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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition

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July 18, 2000

HIPAA-Mandated Report on Uniform Data Standards for Patient Medical Record Information (PDF)
Excerpt: "The report ... recommends that the government take a leadership role in addressing [patient medical record information, or 'PMRI'] issues by accelerating the development, adoption, and coordination of PMRI standards. Further, it addresses the related issues of protecting the confidentiality of PMRI, reducing barriers to the electronic exchange of PMRI caused by diverse state laws, and coordinating the development of PMRI standards ..." (National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics)

IRS Hearing Highlights Transit Cash Reimbursement Issue
Excerpt: "As would be expected, employers want to use cash reimbursement for mass transit fringe benefits and the transportation industry firmly backs vouchers only." (Deloitte & Touche)

Alternative Healthcare Treatments Becoming More Mainstream
Excerpt: "The growing popularity of alternative treatments such as 'healing touch,' massage therapy and homeopathy are providing a host of new career paths for health-care workers." (Dallas Morning News)

Summary: Federal and State Mental Health Parity Laws Described in GAO Report
Excerpt: "... the GAO report also concludes that, because of the act's narrow scope and reductions in mental health benefits that the employers have made to offset the required enhancements, compliance with the law may have little effect on employees’ access to mental health services." (Deloitte & Touche)

APPWP Official Tells DOL Why Promoting Phased Retirement Would Be Good Public Policy
Excerpt: "My testimony this morning will review the interest in and trend towards phased retirement programs, under which older employees who might otherwise completely retire are provided with incentives to remain actively employed." (James Klein of the Association of Private Pension and Welfare Plans)

Bundle of Joy for Former HMO Advocate Brings On Managed Care Headaches
Excerpt: "To learn that I had been denied health care services [for my newborn daughter] was personally disappointing and, considering my professional expertise, ironic. We all hear stories of coverage and claims denials, but when it happened to me, I understood the intense anger people feel about these episodes. My experience resulted in a clearer understanding of why HMOs are so widely disliked." (Los Angeles Times)

Florida HMO's Woes Reflect Managed Care Industry’s Struggle
Excerpt: "Half of the state's 32 HMOs continue to operate in the red, and some are slow to pay hospital and doctor bills. Hospitals still are owed money from two HMOs that went belly-up in the past two years -- SunStar and Champion -- and they complain that others are late in paying, too." (Knight-Ridder / Tribune Business News)

(Following also appears in Retirement Plans Edition)

Courts of Appeal Consider Disclosure Duties to Participants or Beneficiaries
Excerpt: "In two completely different types of cases, the 3rd and the 6th Circuit recently held that plan administrators may breach their fiduciary duty under ERISA by failing to provide ERISA participants or beneficiaries with accurate information regarding plan benefits. This is particularly true when the participant does not know the proper questions to ask and/or the plan administrator knows that his or her silence on a particular issue could be harmful." (The Pension Plan Fix-It Handbook, by Thompson Publishing Company)

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