What's New

What's New - October 2003

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EBRI Celebrates 25th Anniversary in 2003:  The Employee Benefit Research Institute celebrated its
25th anniversary September 19, 2003, at a gala event at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

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As a research site, EBRI Online maintains old listings in the “What’s New” page, even though some of the older links may no longer function.  If you reach a bad link, go back to the main site by deleting everything after “.com” or “.org” or “.net” in the address.  Since we maintain www.ebri.org/ as a research and education resource, and not current news, we hope you will understand our policy and the use for which it is maintained.

What's new at EBRI this month:

Employment-Based Retirement and Pension Plan Participation: Declining Levels and Geographic Differences

Findings From the 2003 Health Confidence Survey: Americans Increasingly Worried About Health Care Costs

Facts from EBRI:  Flexible Spending Accounts

1st quarter 2003 Pension Investment Report (PIR):
The EBRI Pension Investment Report (PIR) contains data on private trusteed, private life insurance, and state and local government pension funds.  For more information, contact EBRI Publications at (202) 572-7422 or publications@ebri.org.

The sixth annual Health Confidence Survey:
2003 results released September 29, 2003, by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates, Inc. 

EBRI Health Research and Education Program:
check out this program under its new name.

 

EBRI/ICI  401(k)  2002  Data:  
The September 2003 EBRI Issue Brief, "401(k) Plan Asset Allocation, Account Balances, and Loan Activity in 2002," examines asset allocation, account balance, and loan activity of a large and representative group of 401(k) plan participants as of year-end 2002 using data gathered by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and the Investment Company Institute (ICI) in their collaborative effort known as the EBRI/ICI Participant-Directed Retirement Plan Data Collection Project.

Press Release | September 2003 EBRI Issue Brief | Appendix

EBRI Special Report:
  “How Many Medicare Beneficiaries Will Lose Employment-Based Retiree Health Benefits if Medicare Covers Outpatient Prescription Drugs?”  This analysis estimates it is possible that between two percent and nine percent of current Medicare beneficiaries with employment-based retiree health benefits for prescription drug coverage would lose those benefits if Medicare provides outpatient prescription drug benefits, solely as a result of that change in the program.

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EBRI Research Findings for 2002-2003:

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What's new in employee benefits:

  • HR News Online -- a daily update from the Society for Human Resource Management

Health and Welfare

Human Resources

Retirement

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The following items have been added to the General Accounting Office's Web site in Portable Document (PDF) format:

Reports:
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: Single-Employer Pension Insurance Program Faces Significant Long-Term Risks.   GAO-04-90, October 29, 2003.  Highlights.

Private Health Insurance: Federal and State Requirements Affecting Coverage Offered by Small Businesses.   GAO-03-1133, September 30, 2003.  Highlights.

Prescription Drug Discount Cards: Savings Depend on Pharmacy and Type of Card Used.  GAO-03-912, September 3, 2003.   Highlights

Testimonies:
Private Pensions: Changing Funding Rules and Enhancing Incentives Can Improve Plan Funding, by Barbara D. Bovbjerg, director, education, workforce, and income security issues, before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.  GAO-04-176T, October 29, 2003.  Highlights.

Business-Owned Life Insurance: Preliminary Observations on Uses, Prevalence, and Regulatory Oversight, by Davi D'Agostino, director,financial markets and community investment, before the Senate Committee on Finance.  GAO-04-191T, October 23, 2003.  Highlights.

Prescription Drugs: State and Federal Oversight of Drug Compounding by Pharmacies, by Janet Heinrich, director, health care-public health issues, before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.  GAO-04-195T, October 23, 2003.  Highlights.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: Long-Term Financing Risks to Single Employer Insurance Program Highlight Need for Comprehensive Reform, testimony by Barbara D. Bovbjerg, director, education, workforce and income security issues, before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.   GAO-04-150T, October 14, 2003.  Highlights.

Medical Malpractice Insurance: Multiple Factors Have Contributed to Premium Rate Increases, testimony by Richard J. Hillman, director, financial markets and community investment, and Kathryn G. Allen, director, Medicaid and private health insurance issues, before the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness, House Committee on Government Reform.  GAO-04-128T, October 1, 2003.

        If a title link above no longer works, click here for the Find GAO Reports page and search for the report by report number,  title, abstract, agency/organization names, or subject terms.   Searches for reports can also be conducted in the General Accounting Office (GAO) Reports Online via GPO Access database.

 If your computer does not already have the free Adobe Acrobat viewer software to read PDF files, click here for the one-time download necessary to read PDF publications.

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The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has established a National Call Center to serve its customers.  By calling 1-866-4-USA-DOL, America's employees and employers can find answers to questions on a range of employment issues.  This toll-free service offers live operator assistance and is a central access point for all DOL services and programs.  It serves both English and Spanish speaking callers.  The Call Center can assist workers and employers with questions about job loss, business closures, pay and leave, workplace injuries, safety and health, pension and health benefits, and reemployment rights for reservists.

 Additional Department of Labor toll-free numbers to call for questions regarding specific issues are listed below:

  •  1-877-US-2JOBS     Job Loss, Layoffs, Business Closures, Unemployment Benefits and Job   Training

  •  1-866-4-US-WAGE     Pay, Overtime, Leave and Child Labor

  •  1-800-321-OSHA     Workplace Safety and Health

  •  1-877-889-5627     TTY number for all Department of Labor Questions

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The Internal Revenue Service has announced that technical or procedural questions relating to retirement plans are answered at the EP Customer Account Services site.  Answers to many questions may already be available under Frequently Asked Questions about Retirement Plans.  If not:

Call:   TE/GE Customer Account Services at (877) 829-5500 (toll-free number).
            The call center is open 8:00am to 6:30pm Eastern Time.

Write:   Internal Revenue Service
               TE/GE Division, Customer Service
               P.O. Box 2508
               Cincinnati, OH 45201

Email:   RetirementPlanQuestions@irs.gov
               Note: All questions submitted via e-mail must be responded to via telephone,
               so please remember to include your phone number in your message.


[10/29/03]   More Than 20% of Surveyed Plan Sponsors Froze Plan Benefits or Will Do So; Cost and Volatility Blamed in the recent Aon Consulting review of more than 1000 private sector defined benefit plans.

[10/29/03]   The following cost estimate has been added to the Congressional Budget Office Web site: H.R. 313, Coal Accountability and Retired Employee Act for the 21st Century.

[10/28/03]  Research released by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) says Insured Americans Drive Surge in Emergency Department Visits.

[10/28/03]  A Metlife report is titled: National Disability Month: Metlife Research Highlights Top Five Workplace Disabilities; Lower Back Disorders Top the List.

[10/28/03]  The American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) provides the September 2003 T&D article, "Outsourced Learning: A New Market Emerges."

[10/28/03]  Health News Index Trends 1996-2002 reports on the Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health News Index surveys done “between 1996 and 2002, encompassing responses from more than 42,000 people.”

[10/28/03]  The 2003 Transamerica Small Business Retirement Survey released by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies surveyed small business executives and employees.

[10/28/03]  Canadian Dentist Wins U.S. Contest to Design Better Health-Care System.

[10/28/03]  “Code Blue Now!™ is a national grassroots advocacy and action group committed to improving the U.S. health care system.”

[10/28/03]  Studies reveal conflicting employer/employee attitude trends for wages and benefits.

[10/23/03]  “2004 Standard Mileage Rates Set -- 800,000 More Businesses Eligible,” is available from the Internal Revenue Service.

[10/23/03]  “Health Care Costs Continue Double-Digit Pace, But May Start Moderating in 2004,” according to recent analysis from Hewitt Associates’ Health Value Initiative database.  Click here for 2004 Health Care Costs.

[10/23/03]  “New IRS Material Helps Retirement Plans Stay Compliant” is a recent news release from the Internal Revenue Service.

[10/23/03]  “Congress Working to Replace 30-Year Treasury Rate,” from Mellon Human Resources & Investor Solutions’ For Your Information, discusses recent legislation on this topic.

[10/23/03]  Majority Say a Significant Reduction in Health Benefits Is Worse Than No Pay Increase,” includes findings from a recent Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive Poll.

[10/22/03]  The full text of The Growing Share of Uninsured Workers Employed by Large Firms, a new Commonwealth Fund report, is available.

[10/22/03]  “Are Your Benefits Holding Up?  More of Our Readers Are Unhappy with Their Health-Care Coverage Than with Their Retirement Plans” includes key findings from a recent Business Week reader survey.

[10/22/03]  Pension Plan Financial Results Come Under the Corporate Microscope highlights key findings from a recent Towers Perrin survey of chief financial officers of Fortune 1000 companies sponsoring defined benefit pension plans.

[10/21/03]  The Commonwealth Fund posted the analysis, Insurance, Access, and Quality of Care Among Hispanic Populations: 2003 Chartpack.

[10/21/03]  The Center on an Aging Society, Institute for Health Care Research and Policy at Georgetown University posted The Decade Preceding Medicare Coverage: Insurance Matters for People with Chronic Conditions.

[10/21/03]  The Praxis Project's Fall 2003 News and Notes concerns various health care policy issues.

[10/21/03]  “IRS Announces Pension Plan Limitations for 2004” includes cost-of-living adjustments pertaining to dollar limitations for pension plans and other items for tax year 2004.

[10/21/03]  “Social Security Announces 2.1 Percent Benefit Increase for 2004” includes cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income recipients beginning in 2004.  The Fact Sheet on 2004 Social Security Changes includes other data for 2004.

[10/21/03]  “HHS Announces Medicare Premium and Deductible Rates for 2004” includes data on premiums and other amounts to be paid by Medicare beneficiaries in the year 2004.

[10/21/03]  The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing October 14 titled “America’s Pensions: The Next Savings and Loan Crisis?”   Click here for the witness list, which includes links to testimonies.

[10/21/03]  The American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) posts the Life Insurers Fact Book 2003.

[10/21/03]  The Financial Executives Institute posts a PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis, FASB Proposes Significant New Disclosures for Pensions and Other Postretirement Benefits.

[10/21/03]  “Social Security Individual Accounts: Design Questions” is the October 2003 Issue Brief from the American Academy of Actuaries.

[10/21/03]  "How Different Is California? A Comparison Of U.S. Physician Organizations" is a Health Affairs Web Exclusive.

[10/21/03]   2003 Health Care Costs is the latest analysis of results from the Hewitt Health Value Initiative which includes 300 major employers and more than 16 million health plan members.

[10/21/03]  Chronic Conditions in a Working Age Population is a fact sheet from Partnership for Solutions.

[10/14/03]  On September 12 the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants sent a comment letter to the Internal Revenue Service recommending changes to proposed regulations issued July 16 pertaining to Section 401(k) plans.

[10/14/03]  Deloitte’s Employer Health Care Strategy Survey 2003 is available in its entirety.

[10/14/03]  On October 7 the U.S. Supreme Court denied Xerox Corporation’s application for a stay of a federal appeals court’s decision requiring the company to compensate cash balance pension plan participants for future interest credits that it did not include in the participants’ lump sum payouts.   Click here for U.S. Supreme Court Docket No. 03A289Click here for the full text of Berger v. Xerox Corporation Retirement Income Guarantee Plan in the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, No. 02-3674.

[10/14/03]  The Society of Actuaries presents the results of its FAS Assumption Survey on FAS 87 and FAS 106.

[10/14/03]  Click here for the Aon Consulting Fall 2003 Health Care Trend Survey.

[10/14/03]  The Urban Institute published Exploring State Variation in Uninsurance Rates among Low-Income Workers this month.

[10/14/03]  Statistical Brief  #24, The Uninsured in America - 1996-2002, Estimates for the Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population Under Age 65, is from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

[10/14/03]  Published in the October 8 issue of JAMA, "Excess Length of Stay, Charges, and Mortality Attributable to Medical Injuries During Hospitalization," found that the impact of medical injuries varies substantially.  Press Release.

[10/14/03] The following three Health Affairs Web Exclusive articles are on health care cost shifting:

[10/14/03]   Comparison of SEPS, SARSEPs and SIMPLE IRA Plans is a U.S. Internal Revenue Service chart.

[10/14/03]   The Gender Impact of Pension Reform: A Cross-Country Analysis is a World Bank Policy Research Working Paper published in June 2003.


[10/14/03]  See Nelson v. IPALCO Enterprises Inc., S.D. Ind., No. IP02-0477-C-H/K, unpublished 9/30/03, regarding stock as an investment option for participants in their employer's thrift savings plan.

[10/14/03]  “Committee Approves Grassley Bill to Protect Employees’ Pensions” includes details on the National Employee Savings and Trust Equity Guarantee (NESTEG) Act, recent legislation from Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.

[10/10/03]   October is National Work and Family Month, part of the National Work/Life Initiative to provide education and promote awareness of work/life effectiveness as a key issue for employers.

[10/10/03]   The Investment Company Institute posted their study IRA Ownership in 2003.

[10/10/03]  Sen. Gordon Smith introduced in the U.S. Senate S.1702, Domestic Partner Health Benefits Equity Act.  Click here for Bill Summary & Status information.

[10/10/03]  “Business Survey Finds Employers Faced With Healthcare Cost Increases Exceeding Ability To Pay” highlights findings from the Trends in Employer Sponsored Health Benefits 2003 Survey conducted by the Wells Fargo companies Bryan, Pendleton, Swats & McAllister (BPS&M) and Acordia Inc.  View the complete 2003 survey analysis here.

[10/10/03]  “Few Brokers Sell CDH, Study Says; Incentives Could Spur Interest,” reports findings from the 2003 NAHU ChapterHouse Annual Benefit Trends Study released by the National Association of Health Underwriters.

[10/10/03]   The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured released two new publications examining the health coverage characteristics of rural America:

[10/10/03]  On October 8 the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a 397-2 vote H.R.3108, “To amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to temporarily replace the 30-year Treasury rate with a rate based on long-term corporate bonds for certain pension plan funding requirements and other provisions, and for other purposes.”  Click here for Bill Summary & Status information.

[10/10/03]  Pension Help, a pension information and counseling project available to individuals having problems with any type of pension, is a nonprofit program partly funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging.

[10/10/03]  “Mercer Launches New Health Care Consumer Index” includes findings from a web-based survey developed by Mercer Human Resource Consulting to gauge employee readiness to become engaged health care consumers.

[10/7/03]  “Middle Americans Become More Financially Prudent and Build More Wealth During Economic Boom, Yet Many Worry about Finances Today,” highlights research by the Consumer Federation of America and Providian Financial.

[10/7/03]  Sen. Olympia Snowe introduced in the U.S. Senate S.1053, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2003.  Click here for Bill Summary & Status information.

[10/7/03]  “Consumers Can Find Opportunities to Save on Health Care Costs by Choosing a Benefit Plan that Best Fits Their Needs” includes key findings from a recent CIGNA HealthCare survey.

[10/7/03]  A 403(b) Market chart, produced by the Spectrem Group, illustrates the distribution of investments in the 403(b) market as of December 31, 2002.

[10/7/03]  ICI Releases Comprehensive Look at College Savings Patterns of parents of children aged 18 or younger.  The report from the Investment Company Institute (ICI) represents the first comprehensive examination of parents’ college savings behavior.

[10/6/03]   Rita Beamish Special to Stateline.org, Hawaii Falls Behind In Health Care Coverage.

[10/6/03]  Click here for the executive summary of Highlights of the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce.   The Families and Work Institute conducts the study every five years.

[10/6/03]  Contact Missing Participants or Beneficiaries includes details on the Internal Revenue Service’s Letter-Forwarding Program, a service which may be used by employers trying to locate former employees.

[10/6/03]  The Taxpayer Advocate Service is available to taxpayers needing to resolve problems with the Internal Revenue Servoce.   The toll-free help line number is 1-877 777-4778.

[10/6/03]  General Social Security benefit questions should be referred to the Social Security Administration’s Tele Service Center at 1-800-772-1213.  How to Contact Social Security provides further details.

[10/6/03]  Sen. Michael B. Enzi introduced in the U.S. Senate S.1698, Retirement Security Advice Act of 2003.  Click here for Bill Summary & Status information.

[10/6/03]  The executive summary of Watson Wyatt Worldwide’s 2003/2004 Survey of Strategic Rewards and Pay Practices - Maximizing the Return on Your Reward Investment includes key findings from the survey.

[10/6/03]  The Million Dollar Round Table highlights key findings from its recent Retirement Attitudes Survey.

[10/2/03]  View a Webcast of Reshaping the Future of America's Health, a Joint Economic Committee roundtable discussion.

[10/2/03]  Watson Wyatt’s “Pensions in Crisis” report in the September 2003 Insider concerns pension plan funding of the nation’s 1,000 largest companies.

[10/2/03]  A recent study conducted by the SPARK Research Group, titled DCP Plan Sponsor 2003, found that the majority of 401(k) plan sponsors surveyed expressed satisfaction with the overall performance of companies managing their plans.

[10/2/03]   A fact sheet from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, "SB 2 Will Extend Coverage to 1 Million Uninsured Workers and Dependents" provides estimates of the number of California workers and dependents  who would be eligible for coverage under the provisions of California state Senate Bill 2, the Health Insurance Act of 2003.

[10/2/03]  “Do We Have a Retirement Crisis in America?” by Douglas Fore, is published as a Research Dialogue by the TIAA-CREF Institute.

[10/2/03]  Marilyn Moon considers the issues in two prescription drug bills that would affect Medicare beneficiaries in a Commonwealth Fund Policy Brief, "Medicare Prescription Drug Legislation: How Would It Affect Beneficiaries?"

[10/2/03]   “Making Wellness the Focus: One Employer’s Story” by Kathryn Jandeska and Lisa Zapach, both of Aon Consulting, is reprinted from Employee Benefits Journal published by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

[10/2/03]   Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs): Tools for Managing Drug Benefit Costs, Quality, and Safety was prepared for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association by Health Policy Alternatives, Inc.

[10/2/03]  Prevention Makes Common “Cents” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation [for health care] is available.

[10/1/03]   The U.S. Census Bureau issued their latest health insured data in the report, Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2002.

[10/1/03]  eHealthInsurance's August 2003 fact sheet, The Cost and Benefits of Individual and Family Health Insurance, is available on their site.

[10/1/03]  The HR Policy Association, an organization of senior human resource executives, is the new name of the Labor Policy Association.  Click here for the press release.

[10/1/03]  According to the Towers Perrin annual survey of health care costs, Health-Care Costs to Rise in 2004.

[10/1/03]  The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College released an Issue in Brief: "How Has the Shift to 401(k)s Affected the Retirement Age?” by Alicia H. Munnell, Kevin E. Cahill, and Natalia A. Jivan.

[10/1/03]   Can Unexpected Retirement Explain the Retirement-Consumption Puzzle?   Evidence For Subjective Retirement Expectations by Melvin Stephens Jr. and Steven J. Haider is published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Executive Summary Full Working Paper

[10/1/03]   A research study published by LIMRA International earlier this year, based on a survey of 708 affluent households, provides evidence of the growth of objective financial advice.  Click here for How to Become a Fee-Based Advisor to Retirement Plans.

[10/1/03]  Click here for “Labor Department Announces Proposed Effective Date of COBRA Regulations Will Be Delayed,” a September 17 media release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration.

[10/1/03]  Can There Be Too Much Choice In a Retirement Savings Plan?  is a research report done by the Vanguard Center for Retirement Research in collaboration with researchers at Columbia University.

[10/1/03]  “Fidelity Report Shows American Workers Are Changing Behavior in Response to Rising Health Care Costs and Coverage Cutbacks” summarizes key findings from a recent Fidelity Investments study.

[10/1/03]  A Special Consumer Survey Report: Job Satisfaction, was done by The Conference Board.

[10/1/03]  Two new reports from the Urban Institute examine adult health insurance coverage:

[10/1/03]  When Are Health Costs Excessive If $15,000 Is Average? by Eugene Steuerle is reprinted by the Urban Institute from the “Economic Perspective” column in Tax Analysts.

[10/1/03]  “Baby Boomers Not Getting the Retirement Message: ING Survey, ‘Boomers Still on the Brink,’ Shows Boomers Remain Ill-Prepared for Retirement,” includes key findings from the ING survey.

[10/1/03]  “New Chatham Study Backs the Case for Bundling: The Principal Financial Group Tops List of Providers in Bundled DB, TRS Solutions,” highlights key findings from the report: The Trend Toward Bundling of Defined Benefit Services and Total Retirement Outsourcing.

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Updated 10/31/03