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May 4, 2000

Actuaries: Be a Pal and Help Answer Pension Questions
Excerpt: "Ever wondered how you could use your actuarial expertise for the public good? The Pension Assistance List, or PAL, is a nationwide referral service maintained by the Academy. It's open to actuaries who are interested in helping individuals understand their pension benefits." (American Academy of Actuaries)

9th Cir: Marital Order Was a QDRO Despite Technical Failure to Comply with ERISA and Code
Excerpt: "A marital dissolution order constituted a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) and, as a result, a plaintiff was entitled to her community property share of her former husband's profit-sharing plan benefits. This was the decision of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Stewart v. Thorpe Holding Company." (Spencernet)

10th Cir: Retirees Were Entitled To Free Lifetime Health Benefits Under Early Exit Plan
Excerpt: "The Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that a group of retirees was entitled to free lifetime health insurance benefits as part of their participation in a voluntary early retirement plan. The ruling came in Deboard, et al. v. Sunshine Mining & Refining Company." (Spencernet)

No-Fault Auto Insu Is Secondary to Self-Insu Plan Based on Order of Benefit Provisions Actually Used
Excerpt: "The standard order of benefit determination provisions actually used by a self-insured ERISA plan and a Michigan no-fault automobile policy led a court to conclude that the self-insured plan had primary liability even though the Michigan No-Fault Act was preempted by ERISA. The case is State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Your Group Benefits Plan for Federal Paper Board Co., Inc. Wage Employees." (Thompson Publishing Group)

Plan's Substantial Explanation of Denial Defeats Claim for Benefits for Failure to Comply with ERISA
Excerpt: "A group health plan substantially complied with ERISA when it explained its reasons for denying a plan participant's claim for a treatment considered experimental or investigational ... the plan's failure to provide the participant with a copy of the denial letter did not justify reversing the plan's denial ... The case is Bussey v. Corning Life Services Inc." (Thompson Publishing Group)

Why Can't I Just Get the Cash?
Excerpt: "Companies that sponsor ESOPs are willing to provide this extra benefit because it provides a tax-favored way for them to buy out an owner. If they were not buying out an owner, they would probably keep the cash spent on the ESOP and reinvest it in the business or pay the owners a larger salary." (The National Center for Employee Ownership)

Coke Providing Perks to Refresh Workers; Struggling Company Plans Short Friday, Extra Paid Holiday
Excerpt: "Coca-Cola -- faced with 5,200 job cuts and a stock price that has dropped two years running -- will attempt to boost morale by closing Friday afternoons and adding a paid holiday." (USA Today)

New Massachusetts Mental-Health Parity Bill Harms Patient Privacy, Says Patients' Rights Group
Excerpt: "[T]he new law repeals a landmark confidentiality measure enacted in Massachusetts in 1996. This law required insurers to pay for seven or eight outpatient visits to a mental-health provider each calendar year without demanding any information beyond the basic data needed ..." (National Coalition for Patient Rights)

Georgetown's report on External Review of Health Plan Decisions: An Update (PDF)
Excerpt: "In the last year and a half, the number of state external review programs has more than doubled to include 32 states and the District of Columbia, and many private health plans have voluntarily provided external review programs. This report analyzes the current trends and features of state external review programs." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Clinton To Continue Pushing for Patient Rights Legislation
Excerpt: "President Clinton plans to meet with House and Senate negotiators next week to discuss the holdup in legislation that would grant Americans more rights when dealing with health insurers, administration officials said Wednesday." (Associated Press)

House Approves Bill Exempting Stock Option Gains from Overtime Calculations; Bill Goes to President
Excerpt: "Legislation approved by the House on Wednesday and sent to President Clinton would remove a possible obstacle to companies offering stock option plans to their workers. The bill, approved 421-0, amends the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act to make clear that stock option profits should not be considered a part of regular pay in determining overtime." (Associated Press)

California Plan Would Bar Pension Investments in Six Countries
Excerpt: "California's treasurer has called for the nation's largest pension fund to follow tighter economic, human rights and political standards when investing overseas, in a proposal that would effectively bar the fund from investing in six countries, including Brazil and Egypt." (Reuters via news.excite.com)

Treasury Taking Serious Look at Pension Distribution Options
Excerpt: "Wednesday, the Treasury Department confirmed it is taking a serious look into ... whether employers are giving people ... enough information about their pension-payout choices. Making the wrong decision--and the wrong decision, for many people, is choosing the lump sum--can cost an employee tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars." (MSNBC)

Bush, Gore Spar Over Privatizing Social Security Investments
Excerpt: "George W. Bush's plan for individual Social Security investment accounts, which Al Gore attacked Wednesday as 'stock market roulette,' is an idea that has long enticed lawmakers and Americans. The trade-offs and potential risks make it a tough political sell, however." (Associated Press)

German Employer Contributions to Private Pensions Might Become Tax-Deductible
Excerpt: "The next phase of tax reforms planned by Germany's finance minister Hans Eichel will include the introduction of tax relief on all form of pension contributions, Handelsblatt has learned. The plan is for contributions paid towards the state pension or towards a private pension plan to be deducted before taxable income is calculated." (Handelsblatt)

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