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December 2, 2013          Get Retirement News  |  Advertise
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Employee Benefits Jobs

Retirement Plan Analyst
PlanTech, LLP

Senior Benefits Administrator
ERP Actuaries & Consultants
in NY

Retirement Planning Consultant
Transamerica Retirement Solutions
in NY

Reviewing Enrolled Actuary
Cash Balance Actuaries, LLC

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Webcasts and Conferences

SEC Amendments to Broker Dealer Reporting and Financial Responsibility Rules
December 5, 2013 WEBCAST
(Regulatory Compliance, LLC )

2013 Form 1099-R Series
December 10, 2013 WEBCAST
(McKay Hochman Co., Inc.)

A Look Around the Corner to 2014: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act Implementation
December 18, 2013 WEBCAST

View All Webcasts and Conferences

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

Text of CMS Final Revisions to Payment Policies under the Physician Fee Schedule, Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for 2014
1,369 pages (!) -- Excerpt: "This major final rule with comment period addresses changes to the physician fee schedule, clinical laboratory fee schedule, and other Medicare Part B payment policies to ensure that our payment systems are updated to reflect changes in medical practice and the relative value of services. This final rule with comment period also includes a discussion in the Supplementary Information regarding various programs.... This major final rule with comment period revises payment polices under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and makes other policy changes related to Medicare Part B payment. Unless otherwise noted, these changes are applicable to services furnished in CY 2014." (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)  


10th Annual Rewarding Healthy Behaviors Forum - Feb. 4-5 - Las Vegas

Sponsored by World Congress

Showcasing innovative workplace wellness strategies, preventive health management initiatives, and evidence-based success strategies to enhance workforce productivity, improve overall employee wellness and increase ROI.

[Guidance Overview]

The Delay of SHOP Exchange Online Enrollment
"It is important to understand that this is not a delay of the federal SHOP exchange itself, but rather of one SHOP exchange functionality, albeit an important one.... Although employers cannot purchase coverage online, they can go online to compare available qualified health plans. As of December, employers will be able to enter the ages of their employees and get 'more precise' premium information, as well as compare plan features.... In reality, however, the most important delays took place in March when employee choice and premium aggregation were put off. Employers should not experience any real adverse effects from this additional delay[.]" (Timothy Jost in Health Affairs Blog)  

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Constitutional Challenge to ACA Employer Mandate
"For the second time in two years, the Supreme Court has refused to hear constitutional challenges to the new federal health care law's mandate that employers provide affordable health insurance for their workers. Without comment, the Court on Monday turned aside a broad complaint about that Affordable Care Act mandate by Liberty University, a religiously affiliated college in Lynchburg, VA ... [which had] sought review of [the ACA's] constitutionality under the taxing clause. The University's petition also contended that the individual mandate violated the religious freedom of the school and of its employees, under the Constitution's First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act." (SCOTUSblog)  

Insurers Seek to Bypass Use of Federal Exchange for Subsidy Calculations
"One of the leading states operating its own exchange is considering ways to decouple itself from the federal infrastructure it relies on to confirm residents' eligibility for federal tax credits. That technology has been affected by planned and unplanned outages.... [F]ixes are aimed at making the site look and work better for users, but generally don't address and may even exacerbate problems deeper in the system. Officials signaled Sunday that work was only just starting to address some of the identity-verification issues as well as enrollment data." (The Wall Street Journal; subscription may be required)  

California Retiree Healthcare: Bigger Budget Bite Than Pensions?
"[A] new forecast expects the annual general fund payment for state worker retiree health care, now $500 million less than the payment for pensions, to be $500 million more than the pension payment in six years.... [A] $2.3 billion general fund pension payment to CalPERS this fiscal year [is projected to] grow to $2.8 billion in fiscal 2019-20. State general fund spending on retiree health care for state workers, $1.8 billion this fiscal year, is projected to grow more than 10 percent a year during the same forecast period, nearly doubling to $3.3 billion." (Calpensions)  


Voluntary Benefits Option: Adding Benefits Without Increasing Costs

Sponsored by Lorman and BenefitsLink

New plan designs can improve employer operational efficiencies. This December 12 webinar will discuss what products and offerings will have the highest perceived value by employees. Registration discount for BenefitsLink readers.

How One Small Employer Found a Surprisingly Good Health Plan
"You would think that it would be a simple question: How many plans do I, a small-business owner, actually have to choose from? Are we talking tens? Hundreds? Thousands? The answer ... was about a hundred.... [T]he saga is kind of interesting, and it says something about how difficult it is to understand the insurance market.... Had I stuck with what my agent told me, I would have considered only a small subset of what was available, and I would have missed out entirely on a choice that I was actually quite happy about." (The New York Times; free registration required)  

Medicare Seeks to Curb Spending on Post-Hospital Care
"Medicare is experimenting with new payment methods in which hospitals and post-acute providers would be given a lump sum to take care of a patient, forcing them to become more efficient if they want to make money.... Stephen Parente, a health care economist at the University of Minnesota, says the changes are likely to upend much of the industry. 'It's going to be a fairly ugly transition to get to a more efficient, streamlined system,' Parente said. 'It's going to be a consultant's bonanza.'" (Kaiser Health News)  

Obama Administration Says It Has Achieved Key Goal of Fixing Healthcare.gov
"Two months after the disastrous launch of a key component of President Barack Obama's healthcare law, administration officials on [December 1] said they had achieved their goal of getting HealthCare.gov operating smoothly ... But [special adviser Jeffrey] Zients warned that peak traffic volumes could eclipse the new capacity, temporarily preventing visitors from completing online applications for subsidized health coverage. And officials acknowledge that the site is still unlikely to operate smoothly for some visitors, even when volumes are within its capabilities." (Reuters)  

How Are Medical Costs Distributed Among the Privately Insured?
"Keep in mind that these are claims costs for insured patients. The costs might be lower if people were paying cash. In a typical commercially insured population, only 0.2 percent of people incur annual medical claims over $100,000. Examples of high-cost 'routine' events are cardiac revascularization at about $72,000 per year, stroke at $61,000 per year, and cancer patients not receiving chemotherapy or cancer surgery at $14,000 per year." (John Goodman's Health Policy Blog)  


The Hobby Lobby Problem and the HSA/HRA Solution
"This entire controversy is unnecessary. The tax law contains devices for reconciling the religious concerns of employers like Hobby Lobby with the policy of expanding medical coverage: health savings accounts (HSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). The current regulatory exemption from the contraception mandate should be amended to include for-profit employers and to exempt from the federal contraception mandate employers (both non-profit and profit-making) who maintain HSAs or HRAs for their respective employees. Compromise along these lines would respect the genuinely-held views of religious minorities while implementing the federal policy of broadening access to health care." (Prof. Edward Zelinsky, OUPblog)  


The Presidential Healthcare Curse: Why Do They Even Try?
"The system is not only bad, but getting worse. Every year, more people lose insurance as they or their (usually small) employers get priced out of the health insurance market by rising premiums.... The U.S. has more uninsured and underinsured citizens than the entire population of Germany, where, by the way, private insurance organizations compete, no one is uninsured or underinsured, and the economy is thriving." (The Health Care Blog)  


The Two Million Scenario: What If the ACA Enrolls a Lot Fewer People in the Exchanges Than Predicted?
"Insurance sold through Exchanges without medical underwriting -- a central promise of the [ACA] -- is likely to implode in a significant number of states by 2015 while limping along in several others but providing little net desired decrease in the number of people without quality health insurance. The silver lining in this failure will be that the program will likely cost less than projected due to fewer number of people receiving subsidies, although this reduction will be partly offset by higher-than-projected subsidies to the insurance industry. Expect significant pressure to grow among supporters of the [ACA] to use these net savings to increase the subsidies available to people buying coverage through the Exchanges and to lure insurers in the problem states back into the Exchanges." (The Health Care Blog)  


AHIP Statement on Status of Health Care Reform Implementation
"Until the enrollment process is working from end-to-end, many consumers will not be able to enroll in coverage. In addition to fixing the technical problems with healthcare.gov, the significant 'back-end' issues must also be resolved to ensure that coverage can begin on January 1, 2014. In particular, the ongoing problems with processing '834' enrollment files need to be fixed." (America's Health Insurance Plans [AHIP])  

Benefits in General; Executive Compensation

[Guidance Overview]

NASDAQ Relaxes Compensation Committee Independence Standards
"The amendments replace [the] prohibition [on acceptance of fees] with a requirement that a listed company's board of directors, when determining that director's eligibility to serve on the compensation committee, consider the source of compensation of a director, including any consulting, advisory or other compensatory fee paid by the company to the director. The proposal would also: [1] Amend IM-5605-6 to state that when considering the sources of a director's compensation, the board should consider whether the director receives compensation from a person or entity that would impair the director's ability to make independent judgments about the company's executive compensation. [2] Remove the carve-out from the definition of compensatory fees for board or committee fees and fixed retirement plan compensation." (Practical Law Company)  

Electronic Disclosures: Not as Simple as Sending an E-Mail
"Plans can distribute all manner of plan communications electronically, including SPDs, open enrollment materials, summaries of material modification, COBRA and HIPAA notices and even the summary of benefits coverage notice required under PPACA. But the rules for electronic distribution are [different] depending on whether employees have work-related computer access. The primary difference is the requirement of obtaining consent." (Fox Rothschild LLP)  

Employers Set 2014 Holiday Schedules
"Almost all U.S. employers will give workers a day off next year on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day ... [M]ost full-time employees (78%) will receive six to 10 paid holidays per year, while most part-time workers (51%) will receive up to five paid holidays per year." (Business Management Daily; free registration required)  

Hodgson Russ Employee Benefits Developments, November 2013
Articles include: Religious Employers and the Women's Contraceptive Mandate; Guidance on HRAs and Other Employer Payment Plans; IRS Says Plan May Not Automatically Revoke Spouse as Beneficiary Upon Legal Separation; and SunTrust Stock Drop Case Dismissed. (Hodgson Russ LLP)  

Big CEO Signing Bonuses Draw Criticism from Governance Activists
"Golden hellos are often a sign of other compensation dysfunctions, says Greg Ruel, a GMI senior research analyst. On average, companies dinged by GMI for giving out big upfront payments also have received grades of D for their overall pay practices. Chesapeake Energy (CHK) and Best Buy (BBY), two that have been flagged by GMI for offering golden hellos, also in recent years lost so-called say-on-pay votes, nonbinding stockholder polls on pay plans granted by their boards. Those ballots were evidence of shareholder dissatisfaction -- and ultimately prompted changes in the companies' compensation practices." (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)  


Text of Comments by Frederick W. Cook and Co., Inc. to SEC on Proposed Pay Ratio Rules (PDF)
"Among all the possible changes the Commission could make to the proposed rule, dropping non-U.S. employees would by far save the most time and expense for multi-national companies, while dramatically increasing the relevance and potential value to investors by eliminating the distortions listed in the proposed rule.... We recommend that the proposed rule be revised to allow the issuer the option of making full- time equivalent adjustments for part-time employees and temporary or seasonal employee, to avoid an obvious apples-to-oranges comparison." (Frederick W. Cook and Co., Inc.)  

Press Releases

HealthCare.gov Progress and Performance Report
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

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