The IRS has changed the optional standard business mileage rate to 55.5 cents per mile for the last half of 2011 -- an increase of 4.5 cents. The new six-month rate for figuring deductions for medical travel or moving expenses also increased by 4.5 cents to 23.5 cents. The IRS cited high gas prices as the reason for the increase.
The Supreme Court recently handed employers a victory with a ruling in favor of Wal-Mart in the largest sex-discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history. The justices overturned a lower court ruling that would have allowed female employees to launch a class-action lawsuit against the retail chain. Observers say the ruling will make it harder for employees to start class-action lawsuits against their employers in the future.
The number of adults worldwide suffering from diabetes has more than doubled to nearly 350 million since 1980, according to researchers with The World Health Organization. The analysis found the rate of diabetes rose or at best remained stable in virtually all parts of the globe over the past 30 years.
The Department of Labor has started a new website where employers can post their feedback on a variety of regulations. As part of an executive order, the DOL has created a plan to re-examine a number of labor-related regulations. This website allows employers to view those regulations and make comments. View the site at http://dolregs.ideascale.com/.
New research by the group Change:healthcare finds that the cost for medical scans can vary widely from facility to facility -- even in the same town. The group found that patients can pay as much as 683 percent more for an identical medical procedure, such as MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds and PET scans. For instance, the study found that a pelvic CT scan in one Southwestern town would cost as little as $230 or as much as $1,800, depending on the facility.
Mistakes in electronic prescribing systems occur at about the same rate as manual systems, according to a report by HealthDay. In a four-week period, researchers discovered 452 of 3,850 computer-generated prescriptions (nearly 12 percent) contained a total of 466 errors. About one-third of those errors were estimated to be potentially harmful.
... AND MORE E-ERRORS
Research by the American Medical Association found that errors in electronic claims processing among commercial health insurers generate about $17 billion annually in unnecessary administrative costs. Insurers had an average error rate in their electronic claims processing of 19.3 percent this year, a 2 percent increase from last year.
The Obama administration announced its support for a boost in federal COBRA aid for workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition and older retirees in failed retirement plans. A 2002 law created a 65 percent tax credit for workers in these categories who lose their jobs or pensions. The economic stimulus law in 2009 bumped the subsidy to 80 percent, but that level expired in February, and it returned to the previous level of 65 percent. Now, the Obama administration is lobbying for a higher rate. Congress has examined several bills that would restore the 80 percent subsidy, but no action has been taken yet.
Employers are awaiting a decision by the Department of Labor on the use of electronic benefit communications. The Department of Labor's Employee Benefit Security Administration took comments from the public through June 6. The use of electronic communications by employers has exploded over the past decade, and the DOL wants to review and modernize its policies.
NO RAISE? NO PROBLEM
A new OfficeTeam poll finds that a majority of workers (55 percent) said they would accept a promotion that doesn't include a raise in pay. The survey found that while most employers don't offer promotions without raises, 22 percent of respondents said the practice is at least somewhat common at their companies.
Businesses that must file EEO-1 reports with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission face a Sept. 30 deadline, the Welter Law Firm advises. Companies that have 100 or more employees or those with federal government contracts of $50,000 or more and 50 or more workers must file the reports. For more, go to:
Sound retirement savings and long-term financial security rate as top goals for Americans, according to a Northwestern Mutual study. The poll found that 78 percent said maintaining a comfortable standard of living during retirement was a high financial goal, and 73 percent noted that maintaining their current standard of living was vital. Other popular financial goals included: the protection of income in the event of a disability (60 percent); providing a safety net in case the household's primary earner dies suddenly (55 percent); and building a sizeable investment portfolio (47 percent).