eBRIEFS Masthead

April 2011


Featured Article

COBRA subsidy
COBRA Premium Subsidy Cost US Government $34B
Measures Congress passed in 2009 and 2010 that established, expanded and extended COBRA premium subsidies for laid-off employees cost the federal government more than $34 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
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In This Issue
Timeline for US Health Law
MetLife 9th Annual Employee Benefit Trends
Makine Sense of Plan Participant Disclosure Rules
Obesity: Impact on the Workplace
Long Term Care Insurance Tax Guide
Global Benefits: Healthcare News
Quick Links

 Legislative/Regulatory Update

Agency FAQs on Grandfathered Health Plans Address Permitted Plan Changes


The DOL, HHS, and IRS have issued more FAQs, this time focusing exclusively on the grandfathered health plan provisions of health care reform. The FAQs help to clarify what types of changes plans may make without endangering their grandfathered health plan status.  Click here

to continue.  

Early Retiree Reinsurance Program Will Not Accept Applications after May 5, 2011


HHS has announced that the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) will stop accepting new applications effective May 6, 2011. By way of background, ERRP was established by health care reform, which appropriated $5 billion for a temporary program to reimburse employment-based plans for a portion of the costs they incur providing health coverage to early retirees.  Click here to continue.

W-2 Guidance Eases Burden for Small Biz, Retiree Health


When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama in March 2010, one of the provisions that employers immediately recognized as potentially burdensome was the requirement that the cost of employer-sponsored group health plan coverage be included on an employee's Form W-2.  While this requirement was originally scheduled to be effective for taxable years beginning on or after Jan, 1, 2011, the Internal Revenue Service granted a one year extension in late 2010 so that the requirement now applies beginning with the 2012 Forms W-2.  Click here to continue.

Are You Complying with New Regulations Issued Under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008? 


Employers should continue to assume the ADA covers most employees with physical or mental impairments.  They should always engage in good faith and well-documented interactive processes with affected employed to err on the side of caution.  Click here to continue. 


 Health Care Reform

Timeline: Basic Provisions, Timeline for US Health Law 


Many deadlines for implementing the law championed by President Barack Obama to expand health insurance to roughly 30 million Americans are fast approaching.  Charged with establishing many key health programs, states have been sent into overdrive to meet these deadlines, some of which had already passed by the time the measure was signed into law a year ago because of the drawn-out process Congress used to approve it.

Here are some of the law's major provisions and when they were implemented or are set to take effect.


 Benefit Trends

MetLife's 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends 


The 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends delivers a clear message to employers: Bolster employee loyalty and satisfaction or economic recovery may arrive with unanticipated setbacks for retention and productivity.  This year's findings reveal a workforce that has grown more dissatisfied and disloyal, to the point where one in three employees hopes to be working elsewhere in the next twelve months. Yet employers do not appear to be tuned in to this potential flight risk.  Click here to continue.

Raising Medicare Age Could Cost Employers $4.5 Billion

While the idea of raising the age to be eligible for Medicare has been discussed but never adopted, 'amid current policy discussions about the Medicare program and reining in federal spending, the idea could gain new traction,' according to the report.  Click
here to continue.

Are Health Care Costs Crippling Consumers?


Customers are actually spending far more on their own health care costs than the government traditionally reports.  A newly released Deloitte report, "The Hidden Costs of U.S. Health Care for Consumers: A Comprehensive Analysis," reveals that consumers are spending $363 billion, or 14.7% more, on health care than what is reported in official government accounts, i.e. doctors, prescriptions, hospitals and health insurance coverage.  Click here to continue.

Making the Case for Workplace Wellness Programs


On the following pages, you will find important information addressing the alarming rise in health care costs and the impact it is having on American business.  Click here to continue.

Combat Rising Health Care Costs with Consumer Directed Health Care Plans


As health care costs continue to rise and the future of health care reform looks increasingly uncertain, more employers are turning to consumer-directed health care plans as a proven way to save money and motivate employees to stay healthier.  Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), offered with a high-deductible health plan, are valuable long-term strategies to curb unnecessary spending, contain costs and promote better health within organizations. Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), the oldest of the three tax-advantaged accounts, have a long-standing history of providing tax savings while also advocating responsible health care spending.  Click here to continue.

Who Purchases Long-Term Care Insurance?


Most Americans will eventually need long-term care, which is often expensive and not usually covered by public programs until recipients have nearly exhausted their savings. In 2009, 5.2 million Americans age 65 and older not living in institutions had long-term care needs. Yet, only about 1 in 10 Americans age 55 and older had private long-term care insurance in 2008.  Click here to continue. 


 Retirement Plans

Making Sense of Plan Participant Disclosure Rules


On Oct. 14, 2010, the Department of Labor issued final rules related to the disclosure of fees to defined contribution retirement plan participants. This new rule is effective for plan years beginning after Nov. 1, 2011.  Essentially, for calendar year plans, this means compliance is required by Jan. 1, 2012. The intent of this regulation is to provide plan participants with the information they need to make good investment decisions in employee-directed DC retirement plans.  Click here to continue.

Benchmark Your 401(k) Plan for 2011

How does your 401(k) plan compare with the "typical 401(k)?  Many plan sponsors want to know how their 401k plan stacks up to the typical or average plan. This is often the first question asked when attempting to determine whether an effort should be made to upgrade the features and benefits of the plan.  To help you answer this question, we have identified some of the common performance characteristics and features offered by many 401k plans and compiled the statistics below from a variety of sources* that will allow you to benchmark your plan.  Click here to continue. 

The Top Three Retirement Plans for Small Business

On a recent business trip, I had a lively conversation with a small business owner who was on a mission to start a retirement plan.  He wanted a good place to save some money tax deferred and to take care of his key employees.  Great idea!! You know I'm a big fan of putting some money away for down the road.  Just get a 401(k) and go, right?  Well, maybe.   You may not know this, but there are quite a few different retirement options out there and many specifically designed for small businesses.  Click here to continue.


 Risk Management

Obesity: Impact on the Workplace 


Obesity in the workplace affects the productivity of the obese employee while costing the employer downtime along with workers' compensation medical and indemnity costs.  To put it simply, an obese worker means higher costs for an employer than an employee within a normal weight range.  Click here to continue.

Responding to OSHA Citations: Appealing


An OSHA inspector visited, and you received one or more citations. What happens now?  Click here to continue.

NYC Green Building Initiatives

Green building means reducing the impact on the environment by reducing carbon emissions.  In 2009 the Bloomberg administration proposed legislation that would reduce the city wide carbon emissions by 30% by the year 2030.  Since buildings account for 80% of greenhouse gas emitted in New York City building owners will have a greater responsibility in their role in making their buildings more energy efficient.  Click here to continue.

The Disappearing School Nurse


The tragedy unfolded with startling speed.  Ten-year-old Mercedes Mears arrived at Clover Creek Elementary School, in Tacoma, Washington, short of breath. Her sister ran into the office to get help. According to later accounts, Mercedes was in a panic.  The school knew she was both asthmatic and suffered from food allergies a plan detailing emergency treatment was on hand, as was a supply of her asthma medication and an allergy autoinjector, which would deliver a shot of epinephrine to relax the muscles of the airways. The plan had been signed by the school nurse. But the nurse came to Clover Creek only a few days a week and that day wasn't one of them.  Click here to continue.


 Of Interest

Long Term Care Insurance: 2011 Tax Guide 


The 2011 Tax Guide from Prudential Insurance Company covers a number of LTC topics, including:

  • How various funding options affect the taxability of premiums
  • The role incorporation plays in taxes
  • What state tax incentives are available
  • The way employee benefits are taxed

To download a copy of the 2011 Tax Guide, click here. 

Aetna Global Benefits: Healthcare News


Click here to read a report on healthcare issues around the world.


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