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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition

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July 14 - 17, 2000

Check out a new addition to the BenefitsLink Bookstore
The COBRA Administrator Handbook from COBRAPRO is the first and only compliance manual designed specifically for COBRA self-administration. Complies with new final COBRA regulations effective January 1, 2000. (COBRAPRO)

Innovative Technology Practices to Improve Health Care Delivery
Excerpt: "Given all the promises of 'best-of-breed technology,' Web-based 'solutions' to problems that you didn't know existed, and the alphabet soup of B2B, D2C, ASP, and XML, it's fair to ask: What, if anything, can e-health do for me? But a few communities and companies are working past the promises to provide innovative packages that just might work." (Managed Care Executives Online)

11th Cir: Employer Controlling Plan May Be Plan Administrator, Thus Liable for Fiduciary Breach
Hamilton v. Allen-Bradley Co., Inc. Excerpt: "The participant in this case repeatedly requested a disability claim form from her employer's human resources director, but she was rebuffed each time. Finally, three years after her original request, she received a claim form and submitted it to the insurer, which denied the claim as untimely ... [the plaintiff claimed] the employer had wrongfully denied benefits and had breached its fiduciary duty to provide information necessary to file a claim." (EBIA Weekly)

Eliminating Future Retiree Health Benefits for Employees Under 50 Was Not Reverse Age Discrimination
Cline v. General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. (N.D. Ohio 2000). Excerpt: "The [collective bargaining agreement] was modified by the plaintiffs' union and by the employer so that the continued retiree health benefits, an ERISA-governed plan, would be provided only for employees who were at least 50 years of age." (EBIA Weekly)

9th Cir: Employer Contributed to a Group Insurance Plan was Enough to Establish an ERISA Plan
Stuart v. Unum Life Insurance Co. Excerpt: "The participant brought suit in state court against his employer and the insurer, alleging state law claims of breach of insurance contract, tortuous breach of insurance contract and loss of consortium. Claiming that ERISA preempted such claims, the insurer removed the case to federal district court." (EBIA Weekly)

Dressing Up at the Office Is Making A Comeback
Excerpt: "Certainly, casual dress days, inspired by Silicon Valley techies and dot-com mavericks, have taken hold in Corporate America. In 1998, 97 percent of companies allowed employees to dress casually either every day or once a week, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. But for the first time since 1982 that number declined this year, to 87 percent." (Knight-Ridder / Tribune Business News)

Lawyers Volunteering to Help Consumers Challenge Health Insurers
Excerpt: "The Elliots' case is one in a long line of success stories by [Health Law Advocates of Boston], which helps consumers -- especially the uninsured, children, low-income seniors, people with disabilities and immigrants -- gain access to adequate health care in Massachusetts and elsewhere." (Policy.com)

Canadian Healthcare Checkup: Public Plan's Wheezing, Will Private Plans Pick Up Slack?
Excerpt: "benefits plans are losing faith in the public healthcare system--albeit gradually--but their view of employer-sponsored plans remains generally positive." (Benefits Canada)

Green Party Endorses Single Payer Program
Excerpt: "Currently, we are the only industrialized country without a national health care system. Unfortunately we have a private insurance system that insures only the healthiest people, systematically denying coverage to individuals with 'pre-existing' conditions and routinely terminating coverage to those who become ill." (Physicians for a National Health Program)

How's Your HIPPA: Early Experience With 'New Federalism' in Health Insurance Regulation
Excerpt: "Now, four years after the law's passage, employers and consumers are still routinely troubled by access to affordable health insurance. Policymakers wonder if the lessons learned from HIPAA's implementation will be useful in developing future insurance legislation, such as for managed care consumer protections." (Medscape; free registration required)

Massachusetts Health-Care Reform Bill Goes to Governor
Excerpt: "Governor Paul Cellucci indicated he will sign into law a bill that would give patients and doctors increased leverage in dealing with HMOs, the first major health care reform in a decade." (The Boston Globe)

(Note: following items also appear in the Retirement Plans Edition)

6th Cir: ERISA Does Not Allow for Recovery of Attorney's Fees Spent on Administrative Appeal
Anderson v. Proctor & Gamble Co. Excerpt: "The participant in this case was successful in the appeal of her claim to the plan administrator, and she received her benefits. However, she brought suit against the plan to recover attorney's fees spent on the administrative appeal of the initial denial of her claim. The Sixth Circuit [followed] the precedent of other federal courts..." (EBIA Weekly)

Conseco Outdoes Itself in Piling Gifts on Wendt
Excerpt: "If you owed $127 million on loans you used to buy shares at 30, and if the stock was now in the single digits, wouldn't you do just about anything to get out of the hole? That could well have been the reasoning of the worthy members of the compensation committee of Conseco Inc. in crafting the astounding pay package they gave Gary Wendt to become chief executive." (Graef Crystal, on Bloomberg.com)

US Airways Executives May Get Millions, if United Merger Goes Through
Excerpt: "Chairman Stephen M. Wolf and President and chief executive Rakesh Gangwal would receive $11.6 million and $12.8 million, respectively, in incentive and termination pay above and beyond stock option and pension payments already due them." (Washington Post)

Senate Sends Clinton Bill Repealing Estate Tax
Excerpt: "With President Clinton promising a veto, Senate Republicans muscled through a bill on Friday that would gradually repeal inheritance taxes originally imposed to prevent concentration of vast wealth in few hands." (Associated Press)

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