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December 31, 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 14, 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.


Note: the newsletter will not be published on Thursday, January 1 or Friday, January 2.
Happy New Year from BenefitsLink!



[Guidance Overview]
McCauley Case Perfect Example of What Supreme Court Had in Mind in the Glenn Case

Excerpt: "Words Cannot Adequately Express. . . How I feel about this case: McCauley v. First Unum Life Insurance Company. Justice at last. . . sorrow that one of my fellow tax attorneys had to fight such a legal battle for over 13 long years when he should have been able to focus on fighting the disease that was ravaging his body. . .gratefulness that the Second Circuit was able to finally deliver a proper result with a little help from MetLife v. Glenn." (Attorney B. Janell Grenier via Benefitsblog.com)


[Guidance Overview]
Second Circuit Revises Standard of Review Pursuant to Glenn Holding

Excerpt: "McCauley v. First Unum Life Ins. Co., 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 26094 (2nd Cir.) (December 24, 2008) is a very significant decision from the Second Circuit. The Court finds UNUM's past history a factor in evaluating the effect of a conflict of interest. . . . This is an excellent example of a court, and a court of appeals, no less, exercising the considerable discretion afforded by Glenn to the benefit of the claimant where the fiduciary is conflicted." (Health Plan Law)


DOL Approves Two Captive Benefits Proposals
Excerpt: "Two big employers have received final Labor Department approval to fund employee benefit risks through their captive insurance companies.The Labor Department approved United Technologies Corp.'s application to use its Vermont-domiciled captive, United Technologies Insurance (Vermont) Inc., to reinsure group term life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment, and long-term disability policies. The group life and AD&D policies will be written by a CIGNA Corp. unit, while the LTD policies will be written by a unit of Liberty Mutual Group Inc." (Business Insurance)


Federal Study Concludes Health Insurance Reform Could Create Workforce Instability
Excerpt: "Making health insurance less dependent on employment could induce workers to retire earlier or change jobs more often, says a new report analyzing the implications of various health care reforms. In its 196-page study published this month, the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the possible effects that health policy proposals might have on the federal budget, the economy, spending on health care and the number of people with health insurance. The report also attempted to predict how employers might respond to certain changes in health care policy." (Workforce Management; free registration required)


Upgraded Technology Better Itemizes FSA Debit Card Expenses
Excerpt: "Employees whose employer-provided health plan provides a flexible spending account (FSA) debit card may find it easier to use those cards. Rite Aid, a nationwide drugstore chain with 4,900 stores in 31 states and Washington, D.C., has upgraded pharmacy and front-end cash registers to simplify tracking health-related spending. The registers now print receipts that identify items that may be eligible for reimbursement as part of a FSA benefit plan, according to a company press release." (Thompson Publishing Group Inc.)


Steady Consumer-Directed Health Growth Is Expected for 2009: Survey Findings (PDF)
Pages 1, 4-5 of 9 pages. Excerpt: "Employee benefits consultants are optimistic that consumer-directed health (CDH) will continue to see steady growth in 2009 and could even become part of health reform efforts, according to the fourth annual survey conducted by Inside Consumer-Directed Care and ISCEBS. However, employers' and employees' limited understanding about the plans remains a key barrier to the acceptance of the plans. Despite these concerns, many respondents were optimistic that enrollment will continue to grow as employers become more comfortable with the price setting and employees gain a better understanding of the potential cost-saving benefits." (Inside Consumer-Directed Care and International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists)


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont Releases Results of Worksite Wellness Study
Excerpt: "Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont and the University of Vermont for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study sought to determine the relative effectiveness of three worksite wellness programs, and was based on a 30-month research project involving more than two-dozen Vermont employers." (Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association)


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma Announces New Autism Benefits
Excerpt: "Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma announced today the addition of an autism benefit to insured groups effective their next policy year. This change will not in any way affect the current medical coverage that has always been available to children with autism. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma is responding to market interests in the benefits and coverage of certain autism-related medically necessary services." (Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association)


San Francisco Health Spending Requirement to Rise
Excerpt: "Employers with employees working in San Francisco will have to pay more in 2009 to comply with the city's health care spending law, while the law's requirements will apply to more employees. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2009, employers with 100 or more employees will be required to spend $1.85 per hour per covered employee on health care, up from $1.76 in 2008. Employers with between 20 and 99 employees will have to spend at least $1.23 per hour per covered employee, up from $1.17. Employers with less than 20 employees are exempt from the requirement." (Business Insurance)


[Opinion]
Four Health Care Media Myths That Didn't Go Away in 2008

Excerpt: "No matter how you slice it, health care is complicated -- which means that the media has a vital role to play in helping the public navigate the ins and outs of the issue. Unfortunately, more often than not, reporters, commentators, and pundits don't serve as trustworthy guides when it comes to health care. In fact, 2008 saw the media once again regurgitating myths that obscure the facts surrounding health care in the United States. Here are some of the most egregious offenders. Access Is Not a Problem. The Socialized Medicine Bogeyman. Blame the Immigrants. Pity the Employers." (The Century Foundation)



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Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

[Official Guidance]
Advisory Opinion on Behalf of Empresas Fonalledas, Inc. re: 'Top Hat' Plan

Excerpt: "[DOL was asked w]hether, in the case of a plan covering a 'controlled group of corporations' or a 'group of trades or businesses under common control' within the meaning of section 414(b) and (c) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code), filing a single registration statement for the plan will satisfy the alternative method of compliance in 29 C.F.R. ? 2520.104-23 for the participating employers." (U.S. Employee Benefits Security Administration)


[Guidance Overview]
Valuing Stock Options: Is It Time to Reconsider Binomial Lattice Models?

Excerpt: "Valuation models were the subject of intense debate during the drafting of 'Statement of Financial Accounting Standards (SFAS) No. 123(R) -- Share-Based Payment.' The exposure draft would have required companies to use a binomial lattice model (or something similar) to value employee stock option awards, but the final standard has allowed companies to use either a binomial lattice or a closed-form model, such as Black-Scholes, without preference. Companies overwhelmingly have selected the Black-Scholes model. Most consider Black-Scholes easier to use and understand, its use is comparable with peers and its results were generally consistent with a binomial lattice approach. This article examines why those advantages might hold less true today and why companies might want to reconsider their model selection." (Watson Wyatt Worldwide)


How to Fix Your Life in 2009
Excerpt: "Modeled on Personal Journal's regular Quick Fix feature, the advice here covers a lot of ground, but shares a common theme: helping you make your dollars work harder." (The Wall Street Journal)


Money Moves to Make, and Avoid, in 2009
Excerpt: "Between the Wall Street meltdown, gas and oil price fluctuation, auto industry fallout, and housing and credit crises, many of us were on a financial roller coaster in 2008. So, what burning questions do you have as we enter the new year with the economy in such perilous shape? Financial planner Jill Schlesinger, executive vice president of StrategicPoint Investment Advisors, answered some key ones on The Early Show Wednesday." (CBS News)


How to Handle Beneficiary Designations
Excerpt: "The decision about how to designate beneficiaries for your company retirement plan, life insurance policies, and other assets might seem like a no-brainer. Chances are you would like those near and dear to you to inherit any money you've accumulated during your lifetime, so making sure that happens should be as simple as writing their names on the appropriate forms, right? Not so fast. Naming beneficiaries is a more nuanced decision-making process than you might think, and it's one that may have significant repercussions for your loved ones." (Morningstar)


Benefits Were 30.3% of Total Compensation in September 2008, BLS Finds
Excerpt: "Employer-provided benefits costs for civilian workers in private industry and state and local governments in September 2008 averaged $8.74 per hour worked, accounting for 30.3% of total compensation costs, which averaged $28.87 per hour worked. Benefits as a percentage of compensation have risen in the past three years from 27.4% of total compensation, although that percentage has been stable in the last year. These are among the findings of the September 2008 Employer Costs for Employee Compensation report, produced quarterly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)." (Wolters Kluwer)


The Opinions of Florida Workers Aged 40+ About Their Jobs, Employers, and Retirement
Excerpt: "Key Findings: 7 in 10 workers say they are very satisfied with their job overall, and about 2 in 3 are very satisfied with their work hours and their boss; 7 in 10 say their employer provides a defined contribution plan, but only 3 in 10 say their employer automatically enrolls employees into such a plan; 9 in 10 full-time workers and 6 in 10 part-time workers receive health insurance; 51% have calculated how much money they will need when they retire, and 6 in 10 of these respondents say they are saving enough for retirement; and, 6 in 10 respondents plan to work beyond the normal Social Security retirement age." (AARP)




Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

2008 Form 1099-R Preparation: Roth, PPA, and HEART - Oh My!
Nationwide on January 6, 2009
presented by SunGard Relius

Future Care 2009 Healthcare Web Summit
Nationwide on January 22, 2009
presented by MCOL

International PPO's Secrets to the Next Emerging Market
Nationwide on February 12, 2009
presented by MCOL

January 2009 Monthly Luncheon - Fee Audits for Defined Contribution Plans
in Colorado on January 13, 2009
presented by Western Pension and Benefits Conference-Denver Chapter

The Roth Factor
Nationwide on January 20, 2009
presented by Convergent Retirement Plan Solutions, LLC



Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Watson Wyatt Data Services' Latest Report Covers Trends in Board of Directors Compensation Policies & Practices
Watson Wyatt Data Services

U. S. Department Of Labor Finalizes Civil Penalty Rules Under The Pension Protection Act
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Principal Group Earns Top Ranking for Plan Sponsor Website
Principal Financial Group



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