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Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter

March 11, 2010

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Employers Plan to Shift More Health Costs to Workers, According to Survey
Excerpt: "The Washington Post: 'Most big employers plan to shift a larger share of health-care costs to their workers next year, according to a survey to be released Thursday. ... Meanwhile, employees at many companies can expect significantly higher premiums, deductibles and co-payments, according to the annual survey by the National Business Group on Health, a coalition of big employers, and Towers Watson, a consulting firm that advises companies on employee benefits.'"
(Kaiser Family Foundation)

Capping Tax Exclusion for Employer-Provided Health Insurance Would Raise Revenues While Minimizing Coverage Disruption
Excerpt: "The February 2010 working paper, The Tax Exclusion For Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance, was prepared by Jonathan Gruber, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Economics, and director of the NBER's health care program."
(Wolters Kluwer)

New, Cheaper Health Plans Aim to Avert Costly Procedures
Excerpt: "Workers at a Portland, Ore., steel mill soon will be able to pick a new type of insurance that offers free care for some illnesses, such as diabetes or depression, but requires hefty extra fees for treatments deemed overused, including knee replacements, hysterectomies and heart bypass surgery. The insurance . . . is the most far-reaching and potentially controversial step in an effort by employers nationally to rein in medical spending by redesigning health benefits."
(Kaiser Family Foundation)

U.S. Senate Passes Extension of COBRA and Other Unemployment Benefits
Excerpt: "The Hill: Six Senate Republicans joined most Democrats to approve a package of unemployment aid and tax provisions. The bill, which its backers say is 'a necessary step during the economic recovery,' passed on a 62-36 vote. 'The bulk of the bill's cost -- about $80 billion -- goes toward prolonging increased levels of federal unemployment aid and COBRA healthcare benefits for the jobless through the end of December.'"
(Kaiser Family Foundation)

Two Different Understandings of What Discretionary Review Means
Excerpt: "I have written before on this blog, on numerous occasions, about courts sometimes engaging in a more searching level of discretionary review that, in essence, is not discretionary review at all, at least in the manner it has long been traditionally understood. The common belief, and applied in that way by many and probably most courts over the years, is that discretionary - sometimes called arbitrary and capricious - review means that an administrator's decision in a long term disability case . . . ."
(Stephen Rosenberg of The McCormack Firm, LLC)

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Executive Compensation; Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview]
Ninth Circuit Changes Mind, Holds That Commute Time May Be Compensable Under California Law
Excerpt: "On March 2, 2010, in Rutti v. Lojack Corp., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its prior ruling on this issue in the same case and expanded this exception -- holding that under California law an employer must compensate its employees for time spent commuting when the employee is driving a company-provided vehicle with restricted use."
(Seyfarth Shaw LLP)

Making Executive Compensation Mischief Tied to Pension Funding Relief
Excerpt: "[A]ny employer that accepts the extended amortization relief would be required to make a matching contribution to its pension plan for that year in an amount equal to the amount of compensation paid to any employees for the year over $1 million."
(Michael Melbinger via Winston & Strawn LLP)

BLS Finds Employer Compensation Costs Remain Stable
Excerpt: "Private industry employers spent an average of $27.42 per hour worked for total employee compensation in December 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported."

Book Review: Steven Greenhut's Book, Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives, and Bankrupting the Nation
Excerpt: "Mr. Greenhut does a good job of showing how California's public employee unions have done so much to cause the state's budget troubles by negotiating large salaries, benefits and retirement packages far out of line with state revenues. He does an even better job of showing how the unions respond when their privilege is threatened."
(The Washington Times)

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