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December 24, 2008

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

Today's sponsor is University Conference Services

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Weighing the Value of Your Health Care Plan

As health care costs continue to increase faster than inflation and the faltering economy exacts its toll on businesses, employers are struggling to balance the costs of their health care programs with the value these benefits provide to employees. The Orlando Health and Welfare Plan Management for Mid-Sized Employers Conference, March 1–4, 2009, gives you access to expert speakers and valuable information that will help you find the right solutions for your plan and equalize your costs and benefits.

Next BenefitsLink Newsletter is Monday, December 29
All the newsletter elves will be busy elsewhere tomorrow and then too pooped to pop on Friday, so we will see you again next week on Monday, December 29! Thank you very much for reading the BenefitsLink Newsletter. Jeanette, Holly, Mary and Dave send our best wishes to you and your family for a joyful holiday! (

[Guidance Overview]
Enforcing Promises of Lifetime Health Benefits

Excerpt: "Mitchell Rubinstein over at Adjunct Law Prof Blog posts today on the huge Sixth Circuit decision last week of Cole v. ArvinMeritor, Inc., No. 06-2224 (Dec. 16, 2008). Rockwell Automation and its successor companies promised, in a collective bargaining agreement signed with the United Auto Workers, that 'The Health Care . . . Coverages an employee has under this Article at the time of retirement or termination of employment at age 65 or older . . . shall be continued thereafter provided that suitable arrangements can be made with the Carrier(s). Contributions for coverages so continued shall be in accordance with [another provision of the CBA].' This contract language, the district court concluded 'unambiguously promises lifetime benefits.'" (Workforce Management; free registration required)

4th Circuit Takes New Approach on Conflict of Interest Case
Excerpt: "A federal appeals court has changed the standard of review it applied to a benefits denial case because of a recent closely watched U.S. Supreme Court decision relating to how seriously judges should consider potential conflicts of interest in cases involving a plan administrator which is also a benefits payer." (; free registration required)

Medications, Medicare Part D, and Managing Expenses in a Difficult Economy
Excerpt: "Nearly two out of ten adults age 45 and older are not very confident that they will be able to afford medical care in the coming year, according to this December 2008 study conducted by AARP. The study also asked people about health insurance coverage, us of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, generic drugs, activities related to medication usage, and Medicare Part D." (AARP)

Study Shows Health Plans Ease Access to Essential Treatments
Excerpt: "More health plans are reducing barriers to essential treatments in response to employers' requests, according to the 2008 findings of the National Business Coalition on Health's eValue8 tool, which coalition members use to assess the quality of health plans as part of the request-for-proposal process." (Workforce Management; free registration required)

Illinois Mandates Autism Coverage
Excerpt: "A new law (SB 934) requires Illinois health insurers, HMOs and governmental plans to provide individuals under age 21 coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders in policies or contracts issued or renewed on or after Dec. 12." (Mercer LLC)

Glenn ERISA Benefit Review Standard Starts to Negatively Impact Plaintiffs
Excerpt: "As readers might recall, the Supreme Court case of Metlife v. Glenn from this past [year] basically left the Firestone review standard for denial of benefits alone and held that a conflict of interest that a dual-role insurer has is just one factor to take into account in determining whether the plan administrator abused his discretion in denying benefits to a plan participant or beneficiary. I predicted back then that this would lead to more ERISA plaintiffs losing their denial of benefit claims under Section 502(a)(1)(B) . . . . Unfortunately, it looks like I am turning out to be right. Exhibit A: Champion v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., No. 07-1991 (4th Cir. 12/19/08)." (Workplace Prof Blog) (Sponsor)

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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

2009 Reporting & Disclosure Calendar for Benefit Plans (PDF)
27 pages. Excerpt: "Sibson Consulting's 2009 Reporting & Disclosure Calendar for Benefit Plans summarizes compliance requirements for qualified, single employer benefit plans. [An online interactive version is at]" (The Segal Group, Inc.)

The Year in Review for Human Resource Management
Excerpt: "The impact of the faltering economy on workers and their retirement savings, dealing with a presidential election that seemed to last forever, and more than a few regulatory and legal changes -- including substantial revisions of the FMLA and ADA -- were some of the events that kept HR leaders hopping during 2008." (Human Resource Executive Online)

New Definitions of Employee Access to Paid Sick Leave and Retirement Benefits in the National Compensation Survey
Excerpt: "The National Compensation Survey (NCS) has recently broadened its definitions of access to sick leave, retirement benefits, and, within the category of retirement benefits, defined contribution plans and defined benefit plans. The new definitions of access have been applied in the calculation of sick leave and retirement benefits, resulting in new estimates for these variables." (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Severance Includes Outplacement and Financial Planning, According to Survey Results
Excerpt: "Employers participating in a recent severance package benchmarking survey offer both outplacement services and financial planning to their laid-off employees. The poll by HR consultant Right Management of HR executives and other senior managers responsible for severance issues found that 81% of the 399 U.S. executives questioned provide outplacement services (61% of the 1,227 surveyed worldwide)." (; free registration required)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Truth in Pricing: Understanding the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Business Model
in Maryland on January 8, 2009
presented by Worldwide Employee Benefits Network (WEB) - Baltimore Chapter

Joint Meeting with the Disability Management Employer Coalition: Managing Chronic Disabilities in the Work Place - Extended Meeting
in Illinois on January 22, 2009
presented by WEB - Chicago West

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

ERIC Statement on Signing by the President of the Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008
ERIC (ERISA Industry Committee)

Enactment Of Pension Relief Measure “A Critical First Step”
American Benefits Council

412(e)(3) Plans Post Gains In 2008; Outperformed The S+P 500 For The Decade
Executive Benefits Design Group

National Conference on Health Care Consumerism Honors RelayHealth

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Insurance Specialist/Case Manager/Underwriter
for Nemco Brokerage, Inc.
in NY

Retirement Plan Administrator
for Firm in South Kansas City
in MO

Retirement Plan Administrator
for Findley Davies, Inc.
in OH

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