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Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter

March 15, 2010

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HIPAA covered entities, including health plans, health care clearinghouses, and covered health care providers, must comply with the HIPAA Security Rule effective February 17, 2010. This regulation also requires compliance from business associates. If you are responsible for your HIPAA Security Policy and Procedural Manual, this course is essential.

[Guidance Overview]
Congressional Extension and Expansion of COBRA Premium Subsidy Program
Excerpt: "The COBRA subsidy applies to individuals involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and March 31, 2010. It also now applies to individuals who: Experienced a COBRA qualifying event based upon a reduction in hours of employment (e.g., moved from full-time to part-time status which caused the employee to no longer be eligible under the group health plan) which occurred between September 1, 2008 and March 31, 2010; and Were involuntarily terminated from employment on or after March 2, 2010."
(Michael Best & Friedrich LLP)

[Guidance Overview]
COBRA Subsidy Extension: Employer Determinations and Premium Payments
Excerpt: "Under the new law, a qualifying event will be deemed to be an Invol Term (and eligible for the COBRA subsidy) if (i) the employer's determination that it was an Invol Term was based on a reasonable interpretation of the law and the administrative guidance issued, and (ii) the employer maintains supporting documentation regarding its determination."
(Haynes and Boone)

Health Care Reform Update and Outlook As of March 12, 2010
Excerpt: "In this article [the current state of health care reform is examined] and compare President Obama's recent health care proposal to the House and Senate bills previously passed by the respective chambers."
(J.P. Morgan Compensation and Benefit Strategies)

Lowering Healthcare Costs with Preventive Care
Excerpt: "While wellness initiatives remain popular and continue to evolve, the question of whether such programs save money has never been convincingly answered. Experts, nonetheless, offer suggestions for HR leaders thinking about creating and implementing successful work-based programs."
(Human Resource Executive Online)

Purchasing Value in Health Care: 15th Annual National Business Group on Health/Towers Watson Employer Survey
Excerpt: "Amid heightened cost pressures brought about by the prolonged economic downturn, companies are assessing their health plan programs to control costs and build healthier and more productive workforces. Despite their efforts, however, employers remain frustrated by employees' poor health habits and the difficulty in motivating behavior change. Additionally, they are uncertain about the potential for health care reform legislation to increase their financial and administrative burdens."
(Towers Watson)

Court Sides Against Cuts to Sacramento County's Retiree Health Subsidies
Excerpt: "On Thursday, the Third District Court of Appeal denied Sacramento County's request to review a labor board decision that barred the county from eliminating health insurance subsidies for retired county workers, the Sacramento Bee reports."
(California HealthCare Foundation)

Managed Health Care: Get Used to It
Excerpt: "We may not like it, but third parties -- the government and insurance companies -- won't be able to pay for all the care that people desire. Yet the aging of the population will ensure that medical costs will spiral. Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, has said that the administration's cost-control proposals do not 'reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount.' We need to think carefully about how to say no without breaking the better side of our health care institutions."
(The New York Times; free registration required)

Preventive Care Strategies for Health Care Cost Management
Excerpt: "While we can't stop the aging process and don't want to limit advances that lead to better treatment and potential cures, we can address controllable health risks. Supply-side strategies for reducing costs, such as promoting HMOs, shopping insurance plans and squeezing providers, have all reached the point of diminishing returns, so it's time to consider new approaches for demand-side cost management."
(Employee Benefit Adviser; free registration required)

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Executive Compensation; Benefits in General

Review the Coverage of Your Top-Hat Plan -- Before Someone Else Does
Excerpt: "Employers that make contributions to their non-qualified deferred compensation plans typically impose a vesting schedule that is at least as strict as the schedule in their qualified retirement plans. Many employers apply a stricter schedule, including the threat of forfeiture for 'bad boy' terminations or competition. Courts will uphold the vesting schedule and forfeiture provisions of an employer's non-qualified deferred compensation plan, but only as long as that plan is exempt from ERISA as a 'top-hat' plan."
(Michael Melbinger via Winston & Strawn LLP)

How to Sort Out Your Fringe Benefits Before the IRS Does
Excerpt: "In this month's column, we begin to identify various fringe benefits the IRS has included for its three-year audit initiative. As with other audit initiatives, the precise focus of the audits will evolve and some of the targeted issues will increase or decrease in importance. Given the timing of the audits and the importance the IRS places on voluntary compliance, as well as the availability of various relief provisions applicable to fringe benefits and payroll taxes, employers should identify the fringe benefits that they offer as potential targets, beginning with the obvious -- those that arise from a specific statutory exemption."
(Thompson Publishing Group Inc.)

Think Tank Proposal for Mandatory Workplace Flexibility, Limits on Overtime, Paid Family Leave
Excerpt: "[T]he Center for American Progress issued a comprehensive set of recommendations that address 'the needs of today's workers and families as they really are, not as we imagine them to be,' including broadening Social Security to include paid FMLA. On the premise that women now make up half of all workers, with mothers being the 'primary breadwinners' in four in ten families, the report makes a number of recommendations . . . ."
(HR Policy Association)

Webcasts and Conferences

An Update on National Health Care Reform: What's Happening in Washington, DC
in Maryland on April 1, 2010
presented by Worldwide Employee Benefits Network (WEB) - Baltimore Chapter

Employee Benefits Conference
in Illinois on May 17, 2010
presented by Illinois CPA Society

PENSCO Symposium Series for Professionals: Alternative Investments & Self-Directed Retirement Accounts
in Massachusetts on June 10, 2010
presented by PENSCO Trust Company

Press Releases

U.S. Department of Labor Sues Former Tampa, Fla., Pharmacy and Officials to Restore Losses to 401(k) Plan
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

U.S. Department of Labor Sues Trustee of Abandoned IXP Inc. 401(k) Plan in Fruita, Colorado
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health Elects New Board Members
Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health

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