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October 2, 2000

Another Question is Answered in the HIPAA Q&A Column
After exhaustion of COBRA, must an eligible individual purchase a conversion policy if it is available, or can such person purchase an individual policy on a guaranteed issue basis instead? (BenefitsLink.com)

More Doctors Are Hitting 'Reply' to Patients' Email Queries
Excerpt: "Citing better care, a small but dedicated band of physicians have embraced email communication with their patients. But many still decline due to reimbursement and liability concerns." (Medscape; free registration required)

In California County, Dispute Over Gay Benefits Grows
Excerpt: "Fallout from a county decision to give health benefits to gay and unmarried partners of county employees continued Thursday with Supervisor Frank Schillo asking the board to reconsider the issue so the public can be heard on it." (Los Angeles Times)

IRS Reconsiders Whether Expense Arrangements Qualify as Accountable Plans
Excerpt: "Employers should not look to a 1999 IRS private letter ruling (PLR) for guidance on whether a compensation arrangement that permits each employee to reduce his or her commissions at the beginning of each year in exchange for setting up an expense reimbursement arrangement could satisfy the accountable plan rules of Code Section AC). This warning comes from IRS guidance released on Sept. 1 (PLR 200035012)." (Thompson Publishing Group)

Work Perks
Excerpt: "[C]ompanies are adding dozens of new benefits in an effort to stand out in a job seekers' market. In the Tampa Bay area and nationally, two of the hottest trends are concierge services, such as dry cleaning, shoe shining and car detailing, and discount deals on everything from concert tickets and car insurance to laser eye surgery. Companies also are increasing paid time off, particularly for the recently hired, and trying to inject more flexibility into their benefits programs." (St. Petersburg Times)

Special Services in Employer-sponsored Health Plans, 1993 and 1997
Excerpt: "Coverage for mental health services, prescription drugs, dental care, and vision care in employer-sponsored health insurance plans expanded between 1993 and 1997; by 1997, these services comprised nearly one-quarter of health care spending. This article examines the prevalence of coverage for these services, recent trends in coverage rates, and the generosity of benefits ..." (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor)

Small Employers and Health Benefits: Findings From the 2000
Executive summary. Excerpt: "Many small employers (between two and 50 workers) are making decisions about whether to offer health benefits to their workers without being fully aware of the tax advantages that can make this benefit more affordable. Fifty-seven percent of small employers did not know that they can deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premiums." (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

Ready or Not, Internet-Based DC Health Care Benefits Are Here
Excerpt: "The defined contribution (DC) health care model, much touted as the best way for employers to provide their employees with health coverage, has found its niche on the Internet. The promise of this new strain of Internet-based health plans—lower costs and increased consumer satisfaction with health care—has yet to be delivered, but here's what the true believers envision." (Managing Benefit Plans, published by IOMA)

New from EBRI: Executive Summary of Issue Brief no. 226, health benefits survey (October 2000)
Title of Issue Brief: "Small Employers and Health Benefits: Findings from the 2000 Small Employer Health Benefits Survey" (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

New from EBRI: Executive Summary of Issue Brief no. 226, Small Employers and Health Bene (October 2)
Small Employers and Health Benefits: Findings From the 2000 Small Employer Health Benefits Survey (Employee Benefit Research Institute)

Healthcare Industry Lashes Out At 'Compromise' Patient Rights Bill
Excerpt: "Employers, health insurers and managed care plans spoke out last week against the new "compromise" Norwood-Dingell managed care reform bill, warning that it would expose employers to more liability than in the House-passed patients' bill of rights." (National Underwriter Company)

Comparing the Presidential Candidates on Health Care
Excerpt: "This report presents basic, nonpartisan information to help readers compare the leading presidential candidates' proposals on health care issues, including health coverage for the uninsured, managed care and patients' rights, Medicare reform, prescription drug coverage for seniors, and long-term care." (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation)

First Decline in Uninsured Americans Since 1987
Excerpt: "The number of people without health insurance decreased last year for the first time since the Census Bureau began compiling the data in 1987, a new trend that health care advocates said was due in large part to America's robust economy." (DrKoop.com)

Private Sector Employee Benefits, 1996-97
Excerpt: "In 1996-97, a majority of private industry workers received paid holidays and vacations, life insurance, and medical care coverage. Few of these workers had paid family leave or were eligible for supplemental unemployment benefits, long-term care insurance, or childcare assistance." (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor)

HMO-Led Coalition Gives $1 Million to Fight "Universal Care" Initiative in Massachusetts
(Boston Globe)

Frequently Asked Questions About the National Provider Identifier (NPI), Updated 9/28/2000
Excerpt: "Today, health plans assign identification numbers to health care providers -- individuals, groups, or organizations that provide medical or other health services or supplies. The result is that providers who do business with multiple health plans have multiple identification numbers. The NPI is a unique identification number for health care providers that will be used by all health plans." (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Ashcroft Searches for A Compromise He Can Support on HMO Reform Issue
Excerpt: "American Medical Association lobbyists are pressing him to support a bipartisan measure that would give patients a broad new right to sue health maintenance organizations, as are some Republicans in the House. On the other side, business groups are lobbying Ashcroft to hold firm in his support for a GOP-backed bill that would not cover as many patients and would rely on an appeals process, rather than lawsuits, to hold HMOs accountable." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

CalPERS Advisers Happy With LTC Claims
Excerpt: "Early returns are looking good at the biggest employer-sponsored long-term care insurance program in the United States.... [C]laims costs have been so low, the program has added even more benefits on in-force policies to increase the payout rate, according to Dr. Stephen Holland, medical director at the Long Term Care Group Inc.... The program has beaten the actuaries' projections because only 20 percent of the members who have filed claims have been in nursing homes." (National Underwriter Company)

The Basics of Long-Term Care Insurance, Updated 9/28/2000
Excerpt: "However, if you can afford the premiums, and you have assets you want to protect against long term care expenses, you may want to consider purchasing long term care insurance." (insure.com)

Unconscionable" Execs Looted HMO to Buy Luxury Cars, Illinois Regulators Contend
Excerpt: "Executives of American Health Care Providers (AHCP) lied about company finances and funneled $5 million from the HMO to buy themselves Bentleys, a Lamborghini, a Ferrari, a luxury condominium, and a private jet, contends a lawsuit filed by the Illinois state insurance director." (insure.com)

(Following also appears in Retirement Plans Edition)

Welcome to new BenefitsLink advertiser Shared Equity Strategies, Inc.
Shared Equity Strategies, Inc. provides legal, financial and administrative expertise around employee ownership, ESOPs and other equity tools, business succession and capital strategies issues. We use our legal oversight to ensure that our clients are kept up-to-date, and our client-oriented approach to make it easy!

Readers Now Can Add Comments, Discuss Items As They Appear on Our Benefits Buzz Page
The Benefits Buzz page on BenefitsLink -- where new items are spotlighted, including links to new articles, rulings, news and other benefits information -- now lets readers "sound off" by adding online comments that become attached to particular Benefits Buzz items. The idea is to provide a handy way for practitioners to "annotate" these items by adding their own perspectives, experiences, or even hypertext links to similar web pages. Look for the "Post a Comment" tag under each new item! (BenefitsLink)

E-Signatures Become Valid
Excerpt: "A bill signed by President Clinton on June 30 that granted e-signatures the same legal standing as traditional 'wet' ones went into effect yesterday. The effect, businesses pledge, is a new world of e-commerce that is faster, cheaper and less vulnerable to fraud." (New York Times; free registration required)

Data Aggregation: Settling All Accounts in One Place
Excerpt: "Over the past six months, a proliferation of financial institutions' websites, as well as Internet portals have begun to offer account aggregation: One-stop viewing of all financial information the customer asks the aggregator to collect. At certain time intervals, the account aggregation site sweeps the servers of registered users' financial institutions updating information -- a process known as screen scraping." (Upside Today)

Survey Finds That Web-Based HR Services Are On The Rise
Excerpt: "Employers are moving away from paper-based to Web-based systems for human resource transactions, including annual benefit enrollment, personal data changes, Sec. 401(k) plan election changes, and family status changes, according to a survey recently conducted by Towers Perrin." (Spencernet)

Data Aggregation: Bigger Than Daily Valuation?
Excerpt: "What's clear is that mutual funds, investment advisors and retirement services firms simply cannot wait to see how it shakes out. You -- we -- don't have the time or the luxury.... Think about the change brought by Schwab's introduction of the mutual fund marketplace. It is the same disruptive model backed by technology in the hands of your customers, clients and participants." (401kWire.com)

Dutch Prostitutes Gain Employee Benefits
Excerpt: "Prostitution itself was already legal in the Netherlands, but the new law transforms the sex establishments into legal businesses with working guidelines and employment benefits. Prostitutes and brothel owners alike will be obliged to pay taxes." (New York Times; free registration required)

Overview: Employee Benefits Survey for 1998 (PDF)
Excerpt: "The Employee Benefits Survey (EBS) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) covers the incidence and characteristics of employee benefit plans, and is conducted jointly with the Bureau’s Employment Cost Index Survey. The two surveys cover all private sector establishments (except farms and private households) and State and local governments." (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor)

Job Openings Newly Posted or Reposted on EmployeeBenefitsJobs.com

Experienced Defined Contribution Consultantsfor Ceridian Retirement Plan Services
in CA, CO, FL, VA, WI
Retirement Services Implementation Project Managerfor Transamerica Retirement Services
in CA
Manager, Campaign Servicesfor New York Life Benefit Services LLC
in MA
401(k) Investment Educator, Boston Area, Denver, Seattle, Chicagofor ADP, Inc.
in CO, IL, MA, WA
Consultant - Executive Benefitsfor Clark Bardes Consulting/Compensation Resource Group, Inc.
in AZ, CA, GA, IL, NY, OH, TX
Pension Consultantfor Fidelity Investments
in MA
Defined Benefit Conversion Consultantfor American Century Investments
in MO
Defined Benefit Conversion Specialistfor American Century Investments
in MO
in DC
Actuarial Analystfor Aon Consulting, Inc.
in MD, PA
Senior Actuaryfor Aon Consulting, Inc.
in DC, MD
Claims Auditor/Consultantfor Aon Consulting, Inc.
in MD
Sr. Actuarial Analystfor Aon Consulting, Inc.
in PA
Writer - HR Generalistfor Firstdoor.com
in GA
RETIREMENT PLAN ADMINISTRATORfor Scudder Kemper Investments Inc.
in NH
401(k) Compliance/Client Relations Coordinatorfor ASR
in TX
Pension Benefits Specialistfor The Boeing Company, Company Offices Benefits Department
in WA
Customer Support - DC Plans / Flexible Benefits Administratorsfor DATAIR Employee Benefit Systems, Inc.
in IL
Pension Enrollment Specialistfor Diversified Investment Advisors
in IA

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