Monday, June 1, 2009

We're moving!

Attention all Daily Diversion readers! This is the last post to our blogspot url!

From now on, you can read DD posts at If you RSS us, you'll have to resubscribe at the new address. I'm no techie, but if you run into trouble feel free to e-mail me. Otherwise, I'm looking forward to reconnecting at the same Bat-time, new Bat-channel.

Thanks for reading! --K.B.

Tip of the Day: Beware of Sen. Kennedy

A recent report in The Washington Post reveals that Sen. Edward Kennedy's health care reform proposal involves mandates both for employees and employers, similar to the health care system in Kennedy's home state of Massachusetts.

It's no secret that employers are solidly against a mandate for businesses to chip in for the cost of health insurance, so I encourage you to make your voice heard on Sen. Kennedy's plan. According to the Post, he plans to unveil it today and my sources tell me that a bill of of some kind could come as early as this month.

Overheard @: Trimming FSAs could pay for health care reform

In a recent article written for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, authors Chuck Marr and Kris Cox suggest that "Congress should consider scaling back or eliminating health care flexible spending accounts as part of its effort to pay for health care reform."

Among their reasons for deep-sixing FSAs, Marr and Cox say:
* FSAs encourage excess utilization of health care.
* FSAs’ “use or lose it” requirement promotes wasteful spending.
* FSAs complicate peoples’ lives while providing only modest benefits for non-wealthy accountholders.
* Health care reform’s changes to the treatment of out-of-pocket costs are likely to weaken the rationale for FSAs.

I found their arguments to be interesting and very rational, particularly the part about the "use it or lose" requirement promoting wasteful spending. I can't tell you how many colleagues and friends buy several pairs of eyeglasses and bottles upon bottles of aspirin in December each year so they can use up their FSA dollars.

What do you think? With HSAs growing in popularity, are medical FSAs even needed anymore?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tip of the Day: Submit your ideas for fixing the retirement system

Do you have an idea of what a universal, secure, and adequate retirement system should look like? Retirement USA wants to hear from you!

The organization is accepting proposals from us regular folks on how to revamp retirement to make sure everyone has happy and secure golden years. There are a few caveats -- proposals have to align with Retirement USA's principles, but they're things I think we all can agree on for the most part: plans that are universal, secure, portable and provide adequate retirement income.

So put your ideas out there!

Yay or Nay: Is the employer-sponsored system worth saving?

Although President Obama has called the employer-based health care system "an accident of history that works," a recent New York Times opinion piece by Princeton economics professor Uwe Reinhardt says the system makes employers "pickpockets, so to speak, who take a chunk of the employee’s total compensation and buy with it whatever fringe benefits they 'give' their employees."

While I'm sure you don't wholly agree or disagree with either the president or Reinhardt, what are your thoughts? Should the employer-based system stand, or do you think it needs dismantling?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tip of the Day: Prepare for a health care battle

As summer approaches, so does the official start of a duel over health care reform. A host of proposals from Republicans and Democrats are on the table, and Sen. Charles Grassley acknowledged to reporters earlier this spring, "This is the toughest issue we have ever taken on -- every part has got a chance of blowing up."

One of the stickiest points of contention is whether or not reform should incorporate a public plan option. To keep with all the "duel" imagery, Les Masterson of Health Plan Insider writes that CDHPs and HSAs should prepare to "do battle" with a public plan.

As Masterson notes, some 8 million Americans are covered by HSA-eligible plans with enrollment steadily growing. He cites two recent surveys touting the accounts and writes:

"These two studies were released at the same time that the health care reform debate rages in DC. That's not a coincidence. Private health plans are rightfully viewing portions of health care reform as a direct assault on their business.

HSAs, the poster boys for creating better health care consumers and lowering health care costs under the Bush administration, are not seen by most Democrats as a solution—but rather a problem that prices the poor out of quality health care."

So pros, since employers increasingly are turning to HSAs to lower cost, you should get your war paint ready if you don't want to see HSAs decline. Or, perhaps you're content to see employees enroll in the public plan. What are your thoughts? Comment and let me know.

News You Can Use: Another day, another delay

If there's one thing the government does well, it's make things take longer. The Department of Labor announced on Thursday a second extension for public comment on final regulations that would permit 401(k) and other retirement plan fiduciaries to provide more advice to plan participants under the Pension Protection Act of 2006. The new deadline is Nov. 18, 2009.

Employers have long awaited better guidance on what forms of investment advice the government wants to permit, or encourage. The comment period was previously extended to allow the Obama administration sufficient time to examine the legal and policy issues present in the regulation, according to a White House memo.

On Jan. 21, 2009, DOL released a final rule administering the provision of investment advice under the ERISA's prohibited transaction provisions. Subsequently, Labor officials drew out the applicability and effective dates of the final regulation from March 23 to May 22.

No word yet on what will be accomplished during the second extension other than changing of seasons.