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November 12, 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] Issue Brief: A Guide to Implementing GASB 45 (PDF)
20 pages. Excerpt: "This issue brief examines how North Carolina local governments are meeting their obligations to report their unfunded retiree health care obligations. The brief is based on a survey of the 30 local governments in the state with annual revenues greater than $100 million. Key findings include: 88 percent of the respondents have a multi-year contract with an actuarial service selected by the NC League of Municipalities and the NC Association of County Commissioners; the actuaries for all respondents applied a realistic discount rate; when they are unsure if their bond rating might be affected, local governments take the initiative to seek advice from bond-rating firms." (Center for State and Local Government Excellence)


Actuarial Value: A Method for Comparing Health Plan Benefits (PDF)
12 pages. Excerpt: "To better understand . . . complex cost-sharing arrangements, the human resources consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide was asked to describe how actuarial value can be used to evaluate health plans. Actuarial value is a summary measure of likely payments by a plan. It measures the percentage of medical expenses paid by a health plan for a standard population, ranging from 0.00 for a plan that pays nothing to 1.00 for a plan that pays all medical expenses. This paper describes Watson Wyatt's analytic approach, presents the strengths and limitations of actuarial value as a summary measure, and offers observations about the use of actuarial value to assess diverse health plans." (California HealthCare Foundation)


Future of Nation's Health Care May Take Its Cue from Massachusetts
Excerpt: "If there's a model for how President-elect Barack Obama's health care policy could play out in the real world and the political challenges it faces, look no further than Massachusetts. While Obama has been vague about the details of his health plan, the next administration's health care designs reflect what has been put in place in Massachusetts since then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed a universal health care law in 2006. Both plans leave the employer-based health care system alone while providing individuals access to cheaper insurance rates in the group market and penalizing employers that do not offer health insurance." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


WellPoint Will Try Out 'Medical Tourism' - Insurer to Arrange and Pay for Some Procedures in India
Excerpt: "WellPoint is testing the concept of arranging and paying for you and a companion to travel to India for a joint-replacement procedure that could cost a fraction of what it would at your local hospital. Think of it as a form of medical outsourcing. Indianapolis-based health insurance giant WellPoint is jumping into the emerging world of 'medical tourism' -- the practice in which U.S. patients cross international borders in search of cheaper medical care." (IndyStar.com)


Senator Max Baucus Takes Initiative on Health Care
Excerpt: "Without waiting for President-elect Barack Obama, Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, will unveil a detailed blueprint on Wednesday to guarantee health insurance for all Americans by facilitating sales of private insurance, expanding Medicaid and Medicare, and requiring most employers to provide or pay for health benefits." (The New York Times; free registration required)


Weighing the Costs and Benefits of Long-Term Care Insurance
Excerpt: "Spending five minutes a day inverted is said to help prevent Alzheimer's, a condition that may result in the need for long-term medical care. So, to help your employees with long-term care issues, buy inversion tables for them and give them five minutes a day to use them. Not exactly practical. A better solution is to consider providing group long-term care insurance as an addition to your employee benefits program." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)


Lowering Employee Health Care Costs can Lower Business Costs
Excerpt: "The Midwest Business Group on Health (MGBH) says value-based benefit design leads to healthier, more productive employees and lower long-term costs to employers. Value-Based Benefit Design entails reducing the cost of effective health care providers, services, procedures, treatments or drugs to encourage employees to do such things as take their prescribed regular medications or visit better performing, more efficient doctors and hospitals. The payoff comes in the form of healthier employees, with fewer tests, fewer complications from surgery and fewer hospital readmissions, the coalition said in a press release." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


The Medication Crestor Would Save Lives at $500,000 Each
Excerpt: "Using Crestor to prevent heart attacks and save lives in apparently healthy people would add nearly $10 billion a year to the nation's medical bill, according to calculations released Monday. Crestor's high cost was just one of many concerns that emerged as doctors began to grapple with the implications of a landmark study released Sunday. The study, called JUPITER, showed that using the potent cholesterol-lowering statin to treat people with normal cholesterol cut in half their risks of heart attacks, strokes and premature death." (USA TODAY)


[Opinion] Legislation Offers HRA Tax Parity, But Limits Use to Two States
Excerpt: "As approved by the House on July 9, 2008, the Act permits a certain class of governmental plans to include individuals other than a qualifying spouse or dependent as beneficiaries on employees' HRAs, provided those beneficiaries pay taxes on HRA amounts they ultimately receive. This provision was designed to apply to only two state governments. The provision should be broadened to include all states and municipalities." (ICMA-RC)


[Opinion] Keeping the Health Reform Coalition Together
Excerpt: "We could be headed for a new schism in the debate about health reform. Not the familiar gulf between advocates of the market and government, or the predictable one between deficit hawks and spenders, but a new one that crosses traditional partisan and ideological lines between advocates of long-term reform of the health care delivery system, and immediate help for the uninsured and insured struggling with health care costs. This new rift is most likely to develop if tight money and a crowded agenda force the focus to shift from comprehensive to incremental reform and choices need to be made about what goes into a smaller, cheaper legislative package. It's a rift that could stand in the way of progress on health reform if care is not taken to avoid it." (Kaiser Family Foundation)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] ERISA Litigation Chapter - 2007 Annual Review of Developments in Business and Corporate Litigation (PDF)
65 pages. (Jones Day)


[Guidance Overview] Bicycle Commuter Benefits as Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefit (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "An employee may be reimbursed on a tax-free basis for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during the calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle, bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, provided the bicycle is regularly used to travel between the employee's residence and the place of employment.' (Groom Law Group)


[Guidance Overview] Chart: Troubled Asset Relief Program Summary Review: Executive Compensation Issues (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "Winston & Strawn has created this summary review chart relating to the implementation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) by the U.S. Treasury Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve board. This chart covers executive compensation issues." (Winston & Strawn LLP)


Podcast: HR-Related Issues Obama Plans to Address
Excerpt: "Hear Hewitt's Washington expert Frank McArdle discuss the HR-related issues the Obama administration plans to address. . . . Running time for this podcast is 6 minutes 36 seconds; file size is 6 MB." (Hewitt Associates)


Companies Consider Captives to Fund Employee Benefits
Excerpt: "Sixty percent of organizations with captive insurance facilities are considering or have considered using their captives to fund employee benefits, according to the Captive Best Practices Survey by Spring Consulting Group, LLC. The survey results captives are playing an increasingly strategic role in assertively managing insurance and employee benefit costs, according to a press release." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Tax Policy Related to Compensation and Benefits in the New World
Excerpt: "[T]he current economic climate will make tax increases and spending cuts in the near term more difficult and, perhaps, less advisable. The new administration and Congress will hesitate in taking any action that can be seen as further suppressing economic activity. In addition, they may wish to undertake new spending to stimulate the economy and will find that safety-net spending by the federal government for unemployment and other benefits rises automatically as the economy weakens." (Deloitte via BenefitsLink.com)


[Opinion] New Best Practices for Compensation Committees?
Excerpt: "Will the new risk review and expanded clawback requirements of EESA become best practices for board compensation committees -- outside the world of financial institutions participating in TARP? As a famous politician once said: You betcha. I will explain why I believe that these new rules will become best practices - and how to implement them -- in separate Blogs over the next several days." (Winston & Strawn LLP)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Take HEART: The Heroes' Earning Assistance & Relief Tax Act Webcast
Nationwide on November 20, 2008
presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Webinar - Medical Tourism & US Health Insurance Plans
Nationwide on December 2, 2008
presented by Global Media Dynamics



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Lincoln Director Retirement Program to Offer Managed Accounts Services
Lincoln Financial Group

Charles Schwab Unveils Eight-Step Plan To Help Prioritize Americans’ Savings Goals
Charles Schwab Corporation



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