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July 1, 2013          Get Retirement News  |  Advertise
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Employee Benefits Jobs

Assistant Vice President, Pension
for Associated Third Party Administrators in CA

Plan Administrator
for The Newport Group in CA, FL, TX, VA

Retirement Plan Installation Specialist
for Plan Design Consultants, Inc. in CA

Retirement Plan Account Manager
for Benefit Consultants Group in NJ

Manager, Retirement Plans, Total Rewards
for AECOM, a Fortune 500 company in CA

Account Manager
for Northwestern Benefit Corporation of Georgia in GA

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[Official Guidance]

Text of IRS Proposed Regs on Information Reporting for Affordable Insurance Exchanges
"These proposed regulations affect Exchanges that make qualified health plans available to individuals and employers.... Final regulations under section 36B were issued on May 23, 2012 ... Section 1.36B-5 identifies the information (primarily based on the statutory language) that Exchanges must report to the IRS and taxpayers and indicates that the time and manner requirements for reporting this information would be provided in subsequent guidance.... [T]hese proposed regulations amend section 1.36B-5, propose detailed rules for information reporting by Exchanges, and describe specific information that has been identified since publication of the final regulations that is necessary for efficient tax administration." (Internal Revenue Service)

[Guidance Overview]

Contraceptive Coverage Final Regulations Issued
"The final rule adopts the approach suggested by the proposed rule, but [it] attempts to simplify administration of the policy.... This rule is likely to not satisfy many of the employers who object to the contraceptive coverage requirement. To date, more than sixty lawsuits have been filed challenging this requirement.... The rule ... makes no accommodation for for-profit, secular, employers. The courts will continue to have to struggle with whether the requirement that these employers provide contraceptive coverage for any employees for whom they provide insurance in fact substantially burdens the employers' free exercise of religion." (Timothy Jost in Health Affairs)

[Guidance Overview]

PCORI Fees: Who Pays, and Should Group Health Plans Be Amended?
"For employer-sponsored group health plans, who pays the fees will vary depending on whether the plan offers insured or self-insured benefits (or both), and even on how many employers are participating in the plan. If your company sponsors a plan with multiple participating employers, you may want to amend your plan before July 31 to designate which entity is responsible for submitting these payments." (Warner Norcross & Judd LLP)

[Guidance Overview]

ACA Expands Employee Protection for Blowing the Whistle
"ACA's whistleblower protections currently are flying under the radar. If recent trends continue, these provisions will garner more attention once 'Obamacare' becomes fully effective ... While ACA forbids retaliation in the form of any adverse employment action, this does not mean that a complaining employee is 'bulletproof.' An employer may discipline and/or discharge a worker who has made a complaint but must be prepared to show by 'clear and convincing evidence' that it would have done the same thing even absent the protected activity." (Ballard Spahr)

[Guidance Overview]

Final Wellness Rules Will Likely Require Changes to Outcome-Based Programs (PDF)
"Prior to the 2014 Final Rules, many plan sponsors began to make their wellness programs more stringent in the hopes of ensuring that individuals would actually become healthier. Such efforts may still be possible, but plan sponsors should structure such programs carefully to ensure consistency with the new restrictions on outcome-based programs.... Plan sponsors should be cautious about providing a Year 1 reward in Year 2, and should consider, in particular, the IRS rules relating to deferral of compensation." (Drinker Biddle)


Leadership Summit on Health Insurance Exchanges (HIXs)

Sponsored by World Congress

Timely information focused on leveraging current "knowns" and progress to derive practical strategies for successful future participation in HIXs. Join us July 15-17 in Arlington, VA.

[Guidance Overview]

Checklist for HIPAA Business Associate Agreements
"Among other things, covered entities and business associates must execute agreements whereby the business associate agrees to comply with certain Privacy and Security Rule provisions affecting protected health information. The Omnibus Rules will require most covered entities and business associates to review and update their business associate agreements by September 23, 2013." (Holland & Hart)

Oversight Committee Examines 'Small Business Mandates' Limiting Health Insurance Options
"The District of Columbia and Vermont have both passed 'small business mandates' requiring organizations of 50 individuals or fewer to purchase insurance through state Exchanges established under Obamacare. The mandates contradict the health care law, which states qualified employers will not be prevented from selecting health plans offered outside of an Exchange." (U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform)

Health Insurance Premiums Set for a Jolt
"Healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage under the federal health law later this year, while the premiums paid by sicker people are set to become more affordable ... The exchanges ... look likely to offer few if any of the cut-rate policies that healthy people can now buy ... At the same time, the top prices look to be within reach for many people who previously faced sky-high premiums because of chronic illnesses or who couldn't buy insurance at all." (The Wall Street Journal; subscription may be required)

Agencies Set Birth Control Rule for Employers with Religious Ties
"The rule formally takes effect on August 1. But the administration gave nonprofit employers an additional five months to adjust to the new regulations by having it apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1. Other employers have been required to make contraceptives coverage available to their workers since last August." (Reuters)

No-cost Contraceptives Stay Covered in Health Law
"After considering more than 400,000 comments, administration officials refused to budge on the basic principle. The rule, they said, is very similar to their proposal. An exemption is included for churches. But many Catholic hospitals, schools, universities and other religious institutions will have to take steps so that coverage is available to employees and their dependents." (The New York Times; subscription may be required)

Study Says the Uninsured Are Healthier
"Compared with those already enrolled in Medicaid, uninsured adults were less likely to be obese and sedentary and less likely to report a physical, mental, or emotional limitation. They also were less likely to have several chronic conditions." (John Goodman's Health Policy Blog)

ACA: The View from North of the Border
"Healthcare analysts north of the border [said] differences between the Canadian and American systems for the most part favor the [Canadians] -- wider access to healthcare, lower proportionate costs, better outcomes in some important areas. Surprisingly, though, they also say Canadians can and should learn some lessons from their American cousins. Here's review of how the Canadian system works, how the U.S. and Canadian systems clash, how they might learn from each other, and some speculation on whether the ACA can bring the two closer in line." (MedPage Today)

Charges Vary Dramatically Among Colorado Hospitals, Even Within the Same City
"Charges can range from 43 percent greater than statewide averages to 57 percent less than statewide averages.... Charges to treat the same condition can routinely differ by tens of thousands of dollars.... In general, Colorado's urban and suburban hospitals charge more than hospitals in more rural areas." (Colorado Center on Law and Policy)

Warning to Wisconsinites: Hefty Health Care Tax Ahead
"Actuarial giant Oliver Wyman projects Wisconsin consumers and employers will pay more than $2.9 billion more over the next 10 years, thanks to the tax. On average, the tax will hike premiums in the Badger State by $2,157 during the period for individuals buying coverage on their own, and by $6,932 for families who receive coverage from a small employer[.]" (IllinoisWatchdog.org)


Medicare's Problems Are Much Worse Than You Think
"In order to pay for the expansion of health insurance for the young, the health reform law calls for steep cuts in spending on the elderly. Whereas Medicare spending per person in real terms has been growing at about the rate of growth of real GDP per person plus 2 percentage points, the ObamaCare law calls for a growth rate of GDP plus 0.04 percent.... From a financial point of view, senior patients will become less desirable than welfare mothers. On the hospital side, the actuaries office is predicting that one in seven hospitals will completely leave the Medicare system by the end of this decade." (John Goodman's Health Policy Blog)


American Public Still Doesn't Like Obamacare
"[A] majority of Americans still disapprove of it, with 52 percent of adults generally disapproving. But a more telling measure of support comes from the response to this question from those who are uninsured: In the long run, how you do you think the healthcare law will affect your family's healthcare situation/the healthcare situation in the U.S....? The figures were nearly split in thirds, with 37 percent of the uninsured responding it would make things better for their family's health care, 35 percent responding 'no difference,' and 34 percent thinking it would make things worse." (The Heritage Foundation)


Why Are Health Insurance Premiums Higher for Public Employers?
"In the past decade, health insurance premiums for state and local government employers have grown more than premiums for employers in the private sector. Although some of this is due to demographic characteristics, a significant portion has been due to an increase in the use of cost sharing in the private sector. Plans for public employers have maintained the same level of benefits, whereas the coverage in plans for private sector employers has deteriorated. The policy implications of this should have us concerned." (Physicians for a National Health Program)


Three Reasons Economist Uwe Reinhardt Blames Purchasers for Everything
"Reinhardt is rightfully troubled by a decade of escalating health care cost growth under employment-based health insurance. But seized by Actor-Observer Bias, Reinhardt blames this problem not on the world of health care that he played such an influential role in over the past few decades, but on external forces, the employers who purchase health care.... In fact, these employers aren't real people; they are straw men created to justify the Professor's contortionist logic that health cost inflation has nothing to do with actions of the health care industry itself." (Leah Binder, in The Health Care Blog)


Yes -- Employers Really Are to Blame for Our High Medical Prices
"I do stand properly accused, however, of accusing employers being party -- passive or active, I care not which -- to a deal to keep prices for health care in the private sector opaque from the public. Well, haven't they? After all, they had half a century to flush these prices out into the open. Indeed, I recall that one of the major complaints among employees with high-deductible policies has been the lack of information on prices by provider and procedure." (Uwe Reinhardt, in The Health Care Blog)

Benefits in General; Executive Compensation

[Official Guidance]

Text of OPM Guidance on Extension of Benefits to Married Gay and Lesbian Federal Employees, Annuitants, and Their Families
"All legally married same-sex spouses will now be eligible family members under a Self and Family enrollment. In addition, the children of same-sex marriages will be treated just as those of opposite-sex marriages and will be eligible family members according to the same eligibility guidelines.... All legally married same-sex spouses and children of legal same-sex marriages are now eligible family members under the FEGLI Program, which means that employees may add coverage for a same-sex spouse and any newly eligible children under Option C.... All retirees who are in legal same-sex marriages will have two years from the date of the Supreme Court's decision (i.e., June 26, 2015) to inform OPM that they have a legal marriage that now qualifies for recognition and elect any changes to their retirement benefits based on their recognized marital status. In the coming days, OPM will be developing guidance to help retirees determine whether they wish to change their pension benefits in a way that will provide benefits for their surviving spouse." (U.S. Office of Personnel Management)

[Guidance Overview]

Supreme Court Rules DOMA Unconstitutional: Significant Implications for Employee Benefit Plan (PDF)
"For plans that recognize same-sex marriages, employers will need to revise their administrative procedures in areas such as COBRA, QDROs, special enrollment, etc.... Employers should consider whether they will notify employees of the change in the law and advise employees to let the employer know of any same-sex marriages (and request a marriage certificate as proof). Employers may also need to consider whether they will send out special notices to same-sex spouses they do know about, such as a general COBRA notice to those same-sex spouses covered by a group health plan." (Dickinson Wright)

[Guidance Overview]

Supreme Court's DOMA Decision Leaves Many Unanswered Questions
"Typically, an unconstitutional statute is deemed to have been unconstitutional from its enactment. Should that be true here, could a retirement plan be required to pay spousal benefits to a surviving same-sex spouse, even though a deceased retiree had already received his or her full benefits on the basis of an unmarried status? If so, this could expose the plan to additional liabilities that were not anticipated under the terms of the plan document." (SpencerFane)

[Guidance Overview]

Supreme Court Changes Landscape with DOMA Decision: A Primer for Employee Benefit Plans
"For now ... there seems no reason for plans to assume retroactivity. Claims may arise that will have to be managed, but most plans will want to avoid a wholesale revisiting of all potentially affected situations for the present. Plan provisions that apply contractual limitation periods on bringing claims that are shorter than would apply under ERISA case law may be especially helpful in this context. Thus, this is probably an ideal time for an updated review of strategies to limit claims exposure. In other respects, however, adopting plan language that seeks to protect a plan from retroactivity seems reasonable." (Kilpatrick Townsend)

[Guidance Overview]

Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA: What It Means for Employee Benefit Plans
"While some employers may want to wait for official guidance before making some plan changes and taking other steps in response to the new decisions, there are several action items that employers may want to address immediately, including: [1] Notify employees of the window (typically 30 days) under your cafeteria plan for family status changes and special enrollment rights for same-sex spouses and their dependents; [2] Stop imputing income for health plan benefits and premium payments for same-sex spouses; [3] Review definitional and choice-of-law provisions of benefit plans concerning the definition of 'spouse'; [4] Start obtaining spousal consent from same-sex spouses for any defined benefit plan retirement distributions; [5] Advise employees married to same-sex spouses to review their death beneficiary designations; [6] Plan to file FICA refund claims; and [7] Send the required general COBRA notice to same-sex spouses who have not previously received it." (Nixon Peabody LLP)

[Guidance Overview]

IRS Begins 457(b) Plan Compliance Check Project
"The IRS just announced a 'compliance check' project for 457(b) plans maintained by non-governmental tax-exempt entities ... Certain items the IRS will be looking at ... may catch some plan sponsors off guard. The [IRS] will send compliance check letters and questionnaires to approximately 200 tax-exempt organizations between now and October 30, 2013, and another 200 during the fiscal year ending October 30, 2014." (Fiduciary Partners Retirement Group)

Michigan Ban On Domestic Partner Benefits Blocked
"[A] federal judge in Michigan has blocked the state from enforcing a 2011 law that bans public employers from offering benefits to same-sex couples.... [The judge] ruled in favor of five same-sex couples who sued the state over a 2011 law that prohibits various public employers, including cities and counties, from offering health benefits to same-sex couples. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law on behalf of the plaintiffs, who either lost their health insurance or stood to lose it as a result of the law." (Detroit Free Press)

Methodology for Measuring CEO Compensation and the Ratio of CEO-to-Worker Compensation
"Because the data used are average hourly earnings and the CEO compensation data are presented as annual numbers, the final industry-level typical worker compensation data are multiplied by 2,080. This converts hourly compensation of production/nonsupervisory workers to annual average worker compensation, which can now be directly compared with the annual CEO compensation figures used to calculate CEO-to-worker compensation ratios ... Most workers do not work full-time and year-round, so the annual compensation measure we are employing clearly overstates the actual annual compensation of a typical worker." (Economic Policy Institute)

U.K. Executive Compensation Disclosure Rules Finalized
"The UK has at last published its promised regulations on executive compensation disclosure, with few changes from previous drafts, and companies will need to act quickly as the regulations become effective October 1 this year.... [T]he regulation requires two 'remuneration reports,' one on actual compensation paid in the last year subject to a nonbinding shareholder vote and one on forward looking compensation policy subject to a binding shareholder vote at least every three years." (HR Policy Association)

Press Releases

Benefits.gov Goes Mobile
U.S. Department of Labor

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