Weekend update / Miscellany

  • Last week, according to Business Insurance, the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance to employers (IRS Notice 2008-82) that interprets a new law permitting employers to allow reservist employees called to active duty for 180 days or more to withdraw their health care flexible spending account balances as taxable cash distributions. Prior to enactment of this law, such employees often forfeited their balances because they became eligible for Tricare with no premium contribution obligation. The IRS Notice explains that

    Notwithstanding the general rule that amendments to cafeteria plans and health FSAs may only be effective prospectively from the date of the plan amendment and that a QRD may not be made before the cafeteria plan is first amended to provide for QRDs, a plan may be amended retroactively to permit QRDs requested on or before December 31, 2009, provided that the QRD satisfies the other requirements in this notice. The retroactive amendment must be made by December 31, 2009, and be effective retroactively to the date of the first QRD paid under the plan, but not prior to June 18, 2008.

  • CMS announced on Friday that Medicare beneficiaries, their caregivers, and family members can begin to review 2009 Medicare prescription drug plan and health plan information online through the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder and Medicare Options Compare at www.medicare.gov.
  • HHS’s Office of the National HIT Coordinator is holding a Medical Identify Theft Townhall this coming week. The all day meeting will be held on October 15th at the FTC Conference Center at 601 New Jersey Ave., NW, Washington, DC. RSVP: MedIDTheftTownHall@hhs.gov and indicate that you are planning to attend in person or by webcast.
  • In an interesting development, Healthcare IT News reports that

    Microsoft, Scripps Health, Affymetrix and Navigenics will launch what the companies say is ground-breaking research to evaluate the impact of personal genetic testing on the health and psyche of a patient. The study will offer genetic scans to up to 10,000 employees, family and friends of Scripps Health system and will measure changes in participants’ behaviors over a 20-year period. Researchers will use healthcare IT to study genetic variations linked to many diseases.