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September 11, 2008

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


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Obama's Health Insurance Coverage Guarantee
Excerpt: "The Democratic presidential nominee is proposing a National Health Insurance Exchange that would be like a government-run shopping mall for health insurance. It would negotiate prices and benefits with private insurers. Among the offerings would be a government-run, Medicare-like plan. No participating company could turn someone away because he had cancer, heart disease or diabetes. Nor would someone have to pay a higher monthly premium based on those conditions." (AP via The New York Times; free registration required)


Sick Leave Payouts to Sarasota County, FL Employees Causing a Stir
Excerpt: "A plan to make onetime payments totalling $4 million to senior county employees would save money in the long run but is causing a stir in a work force that has endured a year of layoffs and small or nonexistent raises. The proposal by the county is to eliminate employee sick leave banks, which allow workers to save unused vacation and sick time to use if they have a long-term illness or to cash out when they retire. While 126 employees would get checks for at least $10,000, the county estimates it would save about $900,000 a year by getting rid of the perk." (HeraldTribune.com)


Recorded Webcast and Podcast: Health Care Consumerism — Duke Realty's Success Story
Excerpt: "In a Webcast on July 31, Duke Realty Corporation's health plan manager, Teresa Donaldson, and Towers Perrin Principal Tony Garavaglia took an in-depth look at how Duke Realty adopted a culture of health -- and saved nearly $1.5 million last year with an account-based health plan and supporting wellness programs. [Presentation slides are also available to download from the target page.]" (Towers Perrin)


Vaccinate to Reduce Health Costs
Excerpt: "Patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart failure and asthma are able to reduce instances of hospitalization by obtaining influenza vaccinations, a new CVS Caremark study shows." (Employee Benefit Advisor; free registration required)


Think-Tank Proposals Seek Tax-Code Reform to Broaden Consumer Ownership of HSAs
Excerpt: "In an Aug. 1 posting at his health policy blog (www.john-goodman-blog.com), John C. Goodman, founder and president of nonprofit D.C.-based research group National Center for Policy Analysis, sketched out a proposal for a 'universal health savings account.'" (AISHealth.com)


New York State Physicians' Practices Influenced by Insurers' Guidelines, Survey Finds
Excerpt: "Ninety percent of New York state physicians who responded to a survey have changed the way they treat patients because of restrictions imposed by health insurance companies, according to a survey released on Monday by the Medical Society of the State of New York, the Albany Times Union reports. More than 1,200 physicians in the state responded to the survey, which appears in this month's issue of the society's publication, News of New York." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Employers Offering Deals for Workers Who Travel Domestically for Medical Care
Excerpt: "The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday examined how some employers 'are looking to take advantage of the geographical variations in quality and cost of health care within the U.S.,' and others are 'leveraging deals they've struck with foreign hospitals in order to secure better rates with U.S. hospitals.' Some employers are offering incentives to workers who agree to travel within the U.S. for care, including no out-of-pocket costs, which can save workers thousands of dollars, as well as money for travel expenses and access to concierge services, the Journal reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Onsite Health Services Get High Employer Rankings, According to Survey
Excerpt: "A Hewitt news release about its new poll of 248 large and mid-size companies said employers with the onsite offerings believed they best achieved their intended results aimed at improving employee health and productivity. Eighty-one percent of companies that offer onsite clinics said they were satisfied with the results they achieved from the programs and 95% were satisfied with onsite pharmacies." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Senate Finance Committee Members Push for Compromise on Mental Health Parity Legislation
Excerpt: "The Senate Finance Committee has begun discussing potential funding offsets for a compromise on mental health parity legislation passed by the House and Senate earlier in the 110th Congress, CongressDaily reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Rep. Stark Prepared to Introduce Legislation This Week to Spur Nationwide Adoption of Electronic Health Records
Excerpt: "House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) this week plans to introduce a bill intended to encourage nationwide adoption of electronic health record technology that will include a provision to impose penalties on health care providers who fail to do so, CQ Today reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] Is ERISA Preemption Coming to the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act?
Excerpt: "You know that theme music from the movie Jaws? Cue it up - the sharks are circling the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act. Hard on the heels of the recent reports that the state is going to have to increase the financial obligations of employers to maintain the near universal coverage called for by the act comes this story ['Business and consumer groups debate minimum insurance standards,' The Boston Globe, September 9, 2998] noting the same thing I said yesterday, that increasing the obligations the act imposes on employers will likely provoke a preemption challenge." (Stephen Rosenberg of The McCormack Firm, LLC)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Employee Benefits Update, September 2008 (PDF)
5 pages. This issue examines the following topics: Same-sex marriage; LaRue decision and lawsuits against plan fiduciaries; Section 404(c) compliance; Finding and fixing qualified plan mistakes; 7-day safe harbor for forwarding employee contributions to small plans; and, IRS opens determination letter cycle for preapproved defined contributions plans. (Snell & Wilmer LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Revenue Procedure May Provide New Automatic Change in Accounting Method for Employee Bonuses
Excerpt: "Revenue Procedure 2008-52 creates a new automatic accounting method change for employee bonuses, which may allow employers that have been using an impermissible accounting method to switch to a permissible method in some situations. This is effective for change requests filed on or after August 18, 2008 for a year of change ending on or after December 31, 2007. The revenue procedure and Announcement 2008-84 provide some transition rules for requests previously filed and for some not yet filed." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] IRS PLR Illustrates Factors Used to Determine If Worker Is Employee Subject to Federal Employment Taxes
Excerpt: "Relying on the factors enumerated in Treasury Regulations, IRS has issued a private letter ruling illustrating the application of three key categories – behavioral control, financial control and the parties' relationship – in determining whether a worker is an employee subject to FICA, FUTA and income tax withholding. Private Letter Ruling 200835025, Issued May 21, 2008 (Released August 29, 2008)." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


Domestic Partner Benefits: Facts and Background, September 2008 Update (PDF)
Pages 10- of 16 pages. Excerpt: "Most employers that offer domestic partner benefits to their workers offer a range of only low-cost benefits, such as family/bereavement/sick leave, relocation benefits, access to employer facilities, and attendance at employer functions. However, most public attention involving domestic partner benefits concerns employers that offer health insurance coverage to domestic partners." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Learn how to use ftwilliam.com's plan document software
Nationwide on September 11, 2008
presented by ftwilliam.com

National ERISA Fiduciary ExecuSummit
in New York on November 4, 2008
presented by ExecuSummit

New DOL Fee Disclosures Rules For Service Providers
in District of Columbia on September 24, 2008
presented by WEB (Worldwide Employee Benefits Network) Washington Chapter



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

ASPPA Proposes Improvements for Longevity of Retirement Savings
ASPPA (American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries)

U.S. Labor Department Obtains Civil Contempt Order Against Trustees Of California-Based Health Benefit Fund
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Council Tells DOL Panel: Participant Education Essential To Addressing ‘Decumulation’ Problem
American Benefits Council



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