S. Corporations to New Highs, Reports The Conference Board
The Conference Board

Sentinel Financial Group Partners With Evolution Benefits
Sentinel Financial Group



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Client Relationship Manager
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Actuarial Analyst
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Plan Consultant Opportunity
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RPSS Compliance Specialist
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in WI

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in MA, NY

Assistant Manager
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in DE

Account Manager, Retirement Plans
for Cammack LaRhette Consulting
in MA, NY

401(k) Pension Administrator for DC Balance Forward Plans
for Ingham Retirement Group
in FL, SC

OmniPlus Consultants
for Szymborski Sharpless & Co, PC.
in ANY STATE

Investment Advisor
for The Standard
in TX

TPA Operations Manager
for Provident Group
in NV

401(k) Pension Administrator
for Altigo Pension Services, Inc.
in NJ




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