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September 16, 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] January 1, 2009 Proposed Effective Date for New Cafeteria Plan Regulations
Excerpt: "Cafeteria plan sponsors, their administrators and advisors will want to examine the need to bring their cafeteria plans into compliance with the proposed cafeteria plan regulations by January 1, 2009. At the time it proposed the regulations, IRS withdrew the prior Prop. Treas. Reg. 1.125-1 & 1.125-2, leaving the new proposals as the only existing regulatory guidance on most of the fundamental features of IRC 125 plans. Treas. Reg. 1.125-3 and -4 regarding the effect of the Family and Medical Leave Act on the operation of IRC 125 cafeteria plans and permitted mid-year election changes, respectively remain in effect." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] FMLA Leave Not Available for Care of Siblings
Excerpt: "One of your employees would like to take one month of leave to assist his sister after she returns home to recuperate from a serious injury. Does care of a sibling qualify as a reason to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?" (Wolters Kluwer)


Miller & Chevalier/American Benefits Council Corporate Health Care Policy Forecast Survey (PDF)
15 pages. Excerpt: "With the upcoming Presidential and Congressional elections, the public can expect candidates to focus on health care issues and reforms, including proposals that would fundamentally change employer-sponsored health benefits and potentially increase costs for companies and their workers. In light of the critical issues involved, [this] survey was designed to measure the perspectives of leading corporate benefit executives on the direction of health care policy in 2009. This survey includes respondents from a broad cross section of large U.S.-based companies, 75% of which are Fortune 500 and/or Global 100 businesses." (Miller & Chevalier Chartered)


Blending Better Ingredients for Health Reform
Excerpt: "This paper argues that a desirable health reform plan should accept some features that the Obama and McCain plans have in common, and combine other features from each of the plans. Useful combinations include the presence of both public and private options and a system of credits that are more generous for lower-income households (Obama) and creation of a system of public subsidies that is incentive-neutral across individual and group insurance, curtailment of the current tax subsidy to high levels of coverage for high-income households, and the use of targeted high-risk pools and guaranteed renewability rather than community rating (McCain)." (Health Affairs)


Cost and Coverage Implications of the McCain Plan to Restructure Health Insurance
Excerpt: "Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) health plan would eliminate the current tax exclusion of employer payments for health coverage, replace the exclusion with a refundable tax credit for those who purchase coverage, and encourage Americans to move to a national market for nongroup insurance. Middle-range estimates suggest that initially this change will have little impact on the number of uninsured people, although within five years this number will likely grow as the value of the tax credit falls relative to rising health care costs. Moving toward a relatively unregulated nongroup market will tend to raise costs, reduce the generosity of benefits, and leave people with fewer consumer protections." (Health Affairs)


The Obama Plan: More Regulation, Unsustainable Spending
Excerpt: "The health reform plan put forth by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) focuses on expanding insurance coverage and provides new subsidies to individuals, small businesses, and businesses experiencing catastrophic expenses. It greatly increases the federal regulation of private insurance but does not address the core economic incentives that drive health care spending. This omission along with the very substantial short-term savings claimed raise serious questions about its fiscal sustainability. Heavy regulation coupled with a fallback National Health Plan and a play-or-pay financing choice also raise questions about the future of the employer insurance market." (Health Affairs)


Studies Detail Contrasts in Rival Candidates' Health Care Plans
Excerpt: "The Tax Policy Center called its estimates for both plans preliminary because neither campaign has put out enough information to provide a full evaluation. Similarly, a pair of studies analyzing the candidates' plans, being published Tuesday in Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed policy journal, found many details lacking. But the campaigns have made clear what direction they would take the health-care system. The differences provide a sharp contrast for voters." (The Wall Street Journal)


Both Presidential Candidates' Health Proposals Hit Hard in New Survey
Excerpt: "Executives at U.S. corporations responsible for workplace health plans say they have looked at health reform proposals from both presidential candidates and don't care for either one. A news release from law firm Miller & Chevalier and the American Benefits Council trade group -- co-sponsors of a survey that reached 187 respondents -- said the two candidates' proposals would end up hurting employers' ability to keep providing workplace coverage." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Dallas Morning News Examines Influence of U.S. Health Care Economist John Goodman
Excerpt: "'Whatever Mr. Goodman's impact on the McCain health plan, those who know the economist say that he has influenced policy decisions in the GOP for years and that the comments stirring the recent controversy reflect decades-old conservative thinking,' the Morning News reports. Goodman recently said that all U.S. residents have health insurance because they can obtain care in emergency departments and that the 'next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American -- even illegal aliens -- as uninsured' (Roberson, Dallas Morning News, 9/13)." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


[Opinion] A Framework for Medicare Reform (PDF)
24 pages. Excerpt: "The most important domestic policy problem this country faces is health care. The most important component of that problem is Medicare. Forecasts by every federal agency that produces such simulations -- the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Social Security/Medicare Trustees, the General Accounting Office (GAO) -- show that we are on a dangerous and unsustainable path. Indeed, the question is not: Will reform take place? The question is: How painful will reform have to be?" (National Center for Policy Analysis)


[Opinion] Overview of the U.S. Health Sector
10 pages. Excerpt: "Four main problems in the health sector include: 1) the rising cost of insurance and medical care, 2) the large number of uninsured Americans, 3) balancing the demand for new and better medical technologies with cost, and 4) crushing paperwork and regulatory burdens." (Galen Institute)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] IRS Delays Effective Date of Guidance on Using Smartcards or Debit Cards for Mass Transit Benefits until January 1, 2010
Excerpt: "The IRS cited ongoing 'technology barriers to achieving compatibility with the requirements for vouchers' as its reason for extending the effective date a second time." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] New San Francisco & Massachusetts Guidance (PDF)
Excerpt: "New guidance or proposed revisions have been issued related to both the Massachusetts and San Francisco health care reform laws. In addition, San Francisco has established a new mandatory commuter benefit." (Groom Law Group)


No Golden Parachutes for Fannie, Freddie CEOs
Excerpt: "The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced Sunday that the former CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will not walk away with golden parachutes. The agency that regulates -- and now manages -- the two mortgage giants said it will not allow the former executives to walk away with multimillion-dollar severance packages." (Morning Edition via National Public Radio)


General Health Insurance System Established in Turkey
Excerpt: "A new social security and general health insurance law is expected to provide basic health services to the Turkish population. The changes will come into effect on October 1, 2008." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


New Employee Benefit: Access to a Financial Adviser
Excerpt: "[I]n recent years, prompted by a broad-based shift from pensions to defined-contribution plans such as 401(k)s, many employers have been providing workers with access to personalized services. The newest offerings are a free employee benefit, the companies say, and include one-on-one counseling and in-depth seminars provided by contracted professional advisory firms." (The Wall Street Journal)


Workers Want Better Benefits Selection Information
Excerpt: "Workers want personalized guidance from their employers, and welcome more interactive information sources, a new survey found. A MetLife news release said its 2008 Open Enrollment survey found employees are seeking more resources from employers to help them make the right decisions. Increasingly, employees are indicating that they would like greater access to benefits information, guidance and personalized support, which could allow them to conduct thorough research." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Employee Ownership Update for September 15, 2008
NCEO Executive Director Corey Rosen discusses the results of a new NCEO equity compensation survey (on stock options, etc.) that gathered responses from 80 non-ESOP companies and 54 ESOP companies, plus a bill to exclude employer stock received as part of a qualifying distribution from a defined contribution plan and then held for at least 10 years and sample 409(p) ESOP plan language from the IRS. (National Center for Employee Ownership)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Minnesota on September 24, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Wisconsin on September 26, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Wisconsin on October 1, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Wisconsin on October 3, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Arizona on October 16, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Kansas on October 22, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in District of Columbia on October 22, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Kansas on October 24, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Maryland on October 24, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Pennsylvania on October 29, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in California on October 29, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Wisconsin on October 29, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: Beyond the Essentials
in Massachusetts on October 31, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Minnesota on September 23, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Wisconsin on September 25, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Wisconsin on September 30, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Wisconsin on October 2, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Arizona on October 15, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Kansas on October 21, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in District of Columbia on October 21, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Maryland on October 23, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Kansas on October 23, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in California on October 28, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Wisconsin on October 28, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Pennsylvania on October 28, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Fall Tour: IRA Essentials
in Massachusetts on October 30, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Basic IRAs
Nationwide on October 2, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: Individual(k)Plans
Nationwide on October 9, 2008
presented by Ascensus

2008 Web/Telephone Seminar: IRA Excess Contributions
Nationwide on October 2, 2008
presented by Ascensus

Selected Hot Topics in Executive Compensation and under Section 409A
in California on October 16, 2008
presented by Western Pension & Benefits Conference - Orange County Chapter



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Stillwater Mining Company Engages Employees By Outsourcing Total Compensation Statements To Benefit Software Inc. (BSI)
Benefit Software Inc.

Costs for Prescription Drugs Under PBGH Plan Climb Less Than 6 Percent
Pittsburgh Business Group on Health

Equifax to Change U.S. Retirement Plan and Offer Enhanced 401(k) Plan
Equifax



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