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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition

December 13, 2000

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The Challenge of HIPAA
Excerpt: "The meter has begun to run on implementing one set of regulations. In mid-August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published its Final Rule on Transactions and Code Sets, the first of the Administrative Simplification rules mandated by HIPAA. Designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system, these rules require standardizing the electronic transmission of most administrative and financial transactions." (Thomson Financial Media)

The Online Health Care Revolution: How The Web Helps Americans Take Better Care Of Themselves
Excerpt: "Fifty-two million American adults, or 55% of those with Internet access, have used the Web to get health or medical information. We call them 'health seekers' and a majority of them go online at least once a month for health information. A great many health seekers say the resources they find on the Web have a direct effect on the decisions they make about their health care and on their interactions with doctors." (Pew Research Center)

Initial COBRA notices satisfied through distribution of the SPD?
Interesting discussion thread on our message boards. Join in! (BenefitsBoards.net)

District Court Holds FMLA Provides Relief to One Flu Sufferer
Excerpt: "A federal district court in West Virginia recently has held that a treating physician's certification that an employee's influenza A was a 'serious health condition' was sufficient to bring that employee within the ambit of the Family and Medical Leave Act and entitle the employee to leave." (Venable, Baetjer and Howard, LLP)

DOL Publishes 2000 Form M-1 for Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements (PDF)
Excerpt: "This document announces the availability of the Year 2000 Form M-1, Annual Report for Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements and Certain Entities Claiming Exception. A copy of this new form is attached." (U.S. Department of Labor)

Retailers Offer Bonuses, Other Perks to Entice Workers
Excerpt: "For the first time, some retailers are offering signing and retention bonuses, flexible schedules and higher-than-usual hourly wages to entice seasonal employees." (Dallas Morning News)

Schwab to Launch Section 529 Program Nationwide
Excerpt: "Charles Schwab & Co. jumped into the college savings market this week with its announcement that it would soon distribute American Century's Learning Quest Section 529 qualified college savings program." (mPower)

Europe's Employers Retain Workers With Food, Frescoes
Excerpt: "Now, with labor shortages emerging, especially in the more industrialized northern regions where the jobless rate is at 4.7 percent, perks are being used to lure workers and hang onto them. Across the globe, companies are struggling to rub out the harsher aspects of industrialization." (Bloomberg)

Facing $100 million loss, CalPERS trustees will consider higher co-payments, deductibles
Excerpt: "Facing losses of about $100 million in their two self-insured health plans this year, trustees of the California Public Employees' Retirement System are weighing substantial hikes in co-payments and deductibles." (Sacramento Bee)

Bush, Gore Differ on "Patient Bill of Rights" Proposals
Excerpt: "What they don't agree on is whether patients who do not prevail in the appeals process should have the right to sue their [HMO] in federal court.... Vice President Al Gore unequivocally supports a patient's right to sue. The state of Texas, where Republican candidate George W. Bush is governor, was one of the first states to pass a law allowing patients to sue their HMOs if they were dissatisfied with a coverage decision. Bush did not support the bill, however..." (United Press International)

HIAA, AAHP Call Off Merger
Excerpt: "The nation's two largest health insurance lobbying groups have broken off merger talks in the 11th hour, after some member plans reportedly had threatened a revolt." (Modern Healthcare)

Arguments For A Single-Payer National Health Insurance Program
Excerpt: "Proposals for changing the employer-- linked health insurance model to a system based on national health insurance assume that health care services should be public goods in the same manner as education." (Nurse Practitioner, via CNNfn.com)

Long-Term Care Insurance Not Right for Everyone
Excerpt: "Those whose assets are low will soon spend them and qualify for state assistance. Also, they have less to leave to heirs, so the cost of insurance might not be worth the amount they would save for their families." (USA Today)

Another Question is Answered in the Employee Assistance Services Q&A Column
What is permissible with respect to incentives for health and wellness? For instance, reducing employee contributions or awarding additional flex credits to encourage behavior modification to healthier lifestyles ... under what circumstances can we do this? What practices are not allowed or would be viewed as discriminatory? (BenefitsLink.com)

Another Question is Answered in the Employee Assistance Services Q&A Column
I have read that EAPs should not be included in cafeteria plans (Section 125 plans). Why not? (BenefitsLink.com)

Another Question is Answered in the Employee Assistance Services Q&A Column
I am the HR Trainer for a professional services firm of about 340 employees in 16 branches, located primarily on the East Coast. Our current EAP provider has been relatively unresponsive (certainly not proactive) in determining/meeting our needs and currently cost us $1600 per quarter. Utilization has been less than 1%. I've been asked to find a provider that will be a better fit for us. How do I begin? Is there a directory or referral service that would be helpful? Thank you! (BenefitsLink.com)

Another Question is Answered in the Employee Assistance Services Q&A Column
I would like examples of wellness programs other companies are using. (BenefitsLink.com)

(Following also appears in Retirement Plans Edition)

More 'Personal Portfolio' Internet Sites Coming
Excerpt: "Web sites for creating 'personal portfolios'-- an investment middle ground between stocks and mutual funds-- are starting to proliferate, and one such site hopes to team up with banks, brokerage houses, and 401(k) plans. The services enable individual investors to pick a collection of stocks, customize their allocation, and trade actively for one monthly fee-- all on the Internet." (American Banker)

Microsoft Settles 'Permatemp' Cases
Excerpt: "The cases, one of which is nearly 8 years old, focused a spotlight on the use of workers who have tenures as long as many permanent employees but don't receive the same benefits because they were classified as temporaries, and ostensibly worked as independent contractors or for outside agencies." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Microsoft to Pay Temp Workers $97 Million
Excerpt: "The so-called 'permatemp' case, filed in 1992, involved Microsoft's practice of hiring long-term workers through temp agencies so that it could allegedly avoid paying pensions, health care and stock options." (Reuters via ZDNet Australia)

Microsoft Settles Suit With Temp Workers
Excerpt: "Microsoft reached this settlement, one of the largest ever received by a group of temporary employees, after the workers had sued the company, maintaining that they were actually permanent employees, not temporaries, and therefore deserved the same benefits as regular workers." (New York Times; free registration required)

Microsoft to Settle with Temp Workers
Excerpt: " Microsoft Corp. agreed yesterday to pay $96.9 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by long-term temporary workers who claim they were denied benefits they would have received if properly classified as full-time workers, the company and lawyers for the plaintiffs announced yesterday." (Washington Post)

2000 Top 250: Long-Term and Stock-Based Grant Practices for Executives and Directors (PDF)
Excerpt: "This report presents information on long-term incentive and stock-based grant types currently in use for executives and non-employee directors of the 250 largest companies having one or more class of common stock included in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index." (Frederic W. Cook & Co., Inc.)

New Claims Regs Interfere With Pending Legislation, House Committee Told DOL
Link to October 25, 2000 letter to Secretary Alexis Herman. Excerpt: "In communications with the Department, the Committee has expressed concerned that the regulation preempts the work of Congress on similar subject matter." (Committee on Education and the Workforce, U.S. House of Representatives)

GE To Drop Insurance and Pension for New Non-Employee Directors, Union Says
Excerpt: "The Communications Workers of America has scored a victory for shareholders at General Electric Co., with GE agreeing to end a pension and life insurance benefit for new non-employee members of the board of directors." (Press release on PRNewswire, via Yahoo! Finance)

Job Openings Newly Posted or Reposted on EmployeeBenefitsJobs.com

Defined Contribution/401(k) Administratorfor Merit Benefits Group, Inc.
in IL
ERISA Attorneyfor Riordan & McKinzie
in CA
Account Service Rep.for Leading Employee Benefits Consulting Firm
in FL

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