Health & Welfare Plans

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December 18, 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!

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)
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]
DOL Form M-1 Now Available; Annual Report for Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements and Certain Entities Claiming Exception (PDF)

It is substantively identical to the 2007 Form M-1. The Form M-1 may again be filed electronically over the Internet. (Employee Benefits Security Administration. U.S. Department of Labor)

[Guidance Overview]
Health and Welfare Plans: 2008 Year-End Review (PDF)

6 pages. Excerpt: "The following summary provides a general overview of new guidance and legislation applicable to health and welfare plans. This summary is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all compliance requirements affecting health and welfare plans but is intended to provide a reminder of the general issues facing such plans." (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP)

[Guidance Overview]
Does Your Wellness Program Comply with HIPAA Nondiscrimination Regulations? Updated December 15, 2008 (PDF)

3 pages. Excerpt: "What should plan sponsors do? As soon as possible, plan sponsors should: Evaluate all group health plans (including medical, dental, vision, and employee assistance programs) and determine if they offer a reward based on a health factor. Use the [checklist in the target document] to determine if the reward complies with the HIPAA nondiscrimination regulations. Contact your health and welfare benefits counsel as to how the HIPAA nondiscrimination regulations apply to your plans and how to address any potential noncompliance issues." (Holme Roberts & Owen LLP)

[Guidance Overview]
GASB 45: Governmental Employers Are Seeking Balanced Solutions

Excerpt: "This article describes in layman's terms how the GASB 45 liabilities are actuarially determined and discusses cost-management approaches for managing the liabilities to an acceptable level, while striving to avoid significant reductions to retiree health benefits." (Benefits & Compensation Digest via Hay Group)

Report Says Medicare Is Stronger Insurance Model Than Federal Employees Health Benefits Program
Excerpt: "Medicare's relatively low overhead makes it a better model for a publicly run health insurance option for people without employer-provided coverage than the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, a health care expert said on Wednesday. 'The Medicare program, as it's currently constituted, needs reform,' said Jacob Hacker, co-director of the University of California-Berkeley School of Law's Center on Health, Economic and Family Security. 'But I argue that a new public plan could embody many reforms and in doing so, could set a high standard for private plans.'" (

Best Buy Offers Health Coverage to Employees Who Accept Buyouts
Excerpt: "Best Buy Co. is reportedly offering to extend health benefits for one year to any employee who accepts a company buyout offer that is being made as part of the consumer electronics retailer's efforts to trim costs. The Richfield, Minnesota-based company on Monday, December 15, offered voluntary buyouts to nearly all of the 4,000 employees at its corporate headquarters, saying it needs to 'reduce significant expense from its corporate payroll,' according to published reports." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Employers Continue to Consider Bold Changes to Retiree Medical for 2009 and Later: Survey Findings (PDF)
7 pages. Excerpt: "Providing medical benefits for pre-65 and post-65 retirees presents continuing complex and costly challenges for most employers, a new survey from ISCEBS and Towers Perrin shows. Now in its fourth year, the survey found that employers are struggling to balance conflicting objectives in responding to organizational cost pressures, rapidly rising retiree contributions, administrative challenges, and the transition of older workers into retirement. The responses of the 135 participating organizations reflect the challenges of managing current obligations and increasing costs, along with some of the changes they have made or are considering." (International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists)

Health Care Expenses Strain Family Budgets, According to Study
Excerpt: "Financial pressures on families from medical bills increase sharply when out-of-pocket spending for health care services exceeds 2.5 percent of family income, according to a new national study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC)." (Center for Studying Health System Change)

Nationwide Health Information Network Gears Up for Test Run
Excerpt: "In early 2009, the Social Security Administration will begin using the Nationwide Health Information Network to access health records held by a private health information exchange, NHIN planners and SSA officials announced Tuesday, Government Health IT reports." (California HealthCare Foundation)

Comprehensive Summary of Comparative Effectiveness Health Research Legislation in 110th Congress (PDF)
4 page chart. (AcademyHealth)

Obama Administration Reform Plan Could Create Hurdles and Opportunities for Health Plans
Excerpt: "Although President-elect Obama's proposal to overhaul the health care system would create some barriers for health plans, it also has the potential to boost enrollment and create wider profit margins, according to an analysis of the proposal from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). In a Nov. 12 conference call to discuss the report, Mike Thompson, a principal in the firm's Human Resource Services practice, suggested that reform efforts proposed by the president-elect, if successful, would create a 'new and different' marketplace for health insurers." (

Worksite Wellness Programs: Just What the Doctor - And Senior Management, Employees, and Shareholders - Ordered (PDF)
7 pages. Excerpt: "As U.S. employers struggle to meet the rising costs of providing health benefits for their employees, many have introduced cost-containment strategies, including cost sharing, cost shifting, risk rating, and various forms of managed care. However, these methods do not confront the underlying causes of health cost escalation. Worksite wellness and health promotion are the most direct, prudent, and lasting solutions for keeping employees healthy and avoiding costs. Given that employers and employees are the primary commercial purchasers of health care, addressing individual health and well-being at the workplace is appropriate." (Buck Consultants)

EBSA Releases 2008 M-1 Form for MEWAs
Excerpt: "The U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) on Wednesday announced the availability of the 2008 Form M-1 annual report for multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs). An EBSA news release said plan administrators may use EBSA's online filing system to expedite processing of the form. MEWAs generally are arrangements that offer medical benefits to the employees of two or more employers or to their beneficiaries." (; free registration required)

E-Prescribing With Formulary Support Can Save About $845,000 Per 100,000 Patients Annually in Drug Spending, According to Study
Excerpt: "Electronic prescribing systems that enable physicians to choose less costly generic medications for their patients could generate at least $845,000 per 100,000 patients annually in savings, according to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality study, Kansas Health Institute News reports. The study appeared this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

The Case for Public Plan Choice in National Health Reform (PDF)

27 pages. Excerpt: "This policy brief sets out the argument for public plan choice. The core argument is that public insurance has distinct strengths and thus, offered as a choice on a level playing field with private plans, can serve as an important benchmark for private insurance within a reformed health care framework. This is not an argument for a universal Medicare program, but instead for a 'hybrid' approach that builds on the best elements of the present system -- large group plans in the public and private sectors -- while putting in place a new means by which those without access to secure workplace insurance can choose among health plans that provide strong guarantees of quality, affordable coverage. The case made in this brief is that this menu of health plans must include a good public plan modeled after Medicare if the broad goals of reform -- universal insurance and improved value -- are to be achieved." (Center for Health, Economic & Family Security, U.C. Berkeley School of Law and Institute for America's Future)

Retiree Health Benefits in the Recession

Excerpt: "In today's economy, it's tough to view the retiree health benefits issue as purely a question of greedy corporations skipping out on their responsibilities. Many of the employers pulling out of the retiree health care game are themselves struggling to stay afloat. Think about the automakers, or some of the employers mentioned in . . . House testimony -- such as the Tribune Co., which saw Chicago Tribune go bankrupt this week, and Sears, whose profits are 62 percent lower than they were a year ago. Times really are tough for everybody -- even corporations -- and putting more pressure on employers to pay out health benefits probably isn't the way to go. A better option would be to address the core issue: U.S. health care costs too much." (The Century Foundation)

Health Benefits Conference & Expo (HBCE) (Sponsor)

(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, Broward County Schools, Burger King, SAS, Gulf Power/Southern Company, Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI), 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, Manatee County...and more. Satisfaction guaranteed...or your registration refunded. Best Value in Health Benefits Continuing Education (HBCE) - highest quality and registration only $295 - $345. SHRM credits.

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview]
The Role of Severance in Today's Employment Environment (PDF)

4 page. Excerpt: "How companies respond to the business imperative of downsizing and layoffs, as well as how employers 'take care' of terminated workers, is a critical element of business policy that affects both their business culture and, ultimately, the national economy. Traditionally, companies have extended severance benefits to employees who become unemployed for reasons other than 'cause.' Over the years, severance payments have become as standard as salary earned for time worked. (See Severance: A Benefit Essentially Unchanged Throughout Changing Times in the right column [on target page].) This InsightOut addresses three issues related to severance benefits . . . ." (Buck Consultants)

409A Affecting NFL Players
Excerpt: "NFL agents were sent an urgent memo this week from the NFLPA, requiring immediate attention to Federal Tax Code 409A. This provision, originally aimed at bloated executive compensation packages, potentially calls for a full tax burden on signing bonuses and future guaranteed money in the year the package is negotiated, even if the money is deferred over several years. This would have dramatic ramifications. Virtually every signing bonus of any significance in an NFL contract is paid out over a period of at least a couple of years." (Attorney B. Janell Grenier via

Pennsylvania Public School Pensions to Halt Investment Staff Bonuses
Excerpt: "The Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) board plans to end the practice of paying bonuses to 21 investment staff members by year end, according to a media report. An Associated Press news report said the 21 investment employees received a total of more than $864,000 in bonuses for the 2007-2008 fiscal year." (; free registration required)

The New Executive Remuneration Paradigm
Excerpt: "As the global financial crisis unfolds, directors and senior management teams are trying to come to grips with the implications for their business strategies and for their employees. Governments are imposing restrictions on executive remuneration at financial institutions that benefit from rescue efforts, and these constraints may be a harbinger of future regulation of executive remuneration programs, particularly in the US and Europe. Shareholders are seizing the moment as well. They are calling for constraints across industries, continuing their demands for 'pay for results' and decrying 'pay for failure.' This is a time for organizations to take a balanced approach to executive rewards - one that recognizes the external realities while continuing to support human capital strategy." (Mercer LLC)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Pension Bailout: The New Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act
Nationwide on January 27, 2009
presented by ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits

The Roth Factor Advisor Workshop
in Massachusetts on February 5, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Assistant Secretary Bradford P. Campbell Announces Nearly $12 Billion Record Results For Employee Benefit Plans Since 2001
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U. S. Labor Department Publishes 2008 Form M-1 For Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Financial Engines Celebrates 10 Years of Providing Advisory Services to America’s Employees
Financial Engines, Inc.

TRI-AD Wins Another “Eddy” Award from Pensions & Investments Magazine

Drug Cost Regulations Would Hurt Future Medical Innovation; Lower Copays a Better Option
RAND Corporation

ERPA Exam Initial Window Begins January 6
AIRE, LLC (American Institute of Retirement Education)

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