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November 14, 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] Towers Perrin U.S. Legislative Tracking Charts -- Health and Welfare -- Updated November 13, 2008 (PDF)
23 pages. Excerpt: "These charts summarize selected federal legislation that would affect employee benefit programs. The bills included on the charts are based on judgments regarding the prominence of the issue, the likelihood of enactment, and the influence of the sponsors." (Towers Perrin)

[Guidance Overview] Distributions from Health FSAs to Employees on Active Military Duty
Excerpt: "The IRS recently issued clarifications on the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (the HEART Act) which became law on June 18, 2008. This Act allows, but does not require, distributions from a pre-tax health flexible spending account (health FSA) to employees who leave for active military duty. This article contains a summary of the new IRS guidance issued in Notice 2008-82. For sake of this article, we will refer to a qualified reservist distribution (QRD) as a 'distribution.'" (TRI-AD)

[Guidance Overview] Recent Developments for Health and Welfare Plans: Qualified Transportation Benefits and 'Michelle's Law'
Excerpt: "There has been a flurry of legislative activity related to health and welfare plans. In this article, we touch on a few recent developments, including strengthening of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), enhancements to the rules for qualified transportation benefits and special rights under their parents' medical plans for college students on medically necessary leaves of absence." (JPMorgan Chase & Co.)

Analyst Says Auto Company Aid Should Require Reduction in Retiree Benefits
Excerpt: "Any government aid to keep General Motors Corp. solvent through the next couple of years should force deeper cuts on the automaker's cost, including a reduction of UAW health care benefits for retirees, a Wall Street analyst said today. JP Morgan analyst Himanshu Patel . . . said GM could need $30 billion through 2010, including $7 billion for its 2010 payment to the health-care trust fund for UAW retirees. 'In our view, D.C. should provide a near-term loan to cover 1-2 quarters of cash burn,' Patel said in a research note, 'but a second sleeve of additional aid should be contingent on a re-cut of both financial debt and UAW legacy liabilities, and after GM draws up a plan to accelerate dealer network/brand cuts.'" (Detroit Free Press via NewsEdge via Human Resource Executive Online)

What Can a Health Savings Account Do for You? The Tax, Savings, and Health Spending Advantages (PDF)
13 pages. Excerpt: "This policy brief offers a discussion of the advantages of HSAs relative to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and other savings options. As well, the brief includes an overview of the latest three notices - 2008-51, 2008-52, and 2008-59 - all released in recent months." (Flint Hills Center for Public Policy via Council for Affordable Health Insurance)

CDHPs Yield Modest Savings, Milliman Actuarial Review Concludes
Excerpt: "Consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) yield cost savings that are 'only modestly better' than non-CDHPs, according to an actuarial study prepared by Milliman. In a summary of the study, published in Milliman's Benefits Perspectives, Summer/Fall 2008, issue, the actual savings found was 4.8% when compared with non-CDHP plans. Slightly more than 3% of that figure was due to utilization savings much like those that a similar high-deductible health plan would yield without the consumer tools, leaving 1.5% in additional savings, Milliman noted." (Wolters Kluwer)

Military Families Get Time Off for Care
Excerpt: "The Labor Department will release new regulations on Friday that will let family members of seriously injured or ill members of the armed services take up to 26 weeks off from work each year to care for them. The regulations will also allow family members of those called to active duty in the National Guard or the Reserves to take up to 12 weeks off from work so they can manage needed and often rushed matters regarding a service member's departure or return." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Labor Department Finalizes New Family Leave Rules
Excerpt: "The Labor Department on Thursday announced final revisions in the Family and Medical Leave Act, including new rules defining how families of wounded service members will be able to take unpaid leave to care for them. While the addition of military families to the landmark law received positive reviews, the Labor Department's other revisions to the Act caused concern among labor and employee advocates." (AP via The New York Times; free registration required)

New Program for Chronic Disease Prevention
Excerpt: "For employers interested in keeping their employees healthy and productive, Health Care Service Corp., Inc. (HCSC) is launching a novel early disease intervention program that puts chronic disease prevention well upstream in the employee health management cycle." (

Caterpillar/Wal-Mart Rx Drug Pilot Scraps Use of Average Wholesale Price - Uses Drug Cost-Plus Pricing
Excerpt: "A new pharmacy benefit pilot program involving Caterpillar Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. cuts 'significant waste' out of the pharma.ceutical supply chain and scraps the long-maligned average wholesale price (AWP) discount methodology in favor of an Rx cost-plus model, say those involved in the program. Both Caterpillar and Wal-Mart tell DBN that the program is attracting the attention of other large employers, and has the potential to change the rules of the game of the pharmacy benefit industry." (

Summaries of Health Care Proposals in Six States
The target page presents news about efforts to restructure health coverage in Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

The Costs of Doing Nothing: What's at Stake Without Health Care Reform
Excerpt: "There is a lot at stake without health care reform. This AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) chart book highlights the costs of inaction on health care reform from the perspective of consumers, businesses, society, and the nation. It also provides AARP's framework for health security. Charts and graphs illustrate the escalating costs of health care for individuals, employers, Medicare, and society as a whole." (AARP)

Overview of President-Elect Obama's and Senator Baucus's Health Reform Proposals (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "These are not the only two proposals expected to become part of the health reform debate next year. Other proposals addressing either specific issues or encompassing broad-based reform are likely to be introduced by other members of Congress, but are not yet available. For example, Senator Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Healthy American's Act (S. 334) during the current Congress . . . ." (Miller & Chevalier Chartered)

NEJM Perspectives Examine U.S. Primary Care System; Report Examines Effects of Obama Health Care Proposal
Excerpt: "Perspectives, New England Journal of Medicine: NEJM on Thursday published several perspectives from six health care experts on the future of primary care in the U.S. The pieces [address the issue from six different angles.]" (Kaiser Family Foundation)

[Opinion] Reforming America's Health Care System: A Call to Action (PDF)
98 pages. Excerpt: "This paper . . . is not intended to be a legislative proposal. Nor is it an exhaustive exploration of every health care issue that should or needs to be addressed, or that will be considered. Rather, it details my vision for health care reform. The plan outlined here addresses health care coverage, quality, and cost. Many components would require an initial investment but, over time, would vastly improve the quality of the health care that Americans receive and reduce the cost of that health care, ultimately putting our system on a more sustainable path. The policies in this paper are designed so that after ten years the U.S. would spend no more on health care than is currently projected, but we would spend those resources more efficiently and would provide better-quality coverage to all Americans." (Max Baucus, Chairman, U.S. Senate Finance Committee)

[Opinion] More on the Baucus Healthcare Reform Plan
Excerpt: "Baucus' multi-part plan would unroll over time 'hopefully . . . in about three years.' (You can hear him offer this time-frame in his press conference on C-Span). Over this period, he would create a Health Insurance Exchange that would insure that 'affordable, high quality and meaningful health insurance options are available to all Americans.' The insurance offered through the exchange 'would need to meet certain requirements established by a new Independent Health Coverage Council,' Baucus explains." (The Century Foundation)

[Opinion] Health Care Reform Lessons from the U.K.
Excerpt: "It is hard to discuss U.K. medical care without mentioning universal coverage. Although it may not be politically achievable in the United States, universal access to care is probably the key factor behind findings that U.K. citizens have better health outcomes than their U.S. counterparts despite having health care costs that are a fraction of those in the United States." (The New England Journal of Medicine via Physicians for a National Health Program)

[Opinion] Can the Tides of Change Push Back Bad ERISA Decisions?
Excerpt: "Many [sad health insurance] stories could and should have been avoided. The fault lies with senior federal officials driven by the same deregulatory fervour responsible for enabling the imprudent lending frenzy behind the current financial crisis. In this case, however, the zealots do not run administrative agencies or departments. They preside at the United States supreme court. Over the past quarter-century, court majorities, led principally by Justice Antonin Scalia, have systematically dismantled the framework of laws designed to prevent benefit providers from breaking their promises to patients . . . . The keystone of this protective framework is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act . . . ." (North Carolina Trial Law Blog)

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MADE IN AMERICA 2009: The 6th Annual Taft-Hartley Benefits Summit

Hot Topics in Pension Fund Performance and Investments:
Harnessing the ideal asset mix to boost your fund's performance
What we can learn from the corporate fund and endowment/foundation worlds
Updates on the Pension Protection Act
And much more!

Hot Topics in Health & Welfare:
Best practices in wellness & health initiatives to reduce cost and increase your members' health
HSAs, HRAs and VEBAs
Saving money by mining your PBM data
And much more!

(Please visit our sponsors. We try to make sure their products and services will be of interest to you. Thanks! --Editor)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] Towers Perrin U.S. Legislative Tracking Charts -- Human Resources -- Updated November 13, 2008 (PDF)
15 pages. Excerpt: "These charts summarize selected federal legislation that would affect employee benefit programs. The bills included on the charts are based on judgments regarding the prominence of the issue, the likelihood of enactment, and the influence of the sponsors." (Towers Perrin)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Return on Investment for Wellness Programs
Nationwide on January 21, 2009
presented by Lorman Education Services

Understanding the COBRA Alternative Coverage Rules
Nationwide on January 16, 2009
presented by Lorman Education Services

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Market Turmoil Causes Pension Pain for Employers and Workers
Watson Wyatt

U.S. Labor Department Sues California Defendants For Misusing Millions Of Dollars In Plan Assets
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

New IRS Guidelines Simplify FSA Programs
WageWorks Inc.

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Defined Contribution Senior Consultant/Team Leader
for USI Consulting Group
in CT

Senior Retirement Plan Consultant
for USI Consulting Group
in CT

Systems & Actuarial Services Manager
for Milliman, Inc.
in TX

Employee Benefits Account Manager
for Westchester Risk Management/Benefits Advisory Firm
in NY

Defined Contribution Client Management Specialist (Client Consultant)
for Prudential Financial
in PA

Strategic Communications Consultant
for New York Life Retirement Plan Services
in MA

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