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New Law Uses Benefits to Pay for Buses and Veterans Health Care

When you were last pondering what creative name Congress will use on its next benefits-related bill (and, really, who does not do that in moments of abject despair, after a few glasses of wine, while bowling from time to time), surely the “Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015” was near the top of your mind, wasn’t it?  No?  Really?

Well, SURPRISE! Because that’s the name of your latest benefits bill.  In truth, it does have some provisions about transportation and the VA, but there are also benefits changes buried in various corners of the new law:

  1. Beginning next year, the automatic extension for the Form 5500 has been, well, extended from 2 ½ months to 3 ½ months from the initial deadline.   This will allow plan administrators of calendar year plans more time to prepare for Halloween, but may cut in on their Thanksgiving preparations.
  2. The law extended for four years (until the end of 2025) the ability to transfer excess pension assets to retiree health and life insurance accounts. Of the four provisions, this is the only one likely to result in an increase in federal revenues. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that it will raise $172 million in revenue over 10 years.
  3. It also amends the ACAplay or pay” mandate to exclude employees receiving coverage under TRICARE or through the VA from the employee count when determining if an employer is an “applicable large

40 Years of ERISA

September 2, 2014

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40 Years of ERISA

September 2, 2014

Authored by: Chris Rylands

ERISA has been modified by many pieces of legislation since it was signed into law on this day in 1974. In honor of ERISA’s “Big 4-0” we invite you to (1) find all of the abbreviations below for different acts that have amended ERISA and (2) come up with the full name for each abbreviated act. We will share the solution along with each act’s full name on Thursday. Good luck! *Note: letters are shared and acronyms go every direction. 

Are You Smarter Than a Plan Administrator?

Are You Smarter Than a Plan Administrator?

February 26, 2013

Authored by: Denise Erwin and Jennifer Stokes

We want our employees to make healthy choices so that they will have long and healthy lives (and also to decrease the cost of health benefits).  We also want our employees to participate in the 401(k) plan so that they can build a nest egg for retirement and enjoy those long, healthy lives (and maybe also so that we don’t have to refund deferrals to our  HCEs).  Whatever our motivations, it seems that the latest trend in encouraging desired behavior in the employee benefits arena is gamification.  Think “Farmville” except the “crops” that your employees will be growing are their dreams that they want to harvest in retirement (travel, a vacation home, or just being able to continue to pay the bills).  Imagine those crops wilting unless they are “watered” and “fed” by employees who earn “plant food” and “water” by correctly answering retirement-related questions.  Maybe the game could even show the field of dreams wilting at current deferral levels but encourage employees to use a retirement cost calculator to determine what level of deferrals might lead to a successful harvest in retirement.   For your employees who are not particularly motivated by watching crops grow, think “Angry Birds” as part of your wellness program except employees may be able to earn “birds” to fling at the infuriating “pigs” in their lives (smoking, obesity, you name it) by correctly answering health-related questions.  These particular game examples would, of course, be rife with intellectual property concerns,

The NHL Goes Back to the Past (Pension-wise)

After a long lockout, the NHL will begin its season this weekend thanks, in part, to a pension plan.  Among the sticking points for the players, as noted in this article, was the desire to return to a defined benefit pension plan.  The NHL was somewhat ahead of its time in 1986 when it switched to a DC-only style retirement plan.  However, the players in this recent round of bargaining pushed hard for a pension plan, and succeeded.  While the NHL has not released very many details about the pension plan, and some of the information we’ve found is conflicting, this report from CSN Washington suggests that players can be eligible for the maximum benefits permitted by law.

While it is interesting to see an institution as prominent as the NHL buck a clear trend in the retirement space, it goes without saying that this is probably not the beginning of a sea change in retirement benefits back to defined benefit plans.  As noted in this Globe and Mail article, even Kevin Westgarth, a Los Angeles Kings forward and a member of the NHLPA’s bargaining committee, called moving to a pension plan “way out of style.”  .

While pensions may be way out of style for most of us non-athletes, as noted in this article from Bankrate.com, many U.S. professional sports organizations actually offer some kind of pension plan for their players (we’ve previously discussed the pension plans for MLB players

News & Notes – December 21, 2012

News & Notes – December 21, 2012

December 21, 2012

Authored by: Chris Rylands

If you’re reading this, it must mean the Mayans were wrong, so since the world is continuing, why not check out our list of recent News & Notes items?

  • A recent study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 84% of employers plan to keep offering coverage in 2014.
  • But even if its offered, an Employee Benefits Research Institute study found some employees might not take it if it Congress decides to tax insurance as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations (if you can call them that).
  • The Commonwealth Fund has put together an interactive map, and additional information, about various States’ decisions on implementing the PPACA exchanges.
  •  Since we have so often talked about Hurricane Sandy relief in this column, we would be remiss if we did not point out the additional chart and FAQs that the IRS has released.  These are included, among other items, in the most recent IRS Retirement News for Employers, as well.
  • We have noted that employers are considering private exchanges and some of the issues around that.  This Employee Benefits News guest post suggests that a private exchange might not make the best economic sense.  Do you agree?

News & Notes – December 7, 2012

News & Notes – December 7, 2012

December 7, 2012

Authored by: Chris Rylands

Below is our most recent list of News & Notes from the week that was.  Let us know what you think.  Should we continue this feature?

  • Continuing with our unplanned New York theme, the New York Times recently reported how some non-traditional medical practitioners were lobbying to be included as “essential health benefits” under health care reform.  Is acupuncture essential?
  • Going completely to the other coast, CBS Los Angeles reported that LA County officials were scrambling to retain “paying patients” ahead of 2014.
  • Finally, can you imagine buying health insurance at the grocery store?  That may happen in the future, says this Kaiser Health News report.  Seeing the premium quotes might make us think twice about some of our purchases (Twinkies are healthy, right?).

Have a link that you’d like to share?  Leave us a comment below or send it to us at LinkedIn or Twitter.

 

News & Notes – November 30, 2012

News & Notes – November 30, 2012

November 30, 2012

Authored by: Chris Rylands

Now that we’ve returned from Thanksgiving and have finished off the leftover pumpkin pie, we wanted to share a few more recent benefits-related(ish) stories and other links.

  • In case you didn’t see it, last week the DOL issued compliance guidance for employee benefit plans in wake of Hurricane Sandy.
  • This blog post lists four ways to internally market your benefits and compensation programs.
  • One way you might help participation in your wellness programs is develop an app, says this article.
  • Are you having trouble keeping track of all the lawsuits about the PPACA contraceptive mandate?  Fortunately for you, Politico has a good summary.
  • Some other countries provide some interesting benefits, as detailed in this article.  Which ones would you like to see replicated in the US?

Have a link that you’d like to share?  Leave us a comment below or send it to us at LinkedIn or Twitter.

 

News & Notes – November 16, 2012

News & Notes – November 16, 2012

November 16, 2012

Authored by: Chris Rylands

Just as we did last week, below, we share some recent benefits-related(ish) stories and other links.

  • Today would have been the deadline for states to submit their PPACA health insurance exchange blueprints, but HHS extended the deadline for the blueprints and then, a few days later, extended the deadline for states to tell HHS if they were starting an exchange.   As these reports from Kaiser show, some states are in and some states are out.  State Refor(u)m is keeping a list of state responses here.
  • The IRS released the latest edition of the Employee Plans News with some helpful information about plan administrative issues.
  • The New York Times recently featured one company that is offering income for life through its 401(k) plan.  Is this something you’re considering?
  • This Wall Street Journal article shares some innovative weight loss technologies employers are using to curb health care costs.

Have a link that you’d like

News & Notes – November 9, 2012

November 9, 2012

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News & Notes – November 9, 2012

November 9, 2012

Authored by: Chris Rylands

As a new feature here on benefitsbclp.com, we are going to regularly share some recent benefits-related(ish) stories and other links.

  • Get out your flotation devices because Politico is predicting a post-election flood of health care reform guidance.
  • Several states had PPACA measures on the ballot.  You can check out this list of the measures, and how they fared on election night.
  • Speaking of health care and elections, this Washington Post article says many employees are overwhelmed by open enrollment.
  • And just when you thought we were done with PPACA litigation, the Obama administration has said it does not have a problem with the Supreme Court allowing Liberty University’s challenge to PPACA to be reviewed at the Fourth Circuit.
  • A Plan Sponsor Council of America study showed that participant fee disclosure did not significantly change participant behavior, but it did change the behavior of some plan sponsors.
  • Do you think you know your facts about health care?  Take this short LA Times quiz and see how your score.

Have a link that you’d like to share?  Leave us a

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