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December 5, 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

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
Banner ad for International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

E-learning Benefit Courses From the International Foundation

If you need compliance education and are under pressure to cut travel expenses, the International Foundation’s e-learning courses are the perfect choice. With the Foundationís commitment to high quality education, you can be certain you are receiving need-to-know employee benefit information. A wide range of benefit topics are available, from the basics to compliance technicalities. Stay within your travel budget and stay on top of benefit complexities with the International Foundationís e-learning courses.

[Guidance Overview] The Family and Medical Leave Act Regulations Are Extensively Revised
Excerpt: "The new regulations also provide many changes to the certification and employer notice laws and the associated forms. Prudent employers should take immediate steps to update their FMLA policies and procedures, as well as notification and certification documents." (Poyner Spruill LLP)


[Guidance Overview] New Regulations to Go into Effect Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (PDF)
59 pages; presentation materials. (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP)


Health Coverage in a Period of Rising Unemployment (PDF)
11 pages. Excerpt: "This policy brief reviews the public and private options available to help people maintain coverage if they become unemployed during a downturn and cannot get employer-sponsored coverage through a spouse. Specifically, it examines COBRA, non-group insurance and Medicaid. And it explains why, despite such options, more people will become uninsured as unemployment rises. Recent analysis predicts that each 1 percentage point increase in unemployment will lead to 1.1 million more uninsured adults." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


HHS Will Be Shepherding Health Care Reform through Congress
Excerpt: "Under the best of circumstances, overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services is an enormous undertaking. With 65,000 employees and a budget of $707.7 billion, it accounts for nearly one-quarter of all federal spending . . . . But in the Obama administration the job is taking on a second, perhaps more daunting, responsibility: shepherding health-care reform legislation through Congress. Unlike his predecessors, Thomas A. Daschle, President-elect Barack Obama's choice for HHS secretary, will be given an expanded role, leading administration efforts to overhaul the U.S. health system." (The Washington Post; free registration required)


Obama Laying the Groundwork for Health Care Reform
Excerpt: "President-elect Barack Obama has begun laying the groundwork for overhauling the troubled U.S. healthcare system, reaching out to interest groups and building grass-roots support for the huge undertaking. Obama, who takes office on January 20, is using many of the Internet tools employed in his election campaign to engage the public. His Internet site www.change.gov asks people to submit ideas for changing the costly and inefficient system that leaves tens of millions uninsured." (Reuters via The New York Times; free registration required)


UAW Boss Avoids Question on Additional Health Concessions
Excerpt: "United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger declined Thursday, December 4, to say the UAW would accept additional concessions on retiree health care. Responding to questions from Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, Gettelfinger said the union would have to study whether it could cut the Detroit Big Three automakers' future commitment to the voluntary employee beneficiary associations, or VEBAs." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Approaches to Covering the Uninsured: A Guide
Excerpt: "The guide explains the key strategies for expanding coverage to the nation's 45 million uninsured people and explains and how different policy options can be combined to form comprehensive reform proposals. It organizes the various policy strategies under four overall approaches: strengthening current coverage arrangements, improving the affordability of coverage, improving the availability of coverage and changing the tax treatment and financing of health insurance." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Embarq's Motion to Dismiss ADEA Claim Granted - Termination of Retiree Medical Benefits Not Age Discriminatory
Excerpt: "The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas has determined that Embarq Corp. and its former wireless company owner Sprint Nextel Corp. did not violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) when Embarq dropped medical and pharmacy benefits for Medicare-eligible retirees." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Excessive Fees Case on the Health Front
Excerpt: "The U.S. District Court for the Nortern District of Texas has denied class action certification for a case in which a hospital employee accused her employer of causing an employees' health care plan to pay the hospital excessive fees for medical services it rendered to plan participants. Joan Ned-Sthran alleges in her suit that Methodist Hospitals of Dallas, MedHealth, Methodist Transplant Physicians, Physician Associates of Southwest Dallas, Timothy M. Meeks, and John F. Lacy breached their fiduciary duties under Sections 404, 405, and 406 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by engaging in self-dealing and prohibited transactions that resulted in excessive charges for health services and caused losses to the self-funded health plan and its participants." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


Business Group Finds Individuals Not Helping to Improve Health Care They Receive
Excerpt: "A relatively low percentage of individuals surveyed say they 'very actively' manage their chronic health conditions, according to research by the Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health (DFWBGH). In addition, survey respondents did not uniformly engage in behaviors that lead to productive office visits. Only one in five (20%) respondents say that they always bring a list of questions to physician visits, and only 40% always bring a list of current prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements to doctor visits." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)


California Superior Court Judge Upholds State Regulations Against 'Balance Billing'
Excerpt: "Sacramento, Calif., Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny on Tuesday upheld the regulations issued by the state Department of Managed Health Care that seek to protect patients from 'balance billing,' a practice often used by hospitals in reimbursement disputes with health insurers, the Sacramento Bee reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Struggling to Keep Up with Cost of Health Insurance Premiums
Excerpt: "Many factors contributed to a 119 percent rise in insurance premiums for U.S. employers between 1999 and 2008, from $5,791 to $12,680 for a family of four, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Independence Blue Cross [says] inflation and new technology were driving up costs. Liz Williams, a Blue Cross spokeswoman, said two other factors had led to the big increase in [premiums]: First, Blue Cross changed the rating system for all Keystone Health Plan East HMO plans . . . . The change was made to provide more transparency and less confusion, Williams said, and done at the request of customers. Second, Williams said, 'the amount IBC paid for this group's health care in 2008 was greater than the premiums we received. That can happen for a number of reasons: because we rated incorrectly, because there was illness that was expensive to treat, because of the age of this group.'" (The Philadelphia Inquirer)


New Administration and Congress Likely to Tilt the Status Quo Against Drug Companies
Excerpt: "[I]f ever there was a time that the prescription drug industry needed credibility, it's now. For the first time in recent memory, drug companies are facing the prospects of an end to their free ride of unregulated profiteering. There are already rumblings that both the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress want to stack up a series of clean legislative victories by going for 'low-hanging fruit' -- bipartisan, popular initiatives that will pass easily -- and there are few juicier targets than Big Pharma." (The Century Foundation)



Sponsored by: 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

(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] Net-Settled Stock Option Exercises: Considerations and Analysis (PDF)
7 pages. Excerpt: "Since the publication in the March/April 2008 issue of The Corporate Executive regarding net-settled options, there has been a heightened interest in these instruments throughout corporate America. The purpose of this white paper is to explore several issues with respect to net-settled options that will be of interest to companies actively considering implementing such a program. We will focus on some of the administrative and international issues that have not been highlighted in the published materials thus far." (Baker & McKenzie LLP)


Low-Skill Jobs, Work Hours, and Paid Time Off
Excerpt: "This brief uses data from the 2007 Survey of Employers in the Low-Skill Labor Market to examine the scheduling demands employers place on workers recently hired to fill noncollege jobs and to assess the availability of paid time off, sick leave and other benefits that help workers balance their work and family lives." (Urban Institute)


When Cutting Costs, Employers Should Beware of ERISA Section 510
Excerpt: "This article from Wharton--'As Layoffs Spread, Innovative Alternatives May Soften the Blow'--indicates companies are looking at creative alternatives to layoffs 'such as voluntary retirements or salary cuts, hiring freezes, reductions in hours, or the cancellation of business trips and/or costly perquisites.' The article also notes the trend of cutting 'benefit packages and matching contributions to 401(k) plans.' Whatever the alternatives contemplated, employers need to beware of the minefield of Section 510 of ERISA." (Attorney B. Janell Grenier via Benefitsblog.com)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

401(k) Webex - Fee Disclosure Regulations featuring MassMutual, Groom Law Group, and AFS Financial Group
Nationwide on December 11, 2008
presented by AFS Financial Group

Section 409A Violations: What You Need to Do
Nationwide on January 13, 2009
presented by ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits



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