The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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May 19, 2000
Retiree Medical Accounts: New Interest in an Old Idea
Excerpt: "Retiree medical accounts are attracting considerable interest these days. The interest stems from companies approaching their retiree medical premium caps, companies examining their total retirement programs and the implications of a maturing workforce. Although the account approach has been around since the 1980s, relatively few employers have adopted it." (Watson Wyatt)
Health Data Privacy and Uniform Payment Standard--What HIPAA Administrative Simplification Means
Excerpt: "In all the debates regarding health care, two important goals are almost universal: privacy for individuals' health care data, and reduced health care administrative costs through imposing uniform methods of reporting claims, payments, diagnoses, and other medical transaction data ... The privacy goals will be the focus for this article." (Deloitte & Touche)
Web Medicine: A Power Shift for Patients Takes First Cautious Steps
Excerpt: "While other industries rush to the Internet, the $1.2 trillion healthcare industry inches cautiously forward. Its e-revolution looks as speedy as the Thirty Years' War and just as contentious. That's because Internet-inspired change will elbow aside many of today's entrenched players and, quite possibly, give patients more control than ever." (Christian Science Monitor)
IRS Issues New Cafeteria Plan Regulations: Have They Taken the "Flex" Out of Flex Plans?
Excerpt: "At long last, the IRS has issued an integrated package of final and proposed regulations relating to permissible mid-year election changes under cafeteria plans. While this package of regulations reinforces many of the rules employers have already been following, it also contains some new rules that employers will want to note." (Watson Wyatt)
Illinois Supreme Court: HMOs Can Be Liable for Their Doctors' Negligence
Excerpt: "In a landmark ruling expected to alter the way restrictive managed-care plans do business, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday that health maintenance organizations can be held liable for negligence involving a patient's medical care." (Chicago Tribune)
Employee Benefits Held 'Captive'
Excerpt: "More companies are expected to move their workers' compensation and disability programs into a captive if the U.S. Department of Labor approves the concept." (Best's Review)
Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program Offered by the Department of Labor
Excerpt: "ERISA plan sponsors and other plan officials now have a way to correct certain fiduciary breaches and prohibited transactions on a voluntary basis, without waiting for the Department of Labor (DOL) to 'catch' the problems and fine the fiduciaries." (Deloitte & Touche)
FASB Releases Accounting for Stock Compensation Interpretation
Excerpt: "The Financial Accounting Standards Board has released Interpretation No. 44 Accounting for Certain Transactions Involving Stock Compensation--An Interpretation of APB Opinion No. 25. The interpretation provides guidance on issues that have emerged as stock compensation practices have changed since APB 25 was issued in 1972." (Watson Wyatt)
Many Employers Found to Violate Law Requiring Parity for Mental Health Coverage
Excerpt: "Congressional investigators say thousands of employers are violating a federal law that requires the level of insurance coverage for mental illness to be similar to that for physical illness." (New York Times; free registration required)
'You Want Us to Do What?' Little-Noticed, Unfunded HCFA Reporting Requirement Is Still Out There
Excerpt: "... a little-noticed provision of the President's 1993 budget bill ... requires all U.S. employers with a group health plan to report, among other information, the health-care benefit status and Social Security numbers of all their employees, as well as spouses and dependents to the federal Health Care Financing Administration beginning Feb. 28, 1995. The problem is, most employers don't keep this information on nonemployees ..." (News USA)
Military Retirees Would Get Better Health Coverage Under House-Passed Bill
Excerpt: "Military retirees would get better health care coverage, improved access to prescription drugs and treatment in all military hospitals under a major defense bill the House has passed." (Associated Press)
Texas Permits Doctors to Negotiate with Insurers
Texas doctors' groups can now negotiate with insurance companies over fees, treatment plans and prescriptions under a final set of rules released Wednesday by the state attorney general's office ... Texas [is] the first state in which doctors' groups [can] negotiate with insurance companies without facing antitrust restrictions." (Dallas Morning News)
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