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November 25, 2008

Here are the Web's best new links about compliance and cost aspects of plan operation, design and policy.


Today's sponsor is Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE)

Nat'l Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE), Feb. 3-4, Tampa, FL

Sessions by: Intel, Corning, Toyota, TECO Energy, State of Florida, Burger King, SAS, Gulf Power/Southern Company, Pinellas County Schools, Univ. of Pittsburgh Medical Center, U.S. Xpress, PSEG, Mayo Clinic, University of Rochester, Pinellas County, CEO Roundtable on Cancer, City of Clearwater, C-Change...and more, including the Impact of the Election on Health Benefits. Best Value in Health Benefits Continuing Education (HBCE) - highest quality and registration only $295 - $345. SHRM credits. www.HBCE.com

[Guidance Overview] DOL Web Page Gathers Resources on Final FMLA Regs, Including Link to Fact Sheet
Excerpt: "The revised Final Regulations respond to over 4,600 public comments received in response to the Department's February 2008 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which proposed changes to the current FMLA regulations. The NPRM was developed in response to several U.S. Supreme Court and lower court cases invalidating portions of the current regulations, the passage of amendments to the FMLA included as Section 585(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181), and a comprehensive review of the Department's fifteen years of experience administering the FMLA, including two previous Department of Labor studies of the FMLA (in 1996 and 2001) and over 15,000 public comments received in response to a Request for Information (RFI) (PDF) published in the Federal Register on December 1, 2006, and summarized in the Department's June 2007 Report on the RFI (PDF)." (Wage and Hour Division, Employment Standards Administration, U.S. Department of Labor)


[Guidance Overview] Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act; Final Regulations Issued with Few Changes
Excerpt: "Effective January 1, 2009, group health plans, group health insurance issuers, and health insurance coverage in the individual market, must comply with the final regulations issued under the Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act. Exemptions exist for health insurance coverage required under state law that meets certain requirements. With only a few clarifying changes from the interim final regulations, most plans, issuers and coverage subject to the final regulations will likely find compliance in 2009 not much different from that in 2008." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] HHS's OCR Representatives Provide Informal Views on HIPAA Privacy Issues
Excerpt: "[HHS' Office of Civil Rights] representatives were asked to provide a brief summary of audit or enforcement activities under the privacy rule with respect to group health plans since the rule took effect on April 14, 2003. The representatives stated that, of the more than 35,000 privacy complaints that OCR has received since April 2003, approximately 1,060 involved group health plans (including MEWAs). The types of complaints fell into three categories: . . . ." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] COBRA Election Notice Sent to Incorrect Address Supplied by Employee Was Adequate
Excerpt: "The lesson is that addresses used in COBRA administration should be substantiated on a regular basis. Addresses used for COBRA (and other benefits) purposes should be checked on a regular basis against those appearing in the files of other departments of the employer (e.g., payroll, human resources, or retirement benefit administration) or other entities involved with plan administration (e.g., insurers and TPAs)." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


[Guidance Overview] IRS Releases 2008 Forms 2441 and 1040A (Schedule 2)
Excerpt: "The IRS has released Form 2441 ('Child and Dependent Care Expenses') and its accompanying instructions for the 2008 tax year. Form 2441 is a dual-purpose form. Taxpayers file it with Form 1040 to determine the amount of their dependent care tax credit (DCTC). They also use it to establish that the amounts reported in Box 10 of Form W-2 (the value of employer-provided dependent care (DCAP) benefits) are not taxable." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


Changes to FMLA Don't Sit Well with Workers' Advocates
Excerpt: "[S]ome workers' advocates worry the revisions will restrict the use of unpaid leave. . . . The new regulations . . . define 'serious health condition' as something that disables an employee for three consecutive days and requires at least two doctor visits. But it narrows the window of time an employee has to see a doctor to within seven days of the disability, with a follow-up visit within 30 days." (Colorado Springs Business Journal)


A Look Ahead: The 2009 U.S. Health Legislative Landscape
Excerpt: "Organizations involved in the health care, pharma.ceutical and biotechnology industries should be aware of likely dramatic shifts in U.S. health policy under an Obama administration." (McDermott Will & Emery)


Same-Sex Partners Losing Health Benefits at University of New Hampshire Unless They Enter Into Civil Unions
Such a change has been made by the State of New Hampshire for its employees as well. (AP via Concord Monitor)


Retirees Pack Cincinnati Meeting on Healthcare, Pension Costs
Excerpt: "[W]ithout fundamental changes in how the retirement plan is financed and operates, the pension fund could face a related but separate dilemma by 2011 -- a $1 billion unfunded liability, more than triple the deficit that existed at the start of this year." (Cincinnati.com)


Cincinnati Pension Losses Climb; Retiree Healthcare at Issue
Excerpt: "The Cincinnati Retirement System will face a nearly $1.8 billion shortfall in its pension obligations by 2013 if it makes no changes to retiree health care benefits and fails to increase the city's annual contributions to the system." (Business Courier of Cincinnati)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview] FASB Agrees to Three Additional Disclosures of Fair Value of Asset Valuation
Excerpt: "At its October 29, 2008, meeting, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) approved revisions to Financial Accounting Statement (FAS) 132(R)-a, Employers' Disclosures about Postretirement Benefit Plan Assets. In addition to setting an effective date of fiscal years ending after Dec. 15, 2009, the FASB approved three additional items of disclosure. Employers will have to disclose separately the following for each major category of plan assets: . . . ." (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)


[Guidance Overview] Participant Not Entitled to Additional Review of Denied Disability Claim
Excerpt: "In denying the participant's request for an additional review of her claim, the court was satisfied that although the conclusions in the initial denial and appeal denial were not the same, the participant had been provided the opportunity to submit evidence in support of her disability claim, and that this evidence was considered in the appeal denial." (Employee Benefits Institute of America)


Managing Workforce and Benefit Program Risks during an Economic Downturn (PDF)
Excerpt: "The eligibility status of any dependent population is in a constant state of change. [Dependent Eligibility Audits] identify ineligible dependents and remove them from benefit plans, and also educate employees regarding the plan's eligibility guidelines. Identifying and removing an ineligible child or former spouse can produce several years of savings. . . . [With regard to retirement plans, in-plan annuities] haven't yet become widely popular but the ability to guarantee an income stream in retirement might be increasingly appealing to participants worried about their savings eroding." (Buck Consultants)


More Commentary on Pending U.S. Supreme Court Death Benefit Waiver Case
The dispute, in Kennedy v. DuPont Savings Plan Administrator, concerns a $402,000 death benefit that was waived by the participant's ex-wife in a divorce decree; the plan asserts it must pay the benefit to the ex-wife because she was the person named in the plan's beneficiary designation as of the date of the participant's death. The participant's daughter, who would otherwise receive the funds, disagrees. (Workplace Prof Blog)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Down to the Wire: The Final 403(b) Regulations!
Nationwide on December 3, 2008
presented by American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA)

ERPA Boot Camp
in Illinois on December 15, 2008
presented by The Center for Tax Law and Employee Benefits at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago

Fee Disclosure Issues: Special Considerations for Trust Organizations
Nationwide on December 11, 2008
presented by Goldleaf Partners



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

CAHI Stands by Its Principles for Health Insurance Reform
Council for Affordable Health Insurance

The Hartford Re-Aligns Employer Markets Group
The Hartford

Doctors Receive Bonuses for Providing Optimal Care to Patients through Bridges to Excellence
Bridges to Excellence (BTE)

Health Insurance Deductible of $1,000 Becomes the Norm in 2008, Mercer Survey Finds
Mercer

Free Online Health Record Launched for BlueCross Medicare Advantage Members
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee



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