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Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter

May 3, 2010

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Learn what single employers need to do nowóboth tactically and strategically. The May 6 webcast will provide timelines for employers, so they understand what to do now, next year and beyond. Explore the long-term strategies that will emerge as a result of this lawís passage. Topics include why employers provide coverage to associates and their families, competitive positioning of these benefits and cost containment actions to consider over the next few years.

[Guidance Overview]
HHS Requests for Information About Health Privacy Disclosures Under HITECH Act Changes to HIPAA Privacy Rule (PDF)
3 pages, in Federal Register. Excerpt: "[T]he Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act expands an individual's right [HIPAA] to receive an accounting of disclosures of protected health information made by HIPAA covered entities and their business associates. In particular, [it] requires [HHS] to revise the HIPAA Privacy Rule to require covered entities to account for disclosures of protected health information to carry out treatment, payment, and health care operations if such disclosures are through an electronic health record. This document is a request for information (RFI) to help us better understand the interests of individuals with respect to learning of such disclosures, the administrative burden on covered entities and business associates of accounting for such disclosures, and other information that may inform [HHS'] rulemaking in this area."
(Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

[Guidance Overview]
Healthcare Reform Prohibits Lifetime and Annual Limits
Excerpt: "The new health care reform law contains a provision stating that group health plans cannot establish a lifetime or annual limit on the dollar value of benefits. Plans are permitted to place lifetime and annual limits on specific covered benefits that are not considered essential benefits under the new health reform law."

[Guidance Overview]
Healthcare Reform Expands Nondiscrimination Requirements for Employer-Provided Health Insurance
Excerpt: "[This 3-page article] highlights these new rules and contrasts them with the existing nondiscrimination requirements that apply to self-insured health plans."

[Guidance Overview]
Navigating National Health Care Reform: What Every Employer Should Know
12 pages. Excerpt: "This Alert addresses new group health plan coverage and cost-sharing obligations (such as a ban on annual and lifetime benefit limits and pre-existing condition exclusions), new rules imposed on the administration of group health plans and new programs established under PPACA."
(Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler)

[Guidance Overview]
Should Your Company Make Wellness Participation Mandatory?
Excerpt: "Almost half (47 percent) of large employers say they are already slapping employees with financial penalties, or planning to, in the next three to five years if they don't participate in certain health-improvement programs [according to a study by Hewitt Associates]."
(Human Resource Executive Online)

[Guidance Overview]
How Far Should an Employer Push Its Wellness Program?
Excerpt: "When wellness-plan participation is achieved through a positive 'carrot' instead of a penalty in the form of a 'stick,' the company will be well on its way towards satisfying the varied (and at times contradictory) legal standards."
(Human Resource Executive Online)

[Guidance Overview]
No Deference to Plan's Decision When Discretionary Authority Given in SPD But Not in Long-Term Disability Plan Document
Excerpt: "[In] Jobe v. Med. Life Ins. Co. . . . (8th Cir. 2010) . . . [the] court concluded that the insurance policy for the plan (which did not contain a grant of discretionary authority) conflicted with the SPD (which purported to grant discretion, but which also stated that the policy would prevail if the two documents conflicted). "
(Employee Benefits Institute of America)

[Guidance Overview]
DOL Updates Subsidy Notices for Changes Made by Continuing Extension Act
Excerpt: "Because the extension created by TEA expired on March 31 -- before CEA was enacted -- individuals who experienced a qualifying event from April 1 through April 14 may not have been provided proper notice."
(Employee Benefits Institute of America)

[Guidance Overview]
IRS Provides Guidance on Tax Treatment of Employer-Provided Health Benefits for Children Under Age 27
Excerpt: "Note that there is no corresponding amendment to the Code's HSA provisions, so the individuals whose expenses can be reimbursed tax-free from an HSA remain unchanged."
(Employee Benefits Institute of America)

[Guidance Overview]
Business Tax Impacts of Healthcare Reform
4 pages. Selected topics: 'Credit for small businesses providing employee health coverage . . . . Employer penalties for not providing health coverage . . . . Elimination of tax deduction for Medicare Part D subsidy"

[Guidance Overview]
Health Coverage Tax Credit: Participation and Administrative Costs (PDF)
44 pages. Excerpt: "The [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009] required the Comptroller General to examine issues related to participation in and administrative costs associated with the Health Coverage Tax Credit program administered by the [IRS], and to provide the results to Congress by March 1, 2010."
(U.S. Government Accountability Office)

[Guidance Overview]
New Law Gives Women the Right to Extract Milk in the Workplace
Excerpt: "Groups representing employers . . . say the breast-feeding provision lacks clarity."
(Washington Business Journal)

[Guidance Overview]
A New Era Begins for Employer-Sponsored Coverage After Healthcare Reform (PDF)
13 pages. Excerpt: "To help you understand your obligations as an employer/plan sponsor, we have provided a detailed discussion of health care reform as it relates to group health plans, beginning with a general timeline of the applicable provisions."

Many Employers Not Aware of Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act
Excerpt: "Employers recently breathed a sigh of relief when lawmakers decided not to make the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act mandatory, but while that decision was clearly good news for companies, experts say HR leaders would still be well-served to brush up on the CLASS Act's various provisions . . . ."
(Human Resource Executive Online)

CFOs Gauge the Reach of Healthcare Reform
Excerpt: "Despite the uncertainty, few CFOs say they plan to change their current insurance offerings at this point."

Medical Benefit Cutbacks Pay Off for Sonoma County
Excerpt: "A controversial move to save Sonoma County taxpayer dollars has reduced commitments for funding retiree medical care by $15 million this year, according to a county report."

Brief Overview of What New Hampshire Employers Should Know About Same-S.ex Marriage
Excerpt: "Given the conflict with federal law, employers should understand that not all benefits available to married heterose.xual employees will be available to married homose.xual employees."

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Executive Compensation; Benefits in General

Army's Generous Pay, Benefits: Are Skyrocketing Costs Sustainable?
Excerpt: "Painful choices lie ahead: cutting the size of the Army, even as it is heavily engaged in combat, or cutting soldiers' pay and benefits, a step that has proved too politically poisonous even to mention aloud."

Employee Ownership Update for May 3, 2010
NCEO Executive Director Corey Rosen discusses: The British Conservative Party called for more employee ownership. The IRS may issue preapproved ESOP plan language. SharesPost will work with brokers to facilitate purchases of stock or options from private company employees. The NCEO is assembling a resource on wellness and health insurance programs. The NCEO annual conference had a record attendance, and Loren Rodgers will be the new executive director. The Smiley Fellowship winner was announced.
(National Center for Employee Ownership)

Public Pension Fund Underfunding Is a Manageable Challenge
Excerpt: "The deep financial downturn of 2008 and 2009, spurred by recklessness on Wall Street, caused significant problems in many pension funds. But our public pension plans are designed for long-term stability, and virtually all of them have sufficient resources to weather this financial storm."
(Gerald W. McEntee in USA TODAY)

Ugly Truth About State Pensions Begins to Emerge
Excerpt: "Many states have lavish programs that allow workers to retire in their 50s with ample pensions -- and health insurance to cover them until Medicare kicks in. Second, regardless of how generous their benefits, some states have simply failed to put away adequate funds to cover them."

In 2010 National Elections, Are Public Sector Employees the Democrats' Achilles Heel?
Excerpt: "The Democrats can't walk away from the public employee unions who negotiated these arrangements because they are beholden to them."

Webcasts and Conferences

Half-Day Form 5500 Seminar
in New York on May 20, 2010
presented by WEB (Worldwide Employee Benefits Network ), New York Chapter

Press Releases

PBGC Assumes Colonial Bank Pension Plan
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)

PBGC Statement On Continued Pensions At Lyondell Chemical Co.
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)

Union Officer Sentenced For Embezzling Over $300,000 In Union Funds
U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Tegrit Merges with Summit Retirement Plan Services, Inc.
Summit Retirement Plan Services, Inc.

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