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September 24, 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] 2008 Presidential Election: Candidates' Health Care Proposals, Updated 09/22/08 (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "After a long primary election season, Barack Obama (D) and John McCain (R) are the U.S. presidential candidates. Both candidates have articulated a position on health care reform, though some of their proposals are more detailed than others." (Hewitt Associates)


[Guidance Overview] 2008 Presidential Election: Candidates' Employment Proposals, updated 09/22/08 (PDF)
10 pages. Excerpt: "[T]he candidates have proposed changes to employer-paid leaves of absence [among other HR issues]." (Hewitt Associates)


[Guidance Overview] 9th Circuit Says No Vested Right to Health Benefits = No Standing = No Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Excerpt: "The 9th Circuit has held that the employer's ability to modify the vesting of early retiree health benefits deprived the retirees of standing, and thus deprived the District Court of subject matter jurisdiction over their claim of wrongful termination of those benefits." (Alaska Employment Law)


Employer Health Benefits 2008 Annual Survey
Excerpt: "This annual survey of employers provides a detailed look at trends in employer-sponsored health coverage, including changes in premiums, employee contributions, cost-sharing provisions, and other relevant information. The survey continued to document the prevalence of high-deductible health plans associated with a savings option and included new questions on the wellness programs and retiree health benefits offered by employers." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


RAND Testimony on Health Insurance Market Rating Practices (PDF)
7 pages. Testimony presented before the Senate Finance Committee on September 23, 2008 (RAND)


Corporate Wellness Programs Are All About the Bottom Line
Excerpt: "The American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimates a return of from $3 to $6 in health care cost savings for every $1 invested in a corporate-based wellness program over a two- to five-year period. So far, only about one-fourth of companies that have implemented employee wellness incentive programs have said in recent surveys that they've been able to track and document specific cost savings, but those who have are happy with the bottom line." (The Kansas City Star via NewsEdge via Human Resource Executive Online)


The True Cost of High-Deductible Health Plans for Communities of Color (PDF)
12 pages. Excerpt: "This issue brief discusses three serious concerns that make high-deductible health plans less helpful -- or even potentially harmful -- for racial and ethnic minorities: 1. Out-of-pocket costs in high-deductible plans are simply unaffordable for many racial and ethnic minorities. 2. The heavy costs of high-deductible plans will force many minorities to delay or avoid necessary care. 3. The barriers created by high-deductible plans will aggravate the health disparities that already plague many minority communities." (Families USA)


Worksite Clinics and Pharmacies Are Effective Employee Health Programs
Excerpt: "Health care services offered at the worksite, although not prevalent, are popular with employees and valued by employers for successfully improving employee health and productivity, according to a survey recently conducted by Hewitt Associates." (Wolters Kluwer)


An Aggressive Wellness Approach Based on Incentives, Incentives and More Incentives
Excerpt: "In times of economic crisis, it may seem counter-intuitive to employers to increase spending on wellness incentives. However, that's exactly what Lafarge North America -- a building materials firm headquartered in Paris with 8,500 U.S. employees - did, and the company was rewarded with positive results." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, H.R. 6983 (PDF)
36 pages. As of September 23, 2008. (U.S. House of Representatives via American Benefits Council)


Congress Backs Mental Health Parity in Insurance Coverage of Illnesses
Excerpt: "Congress on Tuesday moved close to final approval of a bill that would require group health insurance plans to provide more generous coverage for treatment of mental illnesses, comparable to what they already provide for physical illnesses." (The New York Times; free registration required)


Public Employee Retiree Health Plans: A National Assessment of the States (PDF)
32 pages. Excerpt: "In this report we examine each state's retiree health plan and attempt to organize the plans by their key characteristics. These characteristics include age and service requirements for coverage and the cost to the retiree and the state per retiree. We begin by providing an overview of the primary characteristics of the plans and then present a brief summary of each state's plan." (Center for State and Local Government Excellence)


New HIPAA Privacy Guidance on Communications with a Patient's Family, Friends, or Others
Excerpt: "The Department of Health and Human Services has released two new HIPAA privacy guides -- one for health care providers and one for consumers -- explaining when a provider may share a patient's health information with the patient's family, friends or others involved in the patient's care." (Mercer LLC)


Massachusetts Expands Mental Health Parity Law to Include Autism and Substance Abuse
Excerpt: "Massachusetts has expanded its mental health parity law to require individual and group insurers and HMOs to provide nondiscriminatory coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders, post traumatic stress disorders, substance abuse disorders and autism, which are biologically based mental disorders . . . ." (Mercer LLC)


Medical Tourism Business Projected To Grow Eightfold by 2010, Study Finds
Excerpt: "The number of people in the U.S. who plan to travel abroad for medical care, where the costs for various medical and surgical procedures often are comparatively lower, is projected to increase by eight times by 2010, according to a recent study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


New York Governor Wants Congress to Investigate Long Island Rail Road Disability Plan
Excerpt: "Gov. David A. Paterson Tuesday asked Congress to launch an investigation into possible abuses of a federal disability compensation plan by employees of the Long Island Rail Road. Paterson's call came on the same day that a member of the obscure federal agency that has been recently criticized for rubberstamping LIRR disability claims spoke out against 'an outdated ... system that desperately needs fixing.'" (Newsday)


[Opinion] The Truth Behind the Census Bureau's Health Insurance Figure
Excerpt: "It's true that far too many Americans go without health insurance. And that is a serious problem. But the Census Bureau figure shouldn't be presented as anything other than what it really is: an imprecise snapshot of a heterogeneous group of Americans, many of whom wouldn't benefit from additional government intrusion into the healthcare market." (The Examiner)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Official Guidance] Correction to Final IRS Regs on Application of Section 409A to Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans
The correction is effective September 24, 2008 and applicable on April 17, 2007. Concerns the amount of compensation deferred before January 1, 2005 under a nonqualified deferred compensation plan that is a nonaccount balance plan as defined in Sec. 1.409A-1(c)(2)(i)(C). (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] San Francisco Mandates Employers to Provide Transportation Benefits (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "On August 22, 2008, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signed into law Ordinance No. 199-08, which requires covered employers to offer their San Francisco employees at least one of three transportation benefit options. The law is the first of its kind in the United States. It was added as Section 421 of the San Francisco Environment Code, and is effective September 22, 2008. Employers are required to have an appropriate transportation benefit program in place within 120 days of the effective date, that is on or before January 19, 2009." (Seyfarth Shaw LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Administrative Law Analogies After MetLife v. Glenn
Excerpt: "Thus far, . . . administrative law analogies have all been focused on efficiency goals, such as, for example, the exhaustion of administrative remedies requirement. After Glenn, one might expect to see other applications where the concern is the integrity of the administrative record." (Health Plan Law blog by Attorney Roy F. Harmon III)


[Guidance Overview] IRS's Priority Guidance Plan for 2008-2009 Guidance Year
Excerpt: "The [target page] discussion highlights some of the more significant pieces of guidance in the PGP and provides insights beyond the brief descriptions in the PGP. The complete employee benefits section of the PGP is reproduced at the end of this article." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Guidance Overview] Update on Automatic Changes in Accounting for Employee Bonuses under Revenue Procedure 2008-52
Excerpt: "IRS Revenue Procedure 2008-52 created a new automatic accounting method change for certain employee bonuses effective for change requests filed on or after August 18, 2008 for a year of change ending on or after December 31, 2007. At the time, it was not clear whether the IRS would allow automatic changes under the revenue procedure when an employer had been taking deductions under an impermissible accounting method. IRS officials have now indicated that they will allow automatic changes under Revenue Procedure 2008-52 in certain common situations." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


World Economic Forum and Mercer Report on an Ageing Population and the Impact on Business
Excerpt: "The ratio of elderly persons to the working age population will dramatically increase in coming years in many parts of the world. With a declining labor force, an ageing population and looming health care and pension benefits, employers will play a critical role in shaping public policy and addressing these concerns. The World Economic Forum, in partnership with Mercer, has just published 'The Future of Pensions and Healthcare in a Rapidly Ageing World: Scenarios to 2030'. The report addresses important questions such as: What will the state of pensions and health care look like in the year 2030, taking key drivers and critical uncertainties into account? What might be the role of governments, the private sector and individuals in the year 2030?" (Mercer LLC)


The Future of Pensions and Healthcare in a Rapidly Ageing World Scenarios to 2030 (PDF)
115 pages. Excerpt: "The World Economic Forum's report The Future of Pensions and Healthcare in a Rapidly Ageing World Scenarios to 2030, indicates that new forms of collaboration between key stakeholders individuals, financial institutions, healthcare providers, employers, and governments - will be critical to finance the ongoing well-being of current and future generations in a sustainable manner." (World Economic Forum)


[Opinion] British Reaction to Crash of 2008 and Bonus Pool for Lehman Executives
Excerpt: "Up to 10,000 staff at the New York office of the bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers will share a bonus pool set aside for them that is worth $2.5bn (1.4bn), Barclays Bank, which is buying the business, confirmed last night. The revelation sparked fury among the workers' former colleagues, Lehman's 5,000 staff based in London, who currently have no idea how long they will go on receiving even their basic salaries, let alone any bonus payments. It also prompted a renewed backlash over the compensation culture in global finance, with critics claiming that many bankers receive pay and rewards that bore no relation to the job they had done." (Workplace Prof Blog)


[Opinion] American Benefits Council Letter to Senate Banking Committee Regarding Executive Compensation and the Financial Relief Program (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "I am writing to express the concerns of the American Benefits Council (the Council) regarding unknown and potentially unforeseen negative implications of the executive compensation restrictions under consideration for inclusion in legislation responding to the current crisis in our financial markets. . . . We appreciate that policymakers are concerned about the executive compensation practices at certain distressed financial institutions that are the focus of the current legislation. Yet we urge you not to add broad restrictions on executive compensation to the legislation, at this time, due to the potential to undermine the effectiveness of the critically important asset purchase program that the legislation would establish." (American Benefits Council)




Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Congressional Leaders Urge Paulson to Adopt ASPPA Pension Measures
ASPPA (American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries)

Annual Benchmark Employer Survey Finds Family Premiums Rose to $12,680 This Year, With Many Workers Facing Higher Deductibles
Kaiser Family Foundation

AARP: Cornell University Tops 2008 List Of Best Employers For Workers Over 50
AARP

AARP International Innovative Employer Award Debuts With Ten Winners From Four Countries
AARP

Council Applauds Mental Health Parity Agreement
American Benefits Council

Republican Presidential Candidate Senator John McCain Releases Statement on ESOPs
ESOP Association

OppenheimerFunds, Inc.'s Retirement Services Enhances Pinnacle and Record(k)eeper Pro(SM) Programs
OppenheimerFunds, Inc.

Public Employee Pensions Endangered by State Officials Playing Global Warming Politics, New Report Says
National Center for Public Policy Research



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