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December 20, 2013          Get Retirement News  |  Advertise
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Employee Benefits Jobs

Senior Defined Benefit Calculation Analyst
Transamerica Retirement Solutions
in MA

Processor - Distributions and Contributions
Continental Benefits Group, Inc.
in NJ

Defined Benefit Pension Plan Administrator
The Ryding Company
in CA

Employee Benefits Attorney
Baker & Hostetler LLP
in OH

Sr. Consultant, Retirement Benefits
University of Maryland Medical System
in MD

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Webcasts and Conferences

"A New Day for Roth Rollovers" Web Seminar
January 6, 2014 WEBCAST
(SunGard Relius)

Target Date Trends & Evaluation
January 14, 2014 WEBCAST
(National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA) )

Two New Half-day Specialty Topic Seminars Philadelphia and 16 Other Cities - January
January 17, 2014 in PA
(SunGard Relius)

Preconference Sessions -- Employee Ownership Conference
April 7, 2014 in GA
(National Center for Employee Ownership)

Employee Ownership Conference
April 8, 2014 in GA
(National Center for Employee Ownership)

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 Letter to Consumers with Canceled Policies, Describing Options for Coverage Including Catastrophic Plan Availability (PDF)
"If you have been notified that your individual market policy will not be renewed, you will be eligible for a hardship exemption and will be able to enroll in catastrophic coverage. If you believe that the plan options available in the Marketplace in your area are more expensive than your cancelled health insurance policy, you will be eligible for catastrophic coverage if it is available in your area." (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)  

[Official Guidance]

Text of Letter from HHS Secretary Sebelius Describing Expansion of 'Hardship Exemption' to Allow Purchase of Catastrophic Coverage by Individuals Whose Health Insurance Policy Was Canceled
"[The ACA] recognizes that individuals facing a hardship that makes it difficult to afford a health plan with comprehensive benefits may qualify for an exemption from the individual responsibility requirement. Individuals who qualify for this 'hardship exemption' are also able to purchase a catastrophic plan on the Marketplace.... I very much appreciate your asking for a clarification on whether this exemption applies to those with canceled plans who might be having difficulty paying for an existing bronze, silver, or gold plan. I agree with you that these consumers should qualify for this temporary hardship exemption, and I can assure you that the exemption will be available to them. As a result, in addition to their existing options these individuals will also be able to buy a catastrophic plan to smooth their transition to coverage through the Marketplace." [Editor's note: This letter was sent by HHS in response to an inquiry from Sens. Warner, King, Shaheen, Landrieu and Heitkamp.] (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)  

[Official Guidance]

ERRP to Disable Plan Sponsor Access to ERRP Secure Website in January
"As part of the [CMS] plan to end the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) in 2014, [CMS] will disable Plan Sponsor access to the ERRP Secure Website (SWS) on January 10, 2014. Accordingly, Authorized Representatives, Account Managers, and Designees supporting Plan Sponsors, should assume that they will be unable to access the SWS after January 10, 2014. We encourage Plan Sponsors to take a final opportunity to review information available in the SWS to determine what, if any, information or data they may wish to print and/or save before the SWS is taken offline." (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)  

Insurance Industry Raps Sudden ACA Rule Change
"The U.S. health insurance industry denounced a White House decision to let people losing their insurance buy bare-bones plans or even go without insurance. The industry said the surprise Thursday night announcement -- four days before the Monday deadline for people to choose coverage that begins Jan. 1 -- upends assumptions insurance carriers made when setting premiums for 2014." (InsuranceNewsNet.com)  

Allowing Consumers with Nonrenewed Policies to Buy Catastrophic Coverage and Other Developments
"Individuals and small groups whose coverage has not been renewed are not being left uninsured; they are simply being offered alternative coverage. In many instances, however, the coverage they have been offered by insurers is more expensive than the coverage that is not being renewed. In some instances, moreover, replacement policies not only cost more but come with higher cost sharing, presumably imposed to keep premiums from going even higher... Where premiums increased dramatically, a major factor has undoubtedly been the end of health status and gender underwriting; enrollees who had enjoyed a particularly low rate because of their health status or gender are now part of the general pool and are having to pay higher rates because others who have not enjoyed good health are paying comparatively lower premiums." (Timothy Jost in Health Affairs Blog)  


Weight Loss at the Workplace: Legal Issues in Reducing Health Care Costs and Promoting Wellness

Sponsored by Lorman and BenefitsLink

January 17 webinar - learn the issues to address when formulating and implementing a corporate wellness program that is aimed at weight loss. Potentially applicable federal and state laws require careful consideration. Special BenefitsLink discount.

OECD Finds Link Between Parental Leave and the Gender Pay Gap
"Among 38 of the world's more developed nations, the United States has the least liberal government policies regarding paid parental leave, leading some to argue that this puts American women at a disadvantage as they navigate their careers But it also turns out that some countries that offer more liberal parental leave policies have higher pay gaps among men and women ages 30 to 34, according to analyses of 16 countries conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD theorizes that this link may be driven by the fact that women are more likely than men to actually use their parental leave, and that time out of the work force is associated with lower wages." (Pew Research Center)  

When Adverse Selection Isn't: Which Members Are Likely to Be Profitable (or Not) in Markets Regulated by the ACA
"This paper explores the net impact of these programs, in particular risk adjustment, when members of varying characteristics are enrolled in a plan. In particular, we investigate the financial impact to a health plan of enrolling a membership base with different demographic and morbidity characteristics than those that were anticipated when developing rates. The results of our analysis are, in most cases, the precise opposite of what one would expect without these programs. In several important ways, the nuances and interactions inherent in the 3Rs can generate impacts that actually turn traditional risk management practices upside down." (Milliman)  

Expect to Pay More for Your Employer-Sponsored Health Care Next Year
"After two years of slower-than-usual growth in health spending, employers are bracing for a spike in 2014.... Analysts say the health law is fueling some of the changes, among them, the increased emphasis on wellness programs since the law allows employers to offer larger incentives -- or penalties -- for participation in wellness programs, up from 20 percent of the cost of coverage to 30 percent. In addition, employers can now compare their own offerings with the policies sold through the health law's websites, some of which come with higher deductibles and cost-sharing." (Kaiser Health News)  

Think Your State Has Obamacare Problems? They're Nothing Compared to Guam
"Because of a quirk in the [ACA]'s drafting, the Northern Mariana Islands and the four other American territories are subject to some parts of the law but not others. This has messed up the individual market in the Northern Mariana Islands so badly that the one plan selling policies there told the territory's top insurance commissioner it would not sell new plans for 2014. In other words: Beginning Jan. 1, regulators expect it will be literally impossible for an individual to buy a new policy in the Northern Mariana Islands, and difficult in other territories." (Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post; subscription may be required)  

IRS Provides Guidance on Same-Gender Spouses, Cafeteria Plans and Health Savings Accounts
"Plan sponsors that already decided to allow mid-year election changes in light of the Windsor decision will be relieved that the guidance confirms that this is permissible. Plan sponsors that declined to do so due to the uncertainty of the law, or that receive new election change requests in the time remaining in the plan year, will have a reasonable period of time to implement them after December 16, 2013." (Sibson Consulting)  

Valuing Voluntary Benefits for Those Nearing Retirement (PDF)
"[L]arge majorities say they think the following products and services would be extremely or very valuable to workers nearing retirement age: [1] An annuity product that makes guaranteed monthly lifetime payments (83 percent). [2] Life insurance that pays benefits to the surviving spouse ... (77 percent). [3] Retirement planning that includes assistance with deciding when to retire, when to claim Social Security benefits, what Medicare option to choose, and how to set up a stream of income for retirement (76 percent). [4] Long-term care insurance (71 percent)." (Employee Benefit Research Institute [EBRI])  

Public Health Plan Costs Surge, Facing 2018 'Cadillac' Tax
"[C]onsumer-driven health plans grew from 22 percent to 24 percent of all plan types across industries and group sizes ... [In] the public sector, a majority of plans are still considered 'Cadillac plans,' putting public employers in the unique position of facing the [ACA]'s excise for plans exceeding $10,200 annually for individuals.... The [study] estimates that the average municipality in Illinois and Massachusetts will have to pay a tax of $5,000 per employee in 2018 -- and then more than $9,000 by 2020." (Healthcare Payer News)  


Individual Mandate No Longer Applies to People Whose Plans Were Canceled
"[1] The individual mandate includes a 'hardship exemption.' People who qualify can either ignore the individual mandate altogether or purchase a cheap, bare-bones catastrophic insurance plan that's typically only available to people under 30. [2] According to HHS, the exemption covers people who 'experienced financial or domestic circumstances, including an unexpected natural or human-caused event, such that he or she had a significant, unexpected increase in essential expenses that prevented him or her from obtaining coverage under a qualified health plan.' [3] [On December 19,] he administration agreed with a group of senators, led by Mark Warner of Virginia, who argued that having your insurance plan canceled counted as 'an unexpected natural or human-caused event.' For these people, in other words, Obamacare itself is the hardship." (Ezra Klein in The Washington Post; subscription may be required)  


The White House Is About to Hold a Fire Sale on Obamacare
"This is a sign the administration is desperate to avert the very real likelihood that millions more people will be uninsured next year than before. It also blows out of the water the administration's claim that people must to have Bronze-Silver-Gold-Platinum coverage in order to have quality coverage.... Insurers also have no idea how to price for these products. They priced for the metal plans based on one risk pool; now with the wave of their hand they are changing the pool and expecting these [products] to be available the next day?" (Galen Institute)  

Benefits in General; Executive Compensation

GAO Wants More Clarity for Pension Reporting and Disclosure by Plan Sponsors AND by the Government
"The GAO identified 70 different reports and 60 different disclosures arising from provisions of ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code. The GAO evaluated the DOL and other ERISA agencies online resources and found them to be 'not clear, comprehensive or up-to-date.' Additionally, the GAO noted that the DOL's guide listing required reports and disclosures had not been updated since October 2008 ... The GAO tested ten model notices from the agencies against federal plain language guidelines and found that several of the model notices failed to meet such guidelines." (Benefits Bryan Cave)  

Supreme Court Upholds a Three-Year Limitations Period and Commencement Date Imposed by Terms of a Benefit Plan
"Although the Supreme Court did not identify any universally acceptable minimum limitations period, and although the Court was influenced in part by the federal regulations that set forth specific time periods for processing disability claims, this decision appears to sanction any limitations period and commencement date that can be considered to be reasonable. In that regard, using a three-year limitations period that runs from the commencement of the process now appears to be reasonable, and other lower courts have in the past upheld periods as short as one year from the date of the plan's final decision." [Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life and Accident Ins. Co., No. 12-729 (S.Ct. Dec. 16, 2013)] (Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC)  

Tips and Traps for Taking Current Year Deductions for Bonus Programs Fixed by End of Year (PDF)
"The employer must be committed to pay no less than the approved bonus pool amount, with no ability to reduce or change the aggregate amounts payable. Any further approvals or modifications to individual award amounts that result in a reduction of the approved bonus pool amount cause the entire bonus pool amount to be considered deductible in the year paid. The new insight from the IRS is their position that individual allocations from the approved bonus pool amount may be made after the close of the tax year without running afoul of the 'all events' tests, but any discretion or application of individual performance standards that results in a reduction of the approved bonus pool amount after the close of the tax year will cause the entire bonus pool amount to fail the 'all events' test for the prior tax year." (Bryan Cave)  

Seven Tips for Good Compensation Committee Minutes (PDF)
"[1] Advance Preparation/Choreography ... [2] Who Should Attend ... [3] Have the Right Person Take the Minutes ... [4] Less is More ... [5] A Winning CD&A ... [6] Limit Note Taking by Directors ... [7] Consider Using Board Portals." (Orrick)  

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