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Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter

March 30, 2010

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National Employee Benefits Day acknowledges employee benefits professionals for the quality benefits you provide and for the important role you have in your colleaguesí well being.
This year Benefits Day has a special focus on Workplace Wellness. We encourage you to evaluate your wellness offerings and to reach out to your employees with suggestions on living a healthier lifestyle.

Visit www.ifebp.org/benefitsday for free resources to help you celebrate!


[Guidance Overview]
2010 Assessments Under the New York Health Care Reform Act (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "Compared to the 2009 covered lives assessments under the New York Health Care Reform Act (HCRA), which were increased not long after they were first published by the New York State Department of Health, the 2010 covered lives assessments under the New York Health Care Reform Act (HCRA) are only modestly higher (with increases of less than 3 percent) in five of the State's eight regions and are lower in the other three regions."
(The Segal Group, Inc.)

[Guidance Overview]
DOL Issuance of Yet Another Round of COBRA Subsidy Notices
Excerpt: "[T]he Temporary Extension Act of 2010 (TEA) extended and expanded the COBRA subsidy program that was introduced in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). As a result, the Department of Labor (DOL) has created a new set of five model notices to help plans and individuals comply with these revised requirements. Each model notice is designed for a specific group of qualified beneficiaries."
(McGuireWoods LLP)

[Guidance Overview]
EBSA Model Notices Updated to Reflect Latest COBRA Subsidy Eligibility Extension
Excerpt: "EBSA has posted these notices on its Web site to reflect the Temporary Extension Act of 2010 (TEA, P.L. 111-144). The model notices and information about the subsidy are available at www.dol.gov/ebsa/COBRA/main.html. The notice of availability appeared in the March 22 Federal Register."
(Wolters Kluwer)

Hefty Tax Break, Health Savings Accounts, Spared in Health Care Bill
Excerpt: "Not only did many House members and senators decide to leave the accounts alone, but the president also came around, too. Earlier this month, in an effort to appease Republicans, he declared his support for also making H.S.A.'s available to people who would buy eligible insurance through the federally regulated insurance exchanges."
(The New York Times; free registration required)

Health Care Reform and the HR Implications
Excerpt: "The recently signed healthcare legislation offers an interesting array of challenges and incentives for employers both big and small."
(Human Resource Executive Online)

Overview of the Final Health Care Reform Law, as of March 26, 2010
Excerpt: "[The target page] is a brief description of the major provisions of the new legislation that will affect large employers. (We call it a new law below, even though it has not yet been formally signed by the President. His signature is as certain as one can be in these circumstances.)"
(The ERISA Industry Committee)

Healthcare Reform Update, as of March 29, 2010 (PDF)
6 pages. Excerpt: "For purposes of this Update, we refer to [all recently passed] legislation collectively as Healthcare Reform. Although a complete summary of Healthcare Reform is beyond the scope of this Update, summarized . . . are some of the major provisions of the legislation."
(Dechert LLP)

How the Health Overhaul Will Affect Insurance Premiums for Three Key Groups
Excerpt: "One looming question for many consumers is whether the health overhaul will change how much they pay for insurance. Reports explore how the legislation will affect insurance premiums for three different groups."
(Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation)

Key Health Reform Changes That Will Affect Employers and Employer Group Health Plans in 2010 and 2011
Excerpt: "Because some of the changes may be effective as early at October 1, 2010, employers should begin to assess the extent to which changes in the employer's group health plans will be required. Please note that the effective dates described below are the generally statutory effective dates. Delayed effective dates and/or exceptions may apply in the case of certain 'grandfathered' plans and plans maintained pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. This summary assumes that Congress will pass and the President will sign the currently-pending Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010."
(Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC)

Corporate Health Reform Concerns Prompt House Hearing
Excerpt: "A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to hold a hearing next month on assertions by some corporations that the new health care reform law will 'adversely affect' their ability to provide employee health benefits. Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the panel's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, sent letters Friday to four corporate executives that requested they appear before the subcommittee."
(Business Insurance)

Companies Push to Repeal Provision of Health Law
Excerpt: "An association representing 300 large corporations urged President Obama and Congress on Monday to repeal a provision of the health care overhaul that prompted AT&T, Caterpillar and other companies to announce substantial charges for the current quarter. The association, the American Benefits Council, said the provision -- which reduces the tax deductions for companies with drug coverage for their retired employees -- would deal a significant blow to corporate profits and would discourage companies from hiring more workers."
(The New York Times; free registration required)

Health Care Reform Act Requires Employers to Provide Breaks Related to Breastfeeding
Excerpt: "Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act are required to furnish 'reasonable' breaks to mothers to express milk for their infants who are up to one year old. This was provided in an amendment to the FLSA in the Act signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010."
(Jackson Lewis LLP)

The Good and Bad in Health Care Reform for Small Businesses
Excerpt: "If you run a small business or are self-employed, you probably want to know what's in the health care legislation for you personally. Let's get beyond the rhetoric and the partisanship and look into the details. The good news: For the first time, there's real help for entrepreneurs. If you can't afford or can't qualify for insurance, you'll have new options starting in 2014."
(USA TODAY)

Grandfathering Means Many Employer Plans Won't Change
Excerpt: "The landmark health care law approved this week was sold as an effort to reform unfair insurance practices, but it largely exempts the existing employer-based network from the overhaul. The law grandfathers many existing employer-sponsored plans, sparing them from the consumer protections that will apply to new plans, including minimum-benefit standards and limits on how much a worker can pay in out-of-pocket medical costs."
(The Dallas Morning News)

AT&T Sees $1 Billion Health Care Related Charge
Excerpt: "AT&T Inc . . . said on Friday it would record a $1 billion non-cash charge for the current quarter related to the new U.S. health care reform law, as lawmakers called on the company and three other large employers to testify about expected cost hikes."
(Reuters via Yahoo!Finance)

Interested Parties Start to Read Health Reform Act, Find Surprises
Excerpt: "Most of the language in PPACA and H.R. 4872 'has been sitting out there since Dec. 24,' Schiffbauer said today in an interview. But no one knew until the end whether any health bill would really pass, or whether the final result would look more like the House bill or the Senate bill, Schiffbauer said. Because of the uncertainty about passage of the legislation, because much of the legislation was [developed] behind closed doors, and because much of the debate about the legislation focused on topics such as whether President Obama was born in Kenya and the reality that some people who visit members of Congress have terrible problems with their health insurance, 'nobody started figuring [PPACA] out until it passed,' Schiffbauer said."
(National Underwriter Life & Health)

A Summary of the Health Care Acts
Excerpt: "With the health care reform overhaul near complete, here's a thumb-nail summary of the combined provisions in the reconciliation bill HR 4872 and the new health care law it amends, prepared by CQ . . . ."
(CQ via Consumer Watchdog.)

Health Insurance Reform's Impact on Employers Uncertain, But Not Too Early to Begin Planning
Excerpt: "Advisers say it's still a good time to start figuring out how the law will affect what's covered, what's eligible for tax credits (and new taxes), how premiums can grow, and how much employees can save for health expenses. Compliance reviews of plans could take months."
(Business First of Columbus via American City Business Journals)

Health Care Reform Bill Is No Cause for Panic
Excerpt: "The law includes language that appears to exempt existing plans from some of the coverage mandates, said Ed Fensholt, a senior vice president and director of compliance services for Kansas City-based Lockton Cos. Inc., an insurance broker. Companies already preparing for plan years that begin in October need clarity on this issue, he said, because the legislative language is difficult to figure out and seems to be contradicted in other parts of the law."
(Kansas City Business Journal)

H.R. 4796 Proposes Modifications to Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery and Reporting Requirements
Excerpt: "On March 9, 2010, Representative Patrick Murphy (D-PA) introduced H.R. 4796, the Medicare Secondary Payer Enhancement Act of 2010, into the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 4796 is currently in the early stages of the legislative process, having last been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on March 9, 2010. H.R. 4796 proposes several changes to the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP Act) (42 U.S.C. § 1395y(b)) and reporting under Section 111 of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007, Pub. L. 110-173 (42 U.S.C. 1395y(b)(7) & (8))."
(McDermott Will & Emery)

Survey Finds More Employers Report Using Paid Time Off Banks Rather than Traditional Individual Policies for Vacation, Sick Leave, and Personal Leave
Excerpt: "Fifty-four percent of employers report that their organization offers a comprehensive PTO plan, compared to 43% who said the same in BLR's Survey of Employee Benefits in 2007. In the most recent survey, virtually all of the companies that said they offer a PTO plan allow both exempt and nonexempt employees to participate in the plan."
(PLANSPONSOR.com)

[Opinion]
Industry Group Letter Regarding DOL Proposal to Redefine 'Welfare Benefit Plan' (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "It is our understanding that the Department of Labor has submitted a proposed regulation to the Office of Management and Budget for a 90-day review that would redefine the phrase 'welfare benefit plan' under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). We are concerned that this proposal, as applied, may be incompatible if not irreconcilable with provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and may make it difficult if not impossible for employers to comply with either PPACA or the regulation. We request that this proposed regulation be withdrawn in order to assess its compatibility with the intent of the recently enacted comprehensive health care reform."
(American Benefits Council)




This timely Webcast will address the key elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the related provisions of the Health Care & Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010. Three industry experts will present their views on key elements of health care reform legislation, timeline of required compliance dates, impact on stakeholders and plan design implications.

Executive Compensation; Benefits in General

[Guidance Overview]
Employers Should Be Cautious of New Decision Holding that Severance is Not 'Wages' Subject to FICA
Excerpt: "In United States v. Quality Stores, Inc., a federal district court in Michigan held that severance payments were not wages subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes ('FICA' taxes). This decision appears to conflict with a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. It also is likely to be challenged by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)."
(Littler Mendelson P.C.)

Public Sector Trustees: Rethink Your Fiduciary Protection in Today's Litigious Climate (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "While performing their duties as plan fiduciaries, trustees of public sector health and retirement plans have traditionally relied on sovereign immunity and indemnification for protection. Although these protections are theoretically strong, they have limitations. This publication examines those limitations and argues that, especially in today's environment, public sector plan assets, and the personal assets of plan trustees and employees, may not be adequately protected unless fiduciary liability insurance is purchased."
(The Segal Group, Inc.)


Webcasts and Conferences

"401(k) Plan Workshop: Current Issues and New Developments" - Philadelphia
in Pennsylvania on April 29, 2010
presented by SunGard Relius

"Form 5500/EFAST2 Workshop" - Baltimore
in Maryland on April 29, 2010
presented by SunGard Relius

"Form 5500/EFAST2 Workshop" - Hartford
in Connecticut on April 27, 2010
presented by SunGard Relius

"Form 5500/EFAST2 Workshop" - Orlando
in Florida on April 28, 2010
presented by SunGard Relius

"Form 5500/EFAST2 Workshop" - Philadelphia
in Pennsylvania on April 28, 2010
presented by SunGard Relius

Advanced ERISA for Health & Welfare Plans: Reduce Risks and Costs By Fine-Tuning Your Compliance
Nationwide on March 25, 2010
presented by EBIA / Thomson Reuters


Press Releases


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