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December 19, 2008

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

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[Guidance Overview]
W.Va. Supreme Court Holds ERISA Subrogation Claims Belong in Federal Court

Excerpt: "In a rare opinion on an ERISA matter, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that state courts do not have jurisdiction to determine whether ERISA plan fiduciaries or administrators can assert subrogation rights against plan participants and beneficiaries. Turner v. Turner, No. 33892 (Dec. 15, 2008)." (Brian Peterson's West Virginia Legal Weblog)

Opponents of Current Administration's FMLA Changes Seek Redress
Excerpt: "The Bush administration is making the most of its waning weeks by issuing regulations that will take effect just before President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in. Among the highest in profile are changes to a major employee leave law that has not been modified since it was enacted in 1993. In mid-November, the Department of Labor circulated rules that it said would clarify rights and obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act. They take effect January 16, which should prevent Congress from halting them. But Capitol Hill critics want to change them nonetheless." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Massachusetts Health Plan Has National Appeal: Seen As Model for the 47 Million Uninsured
Excerpt: "Massachusetts achieved near-universal coverage by investing heavily in patching the holes in the existing system, where most people get coverage through work - something economist Jonathan Gruber of MIT calls 'incremental universalism.' This centrist approach rejects both the liberal vision of a Canadian-style Medicare-for-all system and the conservative preference to move to a deregulated market where people buy policies on their own with the help of tax credits." (The Boston Globe)

Rep. Stark Says No Health Reform Vote in Early '09
Excerpt: "Votes on legislation to enact comprehensive national health reform might have to wait until early 2010, the Democratic chairman of a powerful House subcommittee said Wednesday. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who chairs the Ways and Means Committee's health subcommittee, said Congress is likely to take a slower approach on healthcare reform. He said lawmakers have too many pressing priorities on the economy and other smaller-scale healthcare issues to move quickly on a large healthcare bill next year, as reform activists have advocated." (The Hill)

The ROI Calculator: A New Tool to Help You Calculate Your Wellness Return on Investment (PDF)
Excerpt: "Worksite wellness programs are effective at reducing the demand for health care and this lowers cost. Wellness programs make sense, they have been shown to work, yet they are rarely included in any discussions about future health care costs. This oversight can usually be explained by one reason -- a lack of appreciation for the strength of the business case for wellness. The fact is, the return on a wellness program investment is nearly always positive. And even when an investment of $1 yields a meager return of just $1, that means that the benefit is essentially free! Who wouldn't provide such a benefit?" (Wellness Council of America)

The Choice of a Public Plan: Questions and Answers (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "How is the public plan different from the 'essential benefits plan' that private health insurers support? The private insurance industry proposes to create a portable health plan for individuals and small businesses that would not be subject to state regulation. This plan would not compete with private plans, but rather, allow private plans to group specific lines of business together outside of a competitive framework -- an approach that promises neither cost control nor quality improvements. By contrast, giving Americans the choice of a public plan allows us all to realize the benefits of both public and private plans: flexibility and stability, market accountability and democratic accountability, and inclusive social protection and private innovation." (U.C. Berkeley School of Law)

Key Issues in Analyzing Major Health Insurance Proposals (PDF)
196 pages. Excerpt: "This report describes some of the key assumptions that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) would use in estimating the effects of key elements of such proposals on federal costs, insurance coverage, and other outcomes; the evidence on which those assumptions are based; and -- if the evidence points to a range of possible effects rather than a precise prediction -- the factors that would influence where a proposal falls within those ranges. In doing so, it also reviews many of the major issues that arise in designing such proposals. This document does not provide a comprehensive analysis of any specific proposal; rather, it identifies and discusses many of the critical factors that would affect estimates of various proposals." (U.S. Congressional Budget Office via American Benefits Council)

U.S. Budget Options: Health Care (PDF)
235 pages. Excerpt: "This volume -- which expands on one of the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO's) regular reports to the House and Senate Committees on the Budget -- presents 115 options for reducing (or, in some cases, increasing) federal spending on health care, altering federal health care programs, and making substantive changes to the nation's health insurance system." (U.S. Congressional Budget Office via American Benefits Council)

Strategies to Increase Generic Drug Utilization and Associated Savings
Excerpt: "The apparent safety and savings associated with generic drugs have not gone unnoticed -- many health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, and public health programs are adopting strategies that encourage generic utilization. This AARP Public Policy Institute report describes and reviews evidence of the effectiveness of these strategies in the areas of Generic substitution policies; Health plan benefit designs; Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing); Consumer education; Prescriber education; Pharmacist/prescriber incentives; Drug pricing and pharmacy reimbursement; Prescription pad formats and Federal legislation." (AARP)

Changing the Course of Mental Health Care

Excerpt: "While the mental health parity bill is a critical step in moving private insurers toward covering mental health care, many individuals will continue to rely on the public safety net. Therefore, any attempt to expand mental health coverage in the United States must recognize the serious challenges those with mental illness face in receiving the treatment they need to live normal lives. Reform not only must build on mental health parity requirements; it should also support individuals and their families living with mental illness by making community-based services easier to access and afford. Unfortunately, without significant government change, navigating the confusing and inefficient system will continue to be difficult for those with mental illness." (Center for American Progress)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview]
Executive Compensation and Equity Compensation Plans Year-End Checklist (PDF)

3 pages. Excerpt: "The . . . checklist describes 2008 year-end action items with respect to executive compensation and equity compensation plans. Though not exhaustive, this list is intended to provide a reminder of the general set of issues facing us at year end." (Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP)

Organized Labor 'Thrilled' with Obama's Pick for Labor Secretary
Excerpt: "Labor unions Thursday praised President-elect Barack Obama's selection to head the Labor Department, Rep. Hilda Solis. Rep. Hilda Solis is viewed as a strong advocate for working men and women by organized labor. A Washington-based labor official for a major union told CNN's John King that the California Democrat was Obama's choice for labor secretary. Obama is expected to officially announce his nomination of Solis during a press conference on Friday." (Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.)

Fact Sheet: EBSA Achieves Nearly $12 Billion in Total Monetary Results in Last Eight Years
Excerpt: "In FY 2008, [the Employee Benefits Security Administration] closed 3,570 civil investigations, with 2,696 (75.52%) resulting in monetary results for plans or other corrective action. Since 2001, EBSA has closed 32,338 civil cases, with more than two-thirds (68.31%) resulting in monetary results or corrective action." (U.S. Employee Benefits Security Administration)

Jobs and Benefits: Grim Outlook
Excerpt: "According to a survey to be released Thursday by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc., 7% of 117 respondents plan to reduce matching employee 401(k) and 403(b) contributions, and 3% already have done so. In addition, 17% of respondents plan to raise employee contributions to health-care premiums, and 20% already have raised them. 'When benefits are cut back or contributions are decreased, people look at it as if you cut their pay,' says Jeanne Hand, senior account executive of United Benefit Consulting Inc., a benefit consulting firm that is a division of HUB International." (The Wall Street Journal)

Five Common Mistakes in Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans
Excerpt: "[One mistake is underestimating the importance of investments since] NQDC plans are not subject to all the rules and regulations of ERISA and do not carry the weight of fiduciary liability. There is little push to regularly monitor the investments within a plan and/or create an investment policy. For ease, many organizations opt to mirror the investment of their 401(k) plans. This leads to two issues. First, many organizations fail to update the investment options on the NQDC side when they amend their 401(k) offerings, leaving the NQDC plan with subpar investment options. Second, key executives are typically looking for greater diversification." (Employee Benefit News; free registration required)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Beneficiary Distributions
Nationwide on February 18, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plan to IRA Rollovers
Nationwide on March 4, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

IRA Conversions and Recharacterizations
Nationwide on March 11, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

IRA Fundamentals - Cost-Effective IRA Training Solution
Nationwide on January 21, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

IRA Plan Establishment & Funding
Nationwide on January 21, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

IRA Required Reporting
Nationwide on March 18, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

IRA to IRA Rollovers and Transfers
Nationwide on February 25, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

Roth IRA Distributions
Nationwide on February 11, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

Traditional IRA Distributions
Nationwide on January 28, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

Traditional IRA Required Minimum Distributions
Nationwide on February 4, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Recession Forcing More Companies to Make Changes to HR Programs, Watson Wyatt Survey Finds
Watson Wyatt

PBGC Assumes Pascack Valley Hospital Pension Plan
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)

Newport Named `Best in Class’ in Plansponsor Annual Survey
Newport Group, The

EBRI/ICI Study: Seven Percent of 401(k) Assets in Lifecycle Funds
Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

Employers Continue to Consider Bold Changes to Retiree Medical for 2009 and Later
Towers Perrin

Pension Rights Center Submits a Consumer Agenda for Retirement Security to Obama Transition Team
Pension Rights Center

The SPARK Institute Answers More Technical Questions Regarding 403(b) Plans Information Sharing
SPARK Institute

FedEx Cuts Workers' Retirement Compensation While CEO Rakes in Multimillion-Dollar Pension
International Brotherhood of Teamsters

CPI Introduces The Auditor's Toolbox
CPI Qualified Plan Consultants, Inc.

SEI Releases 2009 Update of FAS 87 Disclosure Assumption Research for Pension Plan Sponsors

Multiple Generations Look to Employers for Benefits Education

Ascensus Expands Fee-Based Services

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