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August 5, 2013          Get Retirement News  |  Advertise
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Employee Benefits Jobs

National Practice Leader - US Retirement Services Practice
for Lockton Companies in ANY STATE

New Business Consultant
for The Retirement Advantage, Inc. in GA

Corporate Compliance and Legal Counsel
for Beneco in AZ

Pension Administrator II
for Beneco in AZ

Plan Administration Assistant Manager
for The Retirement Advantage, Inc. in WI

Retirement Plan Consultant
for The Retirement Advantage, Inc. in ANY STATE, WI

Internal Sales Consultant
for The Retirement Advantage, Inc. in WI

IRA Manager
for Reliance Trust Company in GA

Client Services Associate III
for Reliance Trust Company in GA

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Webcasts and Conferences

Impact of Supreme Court’s DOMA Decision on Qualified Plans
September 11, 2013 WEBCAST
(Actuarial Systems Corporation (ASC))

Small Business Health Insurance Options Program (SHOP) Overview -- Webcast
August 6, 2013 WEBCAST
(Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS))

What the New Healthcare Law Means for Your Small Business -- Webcast
August 8, 2013 WEBCAST
(Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS))

What is a Marketplace and How can it Help my Business in Oregon -- Webcast
August 13, 2013 WEBCAST
(U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA))

What Retirement Plan Professionals Should Know About The Health Care Reform Law
September 25, 2013 in TX
(ASPPA Benefits Council Dallas/Ft Worth)

Same-Gender Marriage Rulings: Impacts on Employee Benefit Plans Across the Nation -- Webcast
September 30, 2013 WEBCAST
(Lorman Education Services)

Recent IRS Audits: Providing Effective Opportunity; Avoiding/Correcting Defects in Loans and Hardship Withdrawals -- Webcast
August 21, 2013 WEBCAST
(American Society of Pension Professionals & Actuaries (ASPPA))

EBSA's Strategic Enforcement Plan
September 17, 2013 in MI
(ASPPA Benefits Council of Detroit)

View All Webcasts and Conferences

  LinkedIn   Twitter   Facebook Hand-picked links to the web's best news articles,
official guidance, jobs, webcasts and more.

The Growing Importance of COBRA Rate Methodologies
"[T]here may be less of a need for COBRA health insurance after January 1, 2014. Whether or not COBRA remains relevant, the methodology used to determine COBRA premium rates is becoming more important for the following reasons: [1] Form W-2 reporting rules under ACA.... [2] ACA expansion of wellness incentives.... [3] For [purposes of the 'Cadillac Tax'], the cost of coverage is defined with reference to the 'applicable premium' used for COBRA purposes." (Healthcare Town Hall)  

Paid Leave in Private Industry Over the Past 20 Years
"[In 2012, 72 percent] of workers received both paid holidays and paid vacations, and 61 percent were covered by sick leave plans. For employers, the cost for providing these benefits to employees was $1.98 per hour worked, and these benefits made up 6.9 percent of total compensation.... The eligibility for paid leave has undergone change over the past 20 years. While fewer workers enjoy paid vacations, employers are increasingly providing access to sick leave, personal leave, and family leave.... [In March 1992,] the employer cost per employee hour worked for paid leave was $1.09 or 6.8 percent of total compensation[.]" (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)  

In Need of a New Hip, But Priced Out of the U.S.
"As the United States struggles to rein in its growing $2.7 trillion health care bill, the cost of medical devices like joint implants, pacemakers and artificial urinary valves offers a cautionary tale. Like many medical products or procedures, they cost far more in the United States than in many other developed countries. Makers of artificial implants -- the biggest single cost of most joint replacement surgeries -- have proved particularly adept at commanding inflated prices, according to health economists. Multiple intermediaries then mark up the charges." (The New York Times; subscription may be required)  

10 States Have Published Premiums for 2014 on Insurance Marketplaces
"A growing number of states have released approved 2014 premiums and other details about individual and small group insurance plans that will available on the marketplaces, also called exchanges. Those rates do not take into account the federal tax credits that many people will be eligible for. In addition, the federal government must give final approval to the plans in September.... [This article includes] links to publicly released data from states that have made their approved premiums available.... [L]inks to other states [will be added] as they are published." (Kaiser Health News)  

Aetna Pulls Health Plans from Maryland Insurance Exchange
"Aetna was one of several carriers poised to sell on the state's exchange, along with Coventry Health Care, which Aetna acquired this spring. But Aetna told Maryland Insurance Commissioner Therese M. Goldsmith ... that cuts regulators made to the rates the companies had proposed 'would not allow us to collect enough premiums to cover the cost of the plans.' ... [S]tate officials said they don't expect the loss of Aetna and Coventry to significantly reduce consumers' options." (The Baltimore Sun)  


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'Cadillac Tax' in ACA Raises Pressure on Public Unions
"The so-called Cadillac tax was inserted into the [ACA] at the advice of economists who argued that expensive health insurance with the employee bearing little cost made people insensitive to the cost of care. In public employment, though, where benefits are arrived at through bargaining with powerful unions, switching to cheaper plans will not be easy. Cities including New York and Boston, and school districts from Westchester County, N.Y., to Orange County, Calif., are warning unions that if they cannot figure out how to rein in health care costs now, the price when the tax goes into effect will be steep, threatening raises and even jobs." (The New York Times; subscription may be required)  

Six Louisiana Cities Among Nation's 10 Most Expensive for Health Care
"With Louisiana near the top of many of the country's 'worst of' health lists -- asthma, diabetes, heart disease, obesity -- it could be tempting to credit this distinction to our state's particularly unhealthy population. But the study, which was commissioned under the terms of the [ACA], found that differences in traditional, fee-for-service health care spending exist in spite of age, sex and health status. 'Geographic variation in spending and utilization is real, and not an artifact reflecting random noise,' the report says." (The Times-Picayune)  

Third Circuit Denies For-Profit Employer's Request for Relief from Contraceptive Coverage Mandate
"While many challenges to the contraceptive coverage mandate are still working their way through the courts, this decision creates a direct conflict with another federal appeals court that has considered the issue. In the Hobby Lobby case, the Tenth Circuit held that a for-profit employer had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of a RFRA claim ... and returned the case to the trial court, which has now granted a preliminary injunction. It seems likely that this issue is ultimately headed for the U.S. Supreme Court -- but with no decision on the merits yet, the timing of that review is less certain." [Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. HHS, 2013 WL 3845365 (3d Cir. 2013)] (Thomson Reuters / EBIA)  

Health Law Costs Point to Clash Over Employee Rights
"'Employers and employees often have contrasting incentives -- employers to avoid coverage, and employees to take coverage -- and these incentives may result in employer harassment and retaliation of employees,' write University of Illinois law professors Suja A. Thomas and Peter Molk in a newly released paper. 'We think that Congress may not have intended for employers to be able to take all of these actions,' said Ms. Thomas ... 'Significant litigation on these issues is possible,' she added." (The Wall Street Journal; subscription may be required)  

Top 10 Medical Services Excluded by Health Insurance: Three Will Improve Under Obamacare
"In the current individual and family health insurance market, coverage of medical services is not standardized and a variety of important services, ranging in expense and medical necessity, are not included within the benefits of most insurance plans. HealthPocket examined 11,365 health plans in the individual and family market to determine which medical services were most likely to be excluded from coverage." (HealthPocket)  

Testimony of CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to House Committee on Energy and Commerce on ACA Implementation (PDF)
13 pages. Excerpt: "The [ACA] has brought an unprecedented level of scrutiny and transparency to health insurance rate increases by requiring an insurance company to justify a rate increase of 10 percent or more, shedding light on arbitrary or unnecessary costs. Since the rule on rate increases was implemented, the number of requests for insurance premium increases of 10 percent or more plummeted from 75 percent to an estimated 14 percent. The average premium increase for all rates in 2012 was 30 percent below what it was in 2010. Available data suggest that this slowdown in rate increases is continuing into 2013. Americans have saved an estimated $1 billion on their health insurance premiums thanks to rate review." (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)  


Does the Doctor Need a Boss?
"[Harvard law professor and former Obama campaign adviser Einer Elhauge] thinks that fragmentation is the biggest problem in health care, and things would be much better if we had some well-managed firms directing the behavior of all the various elements, including doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, nurses, rehab centers, and so on.... Elhauge has fun comparing our medical system to airlines ... A more analogous industry would be car repairs... Fragmentation does not seem to be a problem in this industry. Why? Because we usually pay the mechanic directly and we will put up a fuss if he overcharges us." (Greg Scandlen in John Goodman's Health Policy Blog)  


Will 'Medical Trade' Be Included in the European and Asian Trade Deals? Why Not?
"[T]he cost[s] of hip replacement or knee replacement surgery in the United States are more than five times higher than they are in comparable quality facilities in Europe. (The gap would be even larger with facilities in Thailand and India.) This shows the enormous potential gains from increased medical trade. In effect, our hospitals, doctors, and medical equipment makers benefit from tariffs on the order of 500 percent or more." (Center for Economic and Policy Research)  


No Special Privileges for Congress Under New Health Reform Rule
"The Administration will reportedly issue regulations next week confirming that the federal government, which now contributes to the costs of health insurance for members of Congress and their staff, will continue to do so once they enroll in plans offered through the new health insurance exchanges in 2014. Critics of health reform already are crying foul, charging that the Administration is somehow bending the rules to benefit Congress. That's incorrect; it's just implementing health reform as the law intended.... [O]ne month after health reform was enacted, lawyers from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) examined the provision and found that while its language was ambiguous, it was reasonable to assume that the federal government could continue to pay part of the cost of health insurance." (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)  


For Obamacare to Work, Everyone Must Be In
"One way of avoiding the adverse-selection problem would be to re-emphasize traditional employer-provided health plans. Adverse selection is less serious under such plans, because the favorable tax treatment they receive requires insurers to cover all employees irrespective of pre-existing conditions.... But if universal access to health care is the goal, employer plans are not the solution." (The New York Times; subscription may be required)  


One More Nail in the Wellness Coffin
"Why the industry's continuing, almost exclusive, emphasis on this single number in this single article? Because in the intervening 3-1/2 years something else of great significance happened too: nothing. No article in any respected journal has ever confirmed [Professor Katherine Baicker's] finding [in her January 2010 paper entitled 'Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings']. Quite the contrary, a spate of negative articles have cast doubt upon the value of wellness, starting days after publication of her article when it was revealed that Safeway's iconic wellness savings figure -- the other cover for the ACA provision -- was also made up." (Cracking Health Costs)  

Benefits in General; Executive Compensation

[Official Guidance]

DOL Announces 'Strategic Plan Outreach' for 2014-2018, Will Provide Series of Webchats
From Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez: "We are updating the Department's Strategic Plan. The development and implementation of the Plan will reinforce our priorities and reaffirm and hone the Department's mission to ensure access to opportunity for all.... I urge all DOL stakeholders to actively participate in the development of the Department's Strategic Plan by reviewing our proposed strategies and providing your feedback and comments about the direction we are taking." [EBSA is participating in a publicly available "webchat" on Aug. 8 at 2 p.m. Eastern time, entitled "Strategic Goal 4: Secure Retirement, Health, and Other Employee Benefits and, For Those Not Working, Provide Income Security." More information is online.] (U.S. Department of Labor)  

[Guidance Overview]

IRS and Treasury Officials Provide Informal Views on HDHPs, 401(k) Plans, and More
"[T]he [JCEB] report's 22 Q&As, which cover a wide range of issues, including questions about defined benefit pension plans, annuity distributions, ESOP loans, nonqualified deferred compensation arrangements under Code sec. 409A, and Code sec. 457(b) plans of tax-exempt employers. (Interestingly, the officials declined to answer a question about merging a 401(k) plan that allows Roth contributions with one that does not but indicated that they expect to be able to respond next year.) While the answers in the report do not necessarily represent IRS or Treasury policy, they provide helpful insight regarding the issues addressed." (Thomson Reuters / EBIA)  

Clawbacks in Word, Not Deed
"[I]n the almost 10 years since clawback policies became a hot topic among investors, there is little indication that they have resulted in significant recoveries. High-profile cases occasionally emerge -- Ina Drew, the former head of JPMorgan Chase's chief investment office, returned some pay after the disastrous losses she oversaw in the London whale matter. But examples like these are few and far between. So some investors are taking up the issue again." (The New York Times; subscription may be required)  

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