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November 26, 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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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 Advance Copy of 2008 Form 5500
Target page has links to the form, including all schedules. The page notes that these advance copies are for informational purposes only (they cannot be used to file a 2008 Form 5500). Filers should monitor the EFAST Web site at for information on approved software vendors for completing the 2008 forms and on the availability of the official government-printed forms. (Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor)

[Official Guidance] Text of DOL EBSA Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) 2008-04: Fidelity Bonds for ERISA-Covered Plans
EBSA investigators frequently confront fidelity bonding questions during their examinations of ERISA plans. FAB 2008-04 was developed to address these issues and is presented in a question-and-answer format consisting of 42 frequently asked questions (FAQs). The guidance in the FAB covers a variety of issues related to compliance with ERISA's fidelity bonding requirements, including, among other things: whether a bond may use an omnibus clause to name insured plans; how to calculate the bond amount when multiple plans are covered under a single bond; whether the $1 million bond maximum applies in the case of plans that hold employer securities solely as a result of investments in pooled investment funds; and whether third party service providers are subject to the bonding requirements if they handle plan funds. (Employee Benefits Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor)

[Guidance Overview] Agencies Publish Final Rules on Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act
Excerpt: "To the extent that plans are in compliance with the interim rules, there should not be any need to make changes now to comply. Nevertheless, since it has been 10 years since the interim rules were published, plan sponsors should take a moment to review some of the compliance issues that are contained in the Newborns' law, the interim final rules and the final rules. A few key issues are discussed below: . . . ." (Segal)

[Guidance Overview] 18-Page Summary of FMLA Final Regulations (PDF)
Excerpt: "[The final FMLA regulations do not] significantly alter what constitutes a serious health condition or the ability of an employee to take unforeseeable intermittent leave -- two of the major issues employers have struggled with over the years. The final rule does, however, alter the notice and certification requirements associated with FMLA leave, which should in turn foster better communications between employers and employees." (Morgan Lewis)

[Guidance Overview] FMLA Amendments Related to Servicemember Care and Other Military-Related Exigencies
Extensive summary of the servicemember portions of the FMLA regulations. Excerpt: "[The final FMLA regulations] clarified many of the ambiguities created by the statutory amendments passed on January 28, 2008. The regulations are effective on January 16, 2009." (Littler)

[Guidance Overview] Final FMLA Regulations
Extensive summary. (Littler)

[Guidance Overview] The Tax, Savings and Health Spending Advantages of Health Savings Accounts (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. . . . The guidance includes such topics as: The ability to rollover funds from an IRA into an HSA; the 'testing period' for such rollovers; rules for individual and family eligibility; rules for contribution eligibility; rules for tax reporting; rules for HSA account transactions; rules for Medicare beneficiaries; [and] penalties for misuse." (Council for Affordable Health Insurance)

[Guidance Overview] ERISA Bonding Requirements Explained In Field Assistance Bulletin
Excerpt: "Few ERISA requirements are more mysterious to the compliant-oriented third party administrator than the bonding requirement. The market for the required bond is specialized and the services of a knowledgeable insurance professional are very helpful here." (Health Plan Law Blog by attorney Roy F. Harmon III)

[Guidance Overview] New York Plant Closing Law Covers More Employers and Smaller Employment Losses Than Federal WARN (PDF)
3 pages. (Buck Consultants)

[Guidance Overview] New Jersey Notice of Paid Family Leave Availability Required by December 15 (PDF)
1 page. (Buck Consultants)

Sick Leave Cash-In Program for West Virginia Employees Saves Healthcare Costs But Still is Expensive
Excerpt: "State employees hired prior to July 1, 1988, not only can accumulate unused sick leave but, upon retirement, can [trade] the unused days for free health insurance, at a rate of one month of free PEIA for every two sick days. . . . [Those hired on July 1, 1988 or later cannot, but can cash in the value of accumulated sick days, within limits.] . . . . While $624,282 is a good chunk of change, projections are that it ultimately will save the state more than double that amount in retiree health costs." (Charleston WV Gazette)

Specialty Drugs a Surging Cost for Employers (PDF)
Excerpt: "Specialty drugs, some costing thousands of dollars for a single dose, are growing into a major cost factor for employer health plans." (Workforce Management)

Using Section 125 Premium-Only Plans to Expand Healthcare Coverage by Employers (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "Section 125 premium-only plans are simple to implement, have minimal filing obligations, lower the cost of health insurance for employees, and may even save employers money. This brief explores how states are expanding the use of these plans to increase access to health coverage." (Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.)

Does Losing A Job Mean Losing Your Health Care?
Excerpt: "One key thing: If you are laid off, make sure that before you go, your employer gives you a piece of paper known as a 'certificate of creditable coverage.' It helps guarantee that when you do get new health insurance -- assuming you don't have a lapse of more than 63 days -- you won't have to wait for coverage of a pre-existing condition." (National Public Radio)

Massachusetts Health Reform: High Costs and Expanding Expectations May Weaken Employer Support
Excerpt: "[I]mproved access to the nongroup or individual-insurance market, the availability of state-subsidized coverage, and the costs of increased employee take up of employer-sponsored coverage and rising premiums potentially weaken employers' motivation and ability to provide coverage. [Further], employer frustration appears to be growing as the state increases employer responsibilities." (Center for Studying Health System Change)

Inaugural Issue of New BLS Publication Covers Trends in Employer Costs for Healthcare Benefits (PDF)
4 pages. 'Program Perspectives on Health Benefits' describes trends in employer costs for health benefits. The latest data on access, participation, and premiums are also included. This is the inaugural issue of 'Program Perspectives,' a new publication in which BLS programs showcase their latest data. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor)

Giving Employees Gifts May Require Giving to the Tax Collector Too
Excerpt: "While it is customary to think of gifts as having no tax consequences for the recipient, the Internal Revenue Code (Code) does not treat all gifts the same. Unfortunately, gifts that employers give to their employees are generally treated as supplemental wages, and thus subject to both payroll and income taxes. This means that the value of the gift must be included in the employee's W-2 at year end and included in a payroll period for purposes of income tax withholding and payroll taxes." (Littler)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Notice 2008-107: Determination of Housing Cost Amounts Eligible for Exclusion or Deduction in 2008 (PDF)
14 pages. Excerpt: "This notice provides adjustments to the limitation on housing expenses for purposes of section 911 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) for specific locations for 2008. These adjustments are made on the basis of geographic differences in housing costs relative to housing costs in the United States." (Internal Revenue Service)

Employer Spending on Benefits, 2007
Excerpt: "[E]mployer spending on total compensation continues to increase, reaching almost $8 trillion at year-end 2007. That is almost 35 percent higher than seven years earlier, in 2000." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

What to Do with Your ESPP During the Current Financial Crisis
The impacts of the ongoing financial crisis on stock options and restricted stock units are being documented daily. Some compensation consultants are predicting the end of stock options as a compensation tool, while others are touting the use of mega-grants or option exchange programs. So far we've heard very little about the effect of rapidly dropping stock prices on broad-based employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs). Dan Walter writes about the issues that arise with ESPPs. (National Center for Employee Ownership)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

ASPPA 2008 Annual Conference DVD Webcast
Nationwide on December 3, 2008
presented by American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA)

Steps Employers Can Take to Prevent Health Care Fraud and Improve Quality Webcast
Nationwide on December 4, 2008
presented by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Employee Benefits Security Administration Issues Guidance On Fidelity Bonding For Employee Benefit Plans
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U.S. Labor Department Releases Advance Copies Of 2008 Form 5500 Annual Report
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U.S. Labor Department Sues Fiduciary Of Frankfort, Ill.-Based Company To Recover 401(k) Assets
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U.S. Department Of Labor Sues Bismarck, N.D., Company And Owners Over Delinquent 401(k) Contributions
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Employer Compensation Spending Nearly $8 Trillion In 2007
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

43% of Employers Offer Financial Education Programs for Their Employees
International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

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Manager of Operations
for Walker Benefits, Inc.
in PA

Retirement Counselor-Pension
for 1199SEIU Benefit and Pension Funds
in NY

Executive Director
for Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan
in MO

Administrative Assistant III
for Bank of Texas
in TX

401(k)/DC Admin Manager, ESG
for CUNA Mutual Group
in WI

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