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November 7, 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] New Law Requires Parity in Coverage for Mental Health (PDF)
Excerpt: "Compliance with the MHPAEA presents a number of items that plan sponsors must consider, including the following: Reviewing plan documents to determine what provisions would be illegal under the new law, Pricing plan changes necessary to comply with the law, Determining the impact of the law on a plan's managed mental health network, Assessing whether mental health and substance-use-disorder benefits can continue to be delivered cost effectively, Weighing the pros and cons of making plan design changes and pricing changes, Amending summary plan descriptions and other plan documents to reflect any plan design changes, and Communicating coverage changes to plan participants." (The Segal Group, Inc.)


[Guidance Overview] Michelle's Law and COBRA: An Unclear Intersection
Excerpt: "What is not as clear is how Michelle's Law interacts with another law that protects plan participants when they lose eligibility for coverage: COBRA. Specifically. There are four areas that need additional clarity: Length of COBRA coverage; Alternative coverage; Timing of COBRA election and certification of Michelle's Law leave; COBRA notice requirements." (Infinisource)


[Guidance Overview] New FSA Withdrawal Feature for Eligible Reservists: Amending Cafeteria Plans Following the HEART Act
Excerpt: "QRDs are not required additions to FSAs. However, where a plan sponsor decides to offer QRDs, the cafeteria plan must be amended, and the amendment must apply uniformly to all eligible plan participants." (McGuireWoods LLP)


[Guidance Overview] Navigating Competing Corporate Interests: Subrogation Problems With ERISA Based Health Plans
Excerpt: "This year, subrogation professionals have followed the public relations nightmare: the Debbie Shank Case. In the aftermath of the media condemnation of the ERISA plan seeking to enforce its contractual rights, we have had to deal with a lot of employers who are concerned with their subrogation efforts, not wanting them to end up as the topic of discussion on Anderson Cooper's 360 Show on CNN. What do you do when employer sponsors want to give up subrogation despite the language in the plan calling for it?" (Passion for Subro)


Health Insurers Prime for New Business With Democratic Rule
Excerpt: "A research report issued by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. this week estimates that health-insurance industry's revenue could actually grow slightly more -- albeit with a small decline in profit margins -- under an Obama administration compared with the status quo, or if Republican Sen. John McCain had won the White House." (The Wall Street Journal)


San Francisco to Milwaukee: Sick-Leave Law Not Bad
Excerpt: "Local business owners howling over a ballot measure forcing them to provide paid sick leave might take comfort from San Francisco's example. An official there said his city hasn't suffered since a similar law passed there two years ago." (Fond du Lac Reporter)


Milwaukee Paid Sick Leave Ordinance to Be Challenged
Excerpt: "Although the ordinance is due to take effect in about 100 days, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce has filed notice that it intends to legally challenge the law on numerous grounds, among others, that (1) it is inconsistent with federal and state laws for family and medical leave; and (2) oversteps the city's authority to require sick pay from employers outside the city that have employees living in Milwaukee." (Workplace Prof Blog)


Milwaukee Voters Approve Law Requiring Paid Sick Leave
Excerpt: "Milwaukee became the third city in the U.S. to guarantee paid sick days for workers after voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum on the issue Tuesday, November 4. Despite opposition from the city's mayor and business community, 68 percent of voters approved the ordinance. The law will require employers within the city to provide each employee up to nine days of paid sick leave per year -- or one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


South Carolina Voters Reject Measures to Fund Retiree Benefits With Stock Investments
Excerpt: "South Carolina voters this week rejected two constitutional amendments that would have allowed state and local governments to invest in stocks to fund retiree benefits. The votes show how risk-averse the public has become in recent months, experts say." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


More Truths About Rising Health Prices
Excerpt: "What is the biggest threat to the U.S. economy? According to Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag, it is not credit famine, the long-term price of energy, competition from China, the loss of jobs overseas, or even a surfeit of Chrysler SUVs. It is, Orszag declared in October, 'the nation's looming fiscal gap -- which is driven primarily by rising health care costs.' Healthcare inflation cannot be ignored, Orszag added, because 'If we fail to put the nation on a sounder fiscal course. . . we will ultimately reach a point where investors [will] lose confidence and no longer be as willing to purchase Treasury debt at anything but exorbitant interest rates.'" (The Century Foundation)


Kennedy Aide Suggests Health Care Pay-as-You-Go Exceptions
Excerpt: "The Obama administration and congressional Democrats will have to address budgetary considerations of healthcare reform next year 'whether it's formal pay-go or some other mechanism,' said Myers, staff director of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Kennedy chairs. Legislation based on President-elect Barack Obama's proposals would have a net annual cost of as much as $60 billion, according to his campaign's own estimates. Democratic leaders will be under pressure from budget hawks within their own party not to increase the deficit." (The Hill)


Detroit Seeks Congressional Aid on Retiree Health Care
Excerpt: "GM said the additional federal support would allow 'a competitive' auto industry 'to contribute to our nation's economic revival.' The executives, who were joined by the president of the United Auto Workers, declined comment to reporters between the private meetings. They sought an additional $25 billion in federal loans for future health care payments for retirees." (Houston Chronicle)


U.S. Insurers Consider Sending Patients Overseas for Cheaper Treatment
Excerpt: "A recent report estimates that hundreds of thousands of Americans go abroad each year for medical procedures, primarily to save money. They are not the only ones eyeing the bottom line. Some U.S. insurance companies -- including Aetna and UnitedHealthcare -- are considering paying for patients to go overseas for care, which could spark major growth in the medical travel industry." (The Austin American-Statesman)


Americans Considering Dropping or Reducing Health Care Coverage to Save Money
Excerpt: "A new survey conducted by BearingPoint, Inc. and Zogby International suggests Americans are considering drastic changes in health care to cut expenses. The survey, 'Impact of the Economic Crisis on Health Care Consumers,' found that of the roughly 3,500 American adults polled, nearly one in 10 were more likely as a result of the reported economic crisis to either drop their health insurance plan or switch to a plan with lower premiums and less attractive benefits, according to a press release." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Obama Health IT Proposal Could Hold Financial Benefits for Firms
Excerpt: "Health care IT companies could benefit from President-elect Barack Obama's (D) proposal to spend $50 billion over five years to boost adoption of electronic health records and expand use of electronic prescribing, Dow Jones reports. . . . According to Dow Jones, the timeline for acting on Obama's plan 'is an open question,' particularly given lawmakers' reticence to approve new spending because of problems in the federal budget situation (Charny/Hodgson, Dow Jones, 11/4)." (California HealthCare Foundation)


[Opinion] McCain and Obama Health Plans: An Authors' Roundtable, September 25, 2008
Excerpt: "[In September,] Health Affairs published critiques of the health plans put forward by presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. Health Affairs also published a third paper outlining how the two plans might be blended in a compromise. Here, three of the authors - Wharton economist Mark Pauly, Harvard economist Katherine Swartz, and economist Gail Wilensky, senior fellow at Project HOPE and a volunteer adviser to the McCain campaign - further discuss the plans. Below is the transcript of the phone call moderated last week by Health Affairs Deputy Editor Parmeeth Atwal." (Health Affairs)


[Opinion] AmeriCarePlans: A McCain-Obama Hybrid Proposal
Excerpt: "In my opinion, far too little [presidential campaign rhetoric, advertising, and general press coverage] has focused on the most fundamental question about our private health insurance system: Should it continue to be employer-based, supplemented initially by, and transitioning ultimately to, a new federally run system (Obama), or should it become more oriented toward personal choice, supplemented by expanded state-run systems (McCain)?" (Health Affairs)


[Opinion] Obama's Health Policy Options: 3 Scenarios
Excerpt: "President Obama has (at least) three broad policy choices on the timing/financing of health reform, each of which will be explored [in this article]. They are: 1) Finish the New Deal 2) Braveheart 3) Wait and Lay the Groundwork. Let's look at each of these and see what they involve." (Health Affairs)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Dual-Role Benefit Plan Administrator Conflicts: Proceed with Caution (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "The Supreme Court's ruling in Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn increases the likelihood of the courts overturning certain benefits decisions. Understanding the ruling and what steps to take in its wake can help companies limit that risk." (Thompson Publishing Group via Vedder Price P.C.)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Techniques for Designing, Hedging, and Financing Nonqualified Deferred Compensation (NQDC) Plans Webcast
Nationwide on November 19, 2008
presented by Buck Consultants, an ACS Company



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

WorldatWork Announces New Board of Directors
WorldatWork

Advanced Registration for NIPA Business Management Conference is Now Open
National Institute of Pension Administrators

FutureOffice Network Presenting Smartcast on Legislative Update: ADA, FMLA & Mental health Parity Act
Davidson Marketing Group -- FutureOffice Network

Kravitz Acquires Cash Balance Business From JPMorgan Retirement Plan Services
Kravitz



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