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September 10, 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] Does HSA Custodian/Trustee Have to Verify Whether HSA Distributions Are Used for Qualified Medical Expenses?
Excerpt: "No. IRS Notice 2004-2, Q&A-29 states that HSA custodians/trustees are not required to determine whether HSA distributions are used for qualified medical expenses. Individuals who establish HSAs make that determination and should maintain records of their medical expenses sufficient to show that the distributions have been made exclusively for qualified medical expenses and are therefore excludable from gross income." (Wolters Kluwer)

[Guidance Overview] Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Bill (PDF)
5 pages. Excerpt: "The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (H.R. 493) (GINA) balances the benefit of using genetic information for medical advances and care management with the potential for harm that could be caused by the misuse of genetic information. Through a bipartisan effort, Congress reduced the potential for harm by creating federal standards for prohibited and permitted uses by insurers and employers of an individual's genetic information." (American Health Lawyers Association via Powell Goldstein LLP)

[Guidance Overview] New Standards Cast Light on Governments' Post-Employment Liabilities
Excerpt: "Two GASB statements are sending ripples through American governmental finance. The statements establish clear, stringent standards for measuring and disclosing non-pension post-employment benefits provided -- employee benefits that are largely related to health care. Statement no. 45, Accounting and Financial Reporting by Employers for Postemployment Benefits Other Than Pensions, and its companion Statement no. 43, Financial Reporting for Postemployment Benefit Plans Other Than Pension Plans, demand budgetary transparency of state and local governments." (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants)

Massachusetts' Proposed Rule Could Lead to Federal Lawsuit, Partners Healthcare Warns
Excerpt: "Massachusetts' largest private employer Partners HealthCare on Friday warned that the state could face a federal lawsuit if it implements a proposed rule to increase some companies' contributions to their workers' health coverage, the Boston Globe reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Employee Misses FMLA Coverage Threshold by 12 Minutes
Excerpt: "Our own Paul Secunda sent me the BNA report on this FMLA case. It's a doozy. Late last week, the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion in Pirant v. U.S. Postal Services, considering whether the employee there was covered by the FMLA." (Workplace Prof Blog)

Britain Considers Bigger Role for Private Health Insurance
Excerpt: "In Britain, long the home of publicly funded health care, the health system may be taking on a more private-sector look, with employers potentially picking up more of the tab. Top government officials are discussing a policy proposal known as 'top-ups' for the National Health Service in England and Wales, which would allow insurers to offer NHS patients coverage for treatment, particularly expensive drugs, not covered by the service." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Checking Up on FMLA Leave Takers
Excerpt: "A recent court case upheld an employer's right to use surveillance to check up on employees suspected of abusing FMLA leave. Companies seeking to be more aggressive in fighting FMLA fraud should be careful about their actions, however, experts caution." (Human Resource Executive Online)

Wellness Program Participation Rates Vary by Industry
Excerpt: "According to a new study by Gordian Health Solutions, some industries enjoy more wellness program participation success than others. Those industries less apt to have robust participation may require a more aggressive approach, while sectors more open to wellness and health coaching programs may not. 'Organizations considering implementing or revamping a wellness initiative should look at best practices within their respective industry sector to see what worked and what didn't work . . . .'" (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)

Long-Term Care Insurance and Tax Planning - Make the Most of Tax Rules for Premiums and Benefits
Excerpt: "The number of baby boomers in or near retirement is rising, and so too is the demand for long-term care (LTC) insurance. Depending on the age of the insured, such coverage can be expensive, but fortunately for them, Congress and some states have provided income tax incentives for the purchase of certain LTC insurance policies -- called 'qualified' LTC contracts -- in IRC ß 7702B." (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants)

New Long Term Care Insurance Tax Break on Table
Excerpt: "A bill recently was introduced that would provide a tax credit for long term care insurance premiums. Introduced by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and called the Long-Term Care Family Accessibility Act, S 3365 joins a handful of others seeking tax deductions for the costs associated with long term care." (Investment News; free registration required)

Employment Rates, Economic Factors Could Decrease Access to Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage for Younger Workers
Excerpt: "The percentage of U.S. residents younger than age 65 who had health coverage through their employer remained at 62.2% between 2006 and 2007, but that percentage likely will decline in 2008, according to a Employee Benefit Research Institute report, the Kansas City Star reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Business and Consumer Groups Debate Minimum Health Insurance Standards for Massachusetts
Excerpt: "The business and consumer groups testified at a public hearing of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, a state board that regulates health insurance coverage. The Connector's draft plans are part of an overhaul of the state's health care system that requires nearly every resident to have health insurance. The board is scheduled to adopt the new regulations in October, and they would take effect Jan. 1. The rules define the minimum benefits a health insurance plan must include to be sold in Massachusetts." (The Boston Globe)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Audio: ERISA Fiduciaries - Ways to Avoid Costly Litigation
Excerpt: "On August 26, David Levin with Gallagher Benefit Services hosting presented a webinar in which it focused on the amount of litigation under ERISA brought against employee benefit plan sponsors, administrators and fiduciaries has increased significantly and how it is more important than ever for plan fiduciaries to formulate and adopt strategies to avoid benefit plan litigation." (Drinker Biddle)

Reduced Exit Packages Urged for Ousted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Executives
Excerpt: "Senator Barack Obama and two other prominent Democrats urged federal housing regulators on Tuesday to cut the golden parachutes of the ousted leaders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, another sign that the government bailout of those mortgage giants could reverberate through the presidential campaign." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Mortgage Giants' Employees Being Encouraged to Stay
Excerpt: "A spokeswoman for the agency said the new plan would include retention bonuses. Known as 'pay-to-stay' bonuses, these awards typically are given to about a fourth of a company's work force. Some staffers have a chance to make twice as much if they 'stick around, the company does well and you do particularly well in your role . . . .'' (The Wall Street Journal)

A White Paper on American Workers' Struggles to Attain Financial Security (PDF)
13 pages. Excerpt: "This study from Alliant Credit Union and The International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS) finds that American workers are struggling to get ahead financially and they're looking to their employer for help. American workers are struggling to gain control over their financial lives and many are living from paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, employers are not offering the kind of assistance that can aid employees with achieving financial wellness." (International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists)

Experts Dispute Perils of Nation's Debt
Excerpt: "'When compared with the balance sheet of the nation,' deficits are 'minuscule,' said James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas who essentially ignores the $4.2 trillion in intragovernmental debt. 'Debts from one government agency to another are, of course, merely accounting,' he said. An opposing school of thought predicts dire consequences. 'National debt is growing at an alarming rate at the same time that people will begin to rely on the government for Social Security and Medicare more and more,' said Addison Wiggin, co-author of the book 'Empire of Debt' and executive producer of the documentary 'I.O.U.S.A.,' which is playing at theaters throughout the country." (The Washington Times)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Abandoned Plan Program Workshop
in Maryland on September 16, 2008
presented by U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Abandoned Plan Program Workshop
in Pennsylvania on September 18, 2008
presented by U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program Workshop
in Maryland on September 16, 2008
presented by U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program Workshop
in Pennsylvania on September 18, 2008
presented by U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

The Optical Society Uses Total Compensation Statements To Help Employees Focus On Organizational Goals
Benefit Software Inc.

Council Describes For DOL Panel The Importance Of ďWin-WinĒ Flexible Retirement Programs
American Benefits Council

National Health Plan Collaborative Launches Online Toolkit to Assist Health Plans in Reducing Disparities
National Health Plan Collaborative

Texas Business Group on Health Releases Annual Report on the Status of Diabetes in Texas
Texas Business Group on Health

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Compliance Manager
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in AZ

Business Development Officer
for Strategies, LLC
in CO

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