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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition

May 16, 2000

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Labor Department Releases EFAST-1 Application For Electronic Filing of Form 5500 Series for 1999
Excerpt: "Starting with the 1999 Form 5500 and 5500-EZ, filers interested in electronically filing the annual return/report forms must submit the Form EFAST-1. The EFAST-1 application form must be used by individuals who sign the Form 5500 or Form 5500EZ to apply for an electronic signature and by persons who apply for codes to be EFAST transmitters or software developers." (U.S. Department of Labor)

9th Cir: Improper Processing of Severance Claim Changes Standard of Review to De Novo
Excerpt: "as this case illustrates, even when a plan contains language triggering the most deferential kind of judicial review, the plan's position in litigation can nevertheless be jeopardized by sloppy benefit claim processing." (EBIA Weekly)

Howard County (Maryland) Urged to Eliminate Earnings Cap for Disabled Retirees
Excerpt: "Nine retired Howard police officers and firefighters get disability pensions that limit their outside earnings from post retirement jobs. They want the county to eliminate the cap on the new earnings. Doing that, however, would cost the county from $25,000 to $45,000 a year, officials said." (SunSpot.com)

Winning the War to Keep Top Talent
Excerpt: "We found ten companies that have managed to fend off the dot-coms and headhunters. Want to know how they keep employee turnover rates so low? Here are the secrets of their success." (Fortune)

Clinton Orders Federal Agencies To Provide Workers Tax Incentives To Use Public Transportation
Excerpt: "President Bill Clinton has issued an executive order that requires federal agencies to offer a tax incentive to federal employees who use public transportation or carpools to commute to work. Under the order, federal employees may spend up to $65 per month on a pretax basis for public transportation." (Spencernet)

Employers Drowning in Expenses: Health Plan Costs Rise Along with Employee Expectations
Excerpt: "Nearly six decades after introducing health benefits to the nation, employers are struggling to keep the system afloat amid waves of cost increases and the threat of legal liability. Companies appear caught between workers who want top-notch coverage and shareholders who demand the highest return on investments." (Dallas Morning News)

How Company-Paid Medical Coverage Grew From A Luxury To Entitlement
Excerpt: "So officials at Avondale and shipyards across the nation devised a scheme that forever changed the employer-employee relationship. They offered health insurance. Hatched as a recruiting incentive, the benefit eventually became the basis for the American health insurance system." (Dallas Morning News)

What's The Fairest Battlefield In The Fight For Better Health Care?
Excerpt: "Recently, the California Supreme Court reaffirmed that people in private arbitrations do not have the same rights as people who go to court. The war between patients and their HMOs could become a lot less contrarian if state legislation mandating the right to a public trial, rather than private dispute resolution by HMOs, passes the California Assembly, where it awaits action." (Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights)

California Fines Kaiser $1 Million In "Midnight Action"
Excerpt: "Governor Davis' Department of Corporations issued a $1 million penalty and a cease and desist order against Kaiser Foundation Health Plan on Friday night at 5 PM. The fine, perhaps the most significant in state history against an HMO in a patient's case, arose from the death of ... a 74-year old patient in 1996." (Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights)

California: Physicians Cannot Be Arbitrarily Removed From Health Plan Panels
Excerpt: "In a ruling considered significant for physicians and their patients, the California Supreme Court has ruled that managed care plans cannot arbitrarily terminate physicians from provider panels. The high court, in its decision on a 1992 case filed by an Orange County physician who was taken off a preferred-provider list by MetLife, said any such removals must be 'both substantively rational and procedurally fair.'" (WebMD)

Doctors Denounce Fixed-Fee System Too Much Risk Under HMOs, Many Find
Excerpt: "Dr. LeRoy Sprang and 90 of his colleagues say insurers' penny-pinching ways drained the life out of their North Shore medical offices. He blames a much-maligned practice known as capitation, in which health maintenance organizations pay doctors a fixed fee per patient and refuse to pay more, no matter how sick the patient is." (Chicago Tribune)

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