Newsdash Insight on Plan Design & Investment Strategy from PLANSPONSOR
September 12th, 2014
Benefit Briefs
Stability in Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits for Now
Employer-sponsored health benefits are very similar to 2013 in 2014, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Similar percentages of employers offered benefits to at least some employees and a similar percentage of workers at those firms were covered by benefits compared to last year.  Family premiums increased at a modest rate and single premiums are not statistically different than those reported last year. On average, covered workers contribute the same percentage of the premium for single and family coverage as they did last year. One change in employer-sponsored health benefits noted by the survey is 37% of firms offering health benefits offer at least one grandfathered health plan in 2014, down from the 54% that did so in 2013.Read more >
Employers Keeping Cost of Providing Health Benefits Down
Early responses to a Mercer survey still in the field show employers are predicting that health benefit costs per employee will rise by 3.9% on average in 2015. Cost growth slowed to 2.1% in 2013, a 15-year low, but appears to be edging back up. The projected increase for 2015 reflects actions employers will take to manage costs. If they made no changes to their plans for 2015, they predict costs would rise by 5.9% on average. However, only 32% of respondents are simply renewing their existing plans without making changes.Read more >
Buyer's Market
TIAA-CREF Launches Website for Plan Sponsors
TIAA-CREF launched PlanFocus, a new website for retirement plan sponsors. The firm says the site helps both plan sponsors and plan advisers/consultants manage and optimize plan operations, drive outcomes and engage employees.Read more >
Economic Events
In the week ending September 6, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance was 315,000, an increase of 11,000 from the previous week’s revised level, the Labor Department reported. The previous week’s level was revised up by 2,000 from 302,000 to 304,000. The four-week moving average was 304,000, an increase of 750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 500 from 302,750 to 303,250. The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 4.12%, up from 4.10% one week ago, according to Freddie Mac. The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 3.26%, up from 3.24%.
Market Mirror
Thursday, the Dow slipped 19.71 points (0.12%) to 17,049.00, the NASDAQ ticked up 5.28 points (0.12%) to 4,591.81, and the S&P 500 increased by 1.76 (0.09%) to 1,997.45. The Russell 2000 climbed 6.98 points (0.60%) to 1,171.96, and the Wilshire 5000 closed 30.70 points (0.15%) higher at 21,182.54. On the NYSE, 3.2 billion shares changed hands, and on the NASDAQ, 2.8 billion shares traded, with 1.2 advancing issues for every declining issue on both exchanges. The price of the 10-year Treasury note decreased 3/32, increasing its yield to 2.554%. The price of the 30-year Treasury bond was down 1/32, bringing its yield up to 3.274%.
Rules & Regulators
IRS Releases Draft Instructions for ACA Reporting Forms
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has published draft instructions for forms employers will use to submit information required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Code Section 6056, as enacted by the ACA, requires “applicable large employers” subject to the employer “shared responsibility” mandate (Code Section 4980H) to report to the IRS information about their compliance with the  mandate and any health care coverage offered to employees. The IRS recently issued draft forms for employers to report health care coverage to workers and the agency, but no instructions.Read more >
Signature Authority May Trigger ERISA Fiduciary Status
A company CEO’s signature authority for payments from the company’s bank account may make him an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) fiduciary. In denying a motion to dismiss by Mihir Taneja, the CEO, secretary and director of Geopharma, U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida noted that ERISA’s definition of fiduciary includes those “exercising any authority or control over the management or disposition of plan assets” (italics added). She agreed with U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez that since employees’ contributions toward payments of their benefits were commingled with Geopharma’s general assets and never remitted or used to pay claims, Taneja allegedly exercised fiduciary authority or control over both Geopharma’s assets and benefit plan assets simultaneously.Read more >
UAW Retirees Cannot Benefit from Restatement of Benefits
Because it did not appeal a decision allowing Visteon to terminate certain benefits, the UAW may not benefit from a decision made in another union’s appeal to reinstate benefits, a court has decided. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited other case law, saying “It is clear that any party contesting an unfavorable order or judgment below must file an appeal,’” and “[A] party which does not appeal a decision by a district court cannot receive relief with respect to that decision.”Read more >
Small Talk
ON THIS DATE:  In 1873, the first practical typewriter was sold to customers. In 1940, the Lascaux paintings were discovered in France. The cave paintings were 17,000 years old and were some of the best examples of art from the Paleolithic period. In 1954, “Lassie” made its television debut on CBS. In 1963, the last episode of “Leave it to Beaver” was aired. In 1966, “Family Affair” premiered on CBS television. In 1972, after nearly 40 years of riding across millions of American TV and movie screens, the cowboy actor William Boyd, best known for his role as Hopalong Cassidy, died at the age of 77. In 1991, the space shuttle Discovery took off on a mission to deploy an observatory that was to study the Earth’s ozone layer. In 1992, Dr. Mae Carol Jemison became the first African-American woman in space. She was the payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Endeavor. Also onboard were Mission Specialist N. Jan Davis and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mark C. Lee. They were the first married couple to fly together in space. And, Mamoru Mohri became the first Japanese person to fly into space.   And now it’s time for FRIDAY FILES!
Having trouble making a strike when you’re bowling? You’re doing it wrong.Read more >
In Knoxville, Tennessee, a bat got news anchors’ hearts pumping one morning.Read more >
In Melbourne, Australia, a 22-year-old awoke from a coma he was in following a serious car crash. But, when he awoke, the English-speaking man only spoke Mandarin. He eventually regained his English skills, but still can speak Mandarin fluently. According to the Metro, he said he took Mandarin in high school, but was far from fluent. There have been other similar accounts. According to Discovery, scientists attribute this phenomenon to “bilingual aphasia”: Different languages are retained in different parts of the brain, so if one section is injured, a person’s brain could transition over to another stored language. In County Durham, England, an 11-year-old boy has been denied a bus pass to school because he lives too close. The County Council determined his house is 1.999 miles from the school instead of the newly required two miles. However, his older brother has a bus pass to the same school because the rules were different when he applied, the Mirror reports. Under new paths, the council says the family’s home is now six feet closer to the school. The walk to school takes 40 minutes, which the boy’s father argues is too long for an 11-year-old to be walking in the streets.
In Ecorse, Michigan, some church members claim they see the face of Jesus on a pierogi cooked during a church festival.Read more >
In Little Canada, Minnesota, body shop employees waited until after hours and decided to take a joy ride in a customer’s Dodge Chargers. The customer was the nearby Roseville police department. A citizen told the police department the employees appeared to be racing in the squad cars. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the body shop president responded in an email that there was no excessive speeding, but one employee has been fired to maintain its relationship with the police department. Roseville police have terminated their business with the body shop for now, and are conducting an investigation. Near Sarasota, Florida, a burglar planning to rob homeowners apparently was suddenly overwhelmed with exhaustion. He fell into a deep sleep and a cleaning lady found him and called police. When police arrived, he was still sound asleep and they took pictures before arresting him. Police said when they arrived, the man was in a deep slumber, lying next to a plastic bag filled with the jewelry he had planned to steal. In Fort Myers, Florida, Mad Fresh Bistro has banned ketchup for all their patrons older than 10. According to UPI, the restaurant’s logic is cooks season their food well and it should not be smothered by the condiment. In a statement, the restaurant said: “We know, we know. People love their ketsup. But honestly, be ready. If you’re over 10 years old, ketsup will NOT be provided. Similarly, salt won’t be making an appearance next to your meal, either. We simply ask that you trust us. We know what we’re doing! Part of the MAD experience is to trust the chef, and not have preconceived notions of what your dish is going to need.” Have a great weekend!
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Editorial: Alison Cooke Mintzer alison.mintzer@strategic-i.com

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