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November 24, 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's CEBS Program!

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Banner ad for International Foundation's CEBS Program!

Earn a Designation in Group Benefits!

If you’ve thought about learning more about health and welfare benefits, then take a look at the GBA (Group Benefits Associate) – one of the specialty designations offered through the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) Program. The GBA is sponsored by the Wharton School and the International Foundation – two leaders in employee benefits education. And with only three required courses – you could earn the GBA in a year or less!

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Rev. Proc. 2008-72: 2009 Optional Standard Mileage Rates; Deemed Substantiation Rules (PDF)
30 pages. 55 cents per mile for business miles driven; 24 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes. Excerpt: "This revenue procedure is effective for (1) deductible transportation expenses paid or incurred on or after January 1, 2009, and (2) mileage allowances or reimbursements paid to an employee or to a charitable volunteer (a) on or after January 1, 2009, and (b) with respect to transportation expenses paid or incurred by the employee or charitable volunteer on or after January 1, 2009." (Internal Revenue Service)


[Guidance Overview] Mandatory Sick Leave for Employees in City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee Law Firm Explains
2 pages. Excerpt: "The Ordinance requires private employers to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours an employee works, regardless of whether the employee is full time, part time or temporary." (von Briesen & Roper)


[Guidance Overview] Connecticut Supreme Court Ruling Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage
Excerpt: "The Connecticut decision does not . . . automatically require private sector employers to modify ERISA-covered employee benefit plans. For example, if an employer chooses to buy insurance in Connecticut to insure an ERISA plan, we anticipate that Connecticut insurers will soon be required to sell only policies that recognize same-sex marriages entered into there. Conversely, the employer sponsor of a self-insured medical plan that is subject to ERISA retains the discretion to decide whether to recognize a Connecticut same-sex marriage under that plan." (Towers Perrin)


[Guidance Overview] Autism Legislation Database Published Online by National Conference on State Legislatures
Excerpt: "In response to the growing number of individuals with autism, states have taken action to address the needs of these individuals. Several states have developed task forces or commissions to further study autism issues. . . . At least 26 states and the District of Columbia require insurance coverage for individuals with autism. Seven of these states enacted such legislation during the 2007-2008 legislative session." (National Conference on State Legislatures)


[Guidance Overview] Health Plan Legal Changes for 2009 and 2010
Excerpt: "A number of new laws and regulations will affect the design and administration of group health plans beginning in 2009. . . . Change in Definition of Dependent . . . Massachusetts Creditable Coverage Requirements . . . Mental Health Parity . . . Michelle's Law . . . ." (Bond, Schoeneck & King)


[Guidance Overview] Highlights of the FMLA Regulatory Changes
Excerpt: "The final regulations codify the DOL's longstanding position that employees may voluntarily settle or release their FMLA claims without either court or DOL approval. Although this is not a change in the law, the clarification was needed because a recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal decision interpreted the DOL's regulations as prohibiting employees from either prospectively or retroactively waiving their FMLA rights. (Note: prospective waivers of FMLA rights continue to be prohibited under the final regulations.)" (Phelps Dunbar)


[Guidance Overview] VEBAs For Non-Union Private Employers Face Unrelated Business Income Taxes
Excerpt: "Although VEBAs established under ? 501(c)(9) are tax-exempt, they must pay tax on UBTI [under Internal Revenue Code section 512(a)(3)(A)]." (McGuireWoods)


Illinois Autism Bill Passes; Would Mandate Insurance Coverage of $36,000 a Year; Sent to Governor
Excerpt: "Under the proposal, which Gov. Rod Blagojevich's office said he plans to sign, insurance companies would be required to cover treatment until a patient turns 21. About 4,500 families across the state will qualify for coverage." (Chicago Tribune)


Wall Street Journal Task Force Discusses Priorities for Health Care Overhaul
Excerpt: "The task force, which included health care company CEOs and lawmakers, provided recommendations to the Journal CEO Council for five priorities in health care reform for the new Obama administration and Congress." (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report)


Healthcare in Retirement: How Much Should I Save?
6 pages. Excerpt: "[K]eep in mind that not all Medicare services are free and not all medical services are covered by Medicare. So, as you plan, be sure you include the cost of health care -- public and private insurance as well as out-of-pocket expenses. . . . [T]he following dollar amounts will give you some idea of what a Medigap policy costs . . . ." (Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement)


New York State Insurance Department Provides Instructions on Handling of Same-Sex Marriages
Excerpt: "The department's general counsel's office [on Nov. 21] issued a legal opinion concluding that same-sex spouses wed through 'marriages legally performed outside of New York must be treated as spouses for purposes of the New York Insurance Law, including all provisions governing health insurance,' officials write. Employers that offer group health plans must offer legal same-sex spouses the same access to coverage that they would offer to opposite-sex spouses, officials write." (National Underwriter)


National Survey of Local Governments on Ability to Meet GASB 45 Requirements, Address Healthcare Costs
66 pages. Excerpt: "While several studies have examined OPEB issues for statewide retirement systems or for a limited sample of local governments, this study deliberately targeted a representative cross-section of local governments across the United States. This provides a snap shot of larger local governments balanced with the small local governments that make up more than 75% of local governments in the United States." (National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems)


Remember: IRS Treats Holiday Gift Coupons As Taxable
Excerpt: "Employers who provide year-end or holiday gifts, or who provide any gift certificates or other cash equivalent gifts or bonuses to employees, might want to consider the gifts' taxability and review their payroll practices in light of [the 2004 IRS Technical Advice Memorandum]." (Faegre & Benson)


Generous Benefits for Michigan Legislators Seem Likely to Continue
Excerpt: "Michigan lawmakers seem likely to finish the year without halting or scaling back a perk that's the envy of most workers -- full health care coverage in retirement after just six years of service. Under current law, former legislators can tap into the health insurance once they turn 55." (Traverse City Record-Eagle)


Employers Allowing Babies at Work; Helps to Keep Down Employee Absences
Excerpt: "Allowing children in the workplace is becoming more popular because it increases morale, builds teamwork, encourages parents to return to work closer to childbirth and reduces turnover . . . ." (Burlington Free Press)


[Opinion] Five Myths About Our Ailing Healthcare System
Excerpt: "[Myth one:] America has the best health care in the world. Let's bury this one once and for all. The United States is No. 1 in only one sense: the amount we shell out for health care." (Shannon Brownlee and Ezekiel Emanuel in the Washington Post; free registration required)



Sponsored by: Financial Research Associates

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Banner ad for Financial Research Associates

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(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] 2008 Year-End Benefits Planning
5 pages. Excerpt: "Section 409A Compliance . . . Special Rules for 457(f) Plans . . . Qualified Retirement Plans . . . 403(b) Plans . . . Proposed Cafeteria Plan Regulations . . . Medicare Secondary Payer Reporting Requirements" (von Briesen & Roper)


[Guidance Overview] Hewitt's Global Retirement Update for November 2008
Excerpt: "Our Global Retirement Update summarizes recent legislative developments and trends related to retirement and financial management and highlights recently passed and pending legislation that may require employers to take action to comply with new rules or review existing plans." (Hewitt)


What the Obama Presidency Might Bring in Changes to Healthcare, Retirement Programs
Excerpt: "Changes to benefits will likely include an early emphasis on healthcare reform, including the expansion of coverage for children. Changes to retirement benefits may be more likely to come via regulations than legislation, including fee-transparency rules." (Dallas Salisbury on Human Resource Executive Online)


Healthcare and Pension Costs Weighing Heavily on Philly
Excerpt: "Virtually all big cities are struggling to keep up with rising pension and health-care costs. But Philadelphia is having a harder time than most. Its pension fund, which has been badly punished by tumbling stock markets, is funded at a lower level than that of any big city in the nation except Pittsburgh . . . ." (Philly.com)


Government Jobs Looking Better in the Downturn
Excerpt: "Private-sector employers may be cutting deeply into employee benefits, but for local and state governments, the gravy train rides on. Last year state and local governments spent an average of 51% more per employee on benefits and compensation than private-sector employers did . . . ." (TIME)


[Opinion] Auto Bailout Ignores Excessive Labor Costs
Excerpt: "UAW workers earn $75 an hour in wages and benefits--almost triple the earnings of the average private sector worker. Detroit autoworkers have substantially more health, retirement, and paid time off benefits than most Americans." (Heritage Foundation)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

All-Day Seminar with Sal Tripodi, Esq., APM
in Colorado on December 9, 2008
presented by Western Pension and Benefits Conference-Denver Chapter

Perspectives on Health Reform from the Left and Right - Webcast
Nationwide on November 25, 2008
presented by KaiserNetwork.org

Reflections on the 2008 Elections: What Do the Results Mean for Health and Health Care? - Webcast
Nationwide on November 25, 2008
presented by KaiserNetwork.org



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Hewitt Data Shows Americans Continue To Save in 401(k) Plans Despite Economic Woe
Hewitt Associates LLC

Owner Of Defunct North Carolina Sign Company Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement Of 401(k) And Health Plan Assets
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

IRS Announces 2009 Standard Mileage Rates
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Strategic Partners Program Adds 2,600 Agents in 2008
ABC Payroll

John Hancock Announces Results of National Long-Term Care Cost of Care Study
John Hancock Life Insurance Company

HRO Attorney Tapped as President Elect of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries
Holme Roberts & Owen LLP



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Employee Benefits/ERISA Attorney
for Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL
in OH

General Counsel
for Dallas Police & Fire Pension System
in TX

Senior Benefit Specialist
for The NIA Group, LLC
in NJ

Retirement Education Specialist - New York/New Jersey
for MassMutual Financial Group
in NJ, NY

Sales Consultant
for Gallagher Retirement Services
in NJ

ERISA Investments Litigation Attorney
for Washington DC Plaintiff's ERISA Litigation Firm specializing in investments
in DC

Retirement Plan Administrator / Consultant
for Blue Chip Retirement Plans, Inc.
in WI




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