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September 8, 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

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[Guidance Overview] What Employers Need to Know About the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "This new law prohibits genetic discrimination in two general areas Ė employment and health insurance. GINA amends several statutes, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ('HIPAA'), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ('ERISA'), the Public Health Service Act ('PHSA'), the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, and Title XVIII ('Medicare') of the Social Security Act." (Snell & Wilmer LLP)

[Guidance Overview] Failure to Furnish Enrollment Form and Other Documents Does Not Trigger ERISA Penalty
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: This case joins the numerous other reported cases and DOL advisory opinions that attempt to flesh out what documents fall into the catch-all phrase 'other instruments under which the plan is established or operated.' Administrative forms are a particularly gray area because they often contain information relating to claims determinations. Given this ambiguity, plan administrators may be well advised to disclose them to comply with their plan's claims procedures and to help avoid a costly dispute, regardless of the Sixth Circuit's clear rejection of statutory penalties for violations of the claims procedure rules." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

[Guidance Overview] Qualified Beneficiary's Incapacity May Extend Premium Payment Deadline and Require Reinstatement of COBRA
Excerpt: "EBIA Comment: Several courts have held that physical or mental incapacity can suspend otherwise applicable COBRA payment deadlines. COBRA plans should, therefore, have procedures in place to address claims of incapacity in connection with late payments." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)

Number of Retail Clinics Rises With High-Deductible Health Plans
Excerpt: "Once the consumer-driven health plan market started to ignite, so did the retail clinic industry. Today, there are nearly 1,000 such sites operating in the U.S., compared with about 100 in 2006." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

San Francisco Clarifies Health Care Spending Rules
Excerpt: "San Francisco regulators have provided further guidance on how to comply with a controversial ordinance that imposes a health care spending requirement on employers. The latest guidance, which was issued in response to questions from employers, clarifies how much employees must earn in order for them to qualify as exempt employees, for whom employers do not have to make the required contributions." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

California Companies and Brokers Tussle Over HRAs in Consumer Plans
Excerpt: "A dispute between health insurance companies in California and brokers could end a practice favored by small employers to save money on health coverage. The feud centers on employers' funding of health reimbursement arrangements with high-deductible health plans. Normally, high-deductible plans are used with health savings accounts, which are owned by employees and often partially funded by the employer to help defray an employee's health care costs." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

A Study on the Economic Impact of Bariatric Surgery
Excerpt: "Results: The mean bariatric surgery investment ranged from approximately $17,000 to $26,000. After controlling for observable patient characteristics, we estimated all costs to have been recouped within 2 years for laparoscopic surgery patients and within 4 years for open surgery patients. Conclusions: Downstream savings associated with bariatric surgery are estimated to offset the initial costs in 2 to 4 years. Randomized or quasiexperimental studies would be useful to confirm this conclusion, as unobserved characteristics may influence the decision to undergo surgery and cannot be controlled for in this analysis." (The American Journal of Managed Care)

NY Gov. Paterson Continues to Stress Fiscal Discipline Amid Recession
Excerpt: "[He vetoed] legislation that would have prevented municipalities from lowering health care spending on retired public employees." (The New York Times; free registration required)

You Can't Change What You Can't Measure: The Importance of Providing an Opportunity for Health Screening
37 pages. Excerpt: "At the core of any exemplary small business wellness initiative is the notion of providing each and every employee with the opportunity to take part in a personal health screening. In fact, a personal health screening opportunity is such an important component that it is virtually impossible to establish any type of effective wellness program without it." (Wellness Council of America)

Parental Leave Extended in Korea
Excerpt: "A revision to labor and gender equality law will allow couples to take parental leave for up to two years. This amendment came into effect on June 22, 2008." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

Addressing the Challenge of Funding Retiree Medical Benefits
Excerpt: "Although many Fortune 1000 companies continue to provide retiree medical coverage for their employees, costs are rising along with the challenges of determining the best way to fund these significant liabilities. Here is a summary of five primary funding approaches . . . ." (; free registration required)

[Opinion] Tax Code Should Treat All Health Insurance Coverage Equally
Excerpt: "The federal government is essentially providing more than $200 billion in taxpayer money to lock the purchase of health insurance into your job. The connection between the workplace and health care benefits creates unique challenges for small businesses and the self-employed by driving up the costs in the small-group and individual insurance markets. In addition, the tax code is simply unfair to self-employed people. Until recently, these individuals didn't receive any of the tax advantages of those who have health insurance through their employer." (Boston Business Journal via; free registration required)

[Opinion] Worklife Balance, Employee Benefits, and Google's Strange Choice Regarding Onsite Daycare
Excerpt: "Earlier in the summer, Google announced to its employees that it was going to have to raise the employee contribution to the cost of onsite daycare 75%. The tuition for an infant would rise from $1,425 per month to almost $2,500 per month and the tuition for preschoolers would rise from just over $1,000 per month to about $1,700 per month. This move would price many of the workers out of the benefit. The childcare didn't start much below market rates and would move to much above." (Workplace Prof Blog)

[Opinion] Return on Investment for Bariatric Surgery
Excerpt: "Bariatric procedures should not be held to a different standard than other medical or surgical interventions, regardless of what the return on investment might actually be. For example, no one asks to see a positive return on investment for treatment of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes mellitus, yet treatments for these conditions are covered in almost every health plan. The coverage decision should be based on whether or not the intervention can improve the condition in a cost-effective manner compared with other potential treatments." (The American Journal of Managed Care)

[Opinion] Letter to the Editor: Utilization Outcomes and Patient Cost Sharing
Excerpt: "The conclusions of Chernew and Newhouse's commentary on the effects of cost sharing (July 2008) were based on an inaccurate presentation of currently available research evidence." (The American Journal of Managed Care)

[Opinion] Americans Who Have Insurance ó But Still No Access to Care
Excerpt: "Some 56 million Americans do not have a regular source of care according to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) -- even though many of them do have insurance. The problem is a shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs) in many parts of the country, particularly, but not exclusively, in poorer communities." (The Century Foundation)

[Opinion] Some Thoughts on MetLife
Excerpt: "The Supreme Court held in MetLife vs. Glenn that conflicted interests require a higher standard of review whenever the claims adjudicator and the claims financier were the same. Thus, any claim contested in court will confer a significant advantage to the arrangement where the claims are adjudicated by an independent third party and paid by an independent employer. This means a disadvantage where the claims are both adjudicated and paid by the same two parties, such as employer's self-administered and self-funded plan or fully insured plans." (Passion for Subro)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

In Singapore, Stock Option Tax Exempted for Employees of Qualifying Start-Ups
Excerpt: "Employees of qualifying start-up companies will enjoy a 75 percent tax exemption on gains from stock options or share ownership plans under the Equity Remuneration Incentive Scheme (ERIS). ERIS will be available between February 16, 2008 and February 15, 2013." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)

Auditing Your Employee Benefits (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "[W]hile employee benefits are necessary to attract and retain strong employees, they are also one of the fastest growing elements of a company's cost structure. Here are some points you should consider to maximize benefits while reducing costs." (The Ohio State Bar Association via Thompson Hine LLP)

SEC Proposes Roadmap for U.S. Companies to Adopt International Accounting Standards (PDF)
Excerpt: "Significant differences in U.S. GAAP and IFRS accounting now exist, including requirements for employee benefit plans and stock-based compensation programs. The FASB and IASB have worked together over the last several years toward convergence of their accounting standards. In some cases, the Boards assigned major projects, such as changes to the reporting of financial performance, to teams that include members of both staffs. In other situations, the Boards have decided to take on projects such as accounting for employee benefit plans individually, but have closely monitored each other's progress and have, at times, focused on different aspects of the subject matter." (Buck Consultants)

Dutch Companies Seeking to Improve Reward Programs (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Employers in the Netherlands recognize the need to make improvements in their reward programs and are looking for ways to do so, according to a recent Towers Perrin survey of 60 Dutch companies representing a variety of industries. The survey comes at a time when the Dutch labor market is on the verge of fundamental change. Over the next decade, companies will be faced with more work and a smaller workforce, making it even more important to have effective reward strategies in place to meet ongoing business demands." (Towers Perrin)

DOL to Offer Free Fiduciary Workshops for Small Businesses
Excerpt: "The U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) will provide a free workshop this month to help small businesses, employers, employee benefit professionals and others understand their fiduciary responsibilities under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). [More information is online at]" (; free registration required)

[Opinion] New Teacher Pay Rule from IRS
Excerpt: "The reason for creating this rule is to allow teachers and other eligible public school employees to annualize their compensation. Typically, this allows a teacher to receive pay in equal amounts from the beginning of a school year (say, September) to the beginning of the next school year (say, the following August). The unwillingness of the IRS to extend the rule to non-teachers, incidentally, serves as an example of the clout of K-12 teachers and otherwise has absolutely no justification." (403(b)-457 Plans Blog)

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401(k) / Defined Contribution Administrator
for DATAIR Employee Benefit Systems, Inc.
in IL

Qualified Plan Consultant
for The Newport Group
in FL

for Georgia TPA Firm
in GA, TN

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