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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition

December 26, 2000

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DHHS Issues Final Health Care Privacy Regulations
Excerpt: "The final regulations require consent even when the disclosures are for the limited purposes of treatment, payment, and health care operations. The proposed rules would have allowed use or disclosure without the individual's authorization for these types of disclosures." (EBIA Weekly)

Our Medical Records, In a Cocoon
Letters to the New York Times editor about the new privacy regulations. (New York Times; free registration required)

IRS Figures Weight Loss Programs into Tax Deductible Medical Expenses
Excerpt: "This year, for the first time, taxpayers can deduct the cost of weight loss programs as a medical expense. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has revised its policy to give tax relief to many individuals who pay out-of-pocket for weight loss programs." (Boston Globe)

California's MICRA Law Impedes Plaintiffs in Bringing Suit Against HMO for Physician Negligence
Excerpt: "When it is impossible to sue the HMO directly, as when it is protected by ERISA, it may be possible to sue a negligent treating doctor for medical malpractice, and hold the HMO vicariously liable for the doctor's actions. Unfortunately in California, this approach has its own problems, in the form of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA). This act limits damages recoverable in medical malpractice suits as follows: ..." (Health Administration Responsibility Project)

Salary Reductions for Transportation Benefits To Be Treated Like Cafeteria Plan Salary Reductions
Excerpt: "As part of final legislation passed before adjourning for the year, Congress amended retirement plan rules to treat Code Section 132(f)(4) transportation benefits like cafeteria plan salary reductions for certain qualified plan purposes. The Act does not actually become law until the President signs it (which we expect will happen)." (EBIA Weekly)

What states have opted out of Social Security for their employees covered by retirement systems?
Coverage of state and local employees under social security is determined by "section 218" agreements between the state and the social security administration. How do you find out which states have elected to exclude certain employees covered by retirement systems from social security coverage? (BenefitsBoards.net)

EEOC Rules That Health Plan Must Pay for Contraceptives
Excerpt: "Although courts do not always agree with the EEOC's opinion about what must be covered under a health plan, this EEOC opinion could influence the outcome of pending litigation. Employers should note that, as a result of this ruling, there is some risk involved when they choose to exclude contraceptive coverage but cover other preventive care." (EBIA Weekly)

IRS Announces Cost-of-Living Adjustments for MSA Amounts and Transportation Benefit Limits
Excerpt: "For tax years beginning in 2001, a plan will be considered a high deductible health plan if: for self-only coverage, it has an annual deductible of not less than $1,600 ($50 increase) and not more than $2,400 ($50 increase), and the annual out-of-pocket expense required to be paid does not exceed $3,200 ($100 increase) ..." (EBIA Weekly)

Congress Extends MSA Program
Excerpt: "As part of final legislation passed before adjourning for the year, Congress extended the Medical Savings Account (MSA) program for two years ..." (EBIA Weekly)

Medical Privacy 'Loophole' Criticized
Excerpt: "Privacy experts are finding big holes in new rules-- signed by President Clinton amid much fanfare this week-- that are supposed to help keep the confidentiality of health information airtight. Most troubling, some experts say, is a provision that will allow drug companies, hospitals, for-profit clinics, and other marketers to use patients' medical records to sell their services and products." (Bergen [N.J.] Record)

Health-Care Stocks Buoy Mutual Fund Investors
Excerpt: "Stock market volatility and a technology sell-off scared mutual fund investors this year, but not enough to drive them to the financial sidelines. This year, fund investors-- like their peers who invest in individual stocks-- benefited if they looked beyond the tech sector, most notably to health care." (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Older Workers Prosper in Tight Job Market
Excerpt: "Of the baby boomers, eight in 10 say they intend to keep working in old age, according to the AARP. That has led many companies to dip deeper into the pool of older talent." (Baltimore Sun)

Why Not Let Seniors Keep on Working?
Excerpt: "Clearly, we don't tap senior labor resources as well as we did in the 1950s, especially in view of the increased desire of seniors to work and the increased labor demand." (Baltimore Sun)

(Following also appears in Retirement Plans Edition)

Deloitte & Touche Publishes Survey of Year-End Pension and Retiree Medical Assumptions
Excerpt: "[T]he surveys provide insights into publicly traded corporations and their CFOs regarding the economic assumptions used in preparing the 1999 year-end pension (SFAS 87) and retiree medical (SFAS 106) footnote disclosures. All public entities in the United States who sponsor defined benefit pension plans and retiree medical programs are required by [GAAP] as established by [FASB] to include specific information with regard to these plans in their annual report ..." (Deloitte & Touche)

New issue online of the Pension & Benefits Update email newsletter by Tax Analysts: Dec. 22, 2000
IRA Distributions to Pay Property Division in Divorce Are Taxable; IRS Schedules Hearing on Proposed Regs on Qualified Plan Loans; Waiver of 100 Percent Excise Tax Granted; IRS Denies Approval for Retroactively Amended Plan; VEBA Scholarships Are Income Subject to Withholding, FICA; Divorce-Driven Change in IRA Periodic Payment Schedule Approved; Separate Reporting for Exercised Stock Options Is Optional in 2001; more. (Tax Analysts, Inc.--see www.taxbase.org)

Falling Market Demands Careful Investing
Excerpt: "Is this the bottom of the market? Is it time to step in and buy stocks? No one knows, so commentators cheerfully fill the void with guesses of their own." (Jane Bryant Quinn, in the Washington Post)

Job Openings Newly Posted or Reposted on EmployeeBenefitsJobs.com

Employee Benefits Tax Managerfor Deloitte & Touche, a Professional Services Firm
in IL
Employee Benefit Tax Consultantfor Deloitte & Touche, a Professional Services Firm
in IL
Project Director, Integrated Benefits Servicesfor Join one of America's Fastest Growing Privately Held Financial Services Firms
in KY
401(k) Administration Team Leaderfor CACHE PENSION SERVICES, INC.
in AK, NV
401(k)/Pension Administratorfor Great Lakes Pension Administrators, Inc.
in MI
Employee Benefits Tax Consultant / Detroitfor Deloitte & Touche, Leading Professional Services Firm
in MI
Senior Retirement Marketing Specialistfor Strong Capital Management seeks Senior Retirement Marketing Specialist
in WI
Senior Conversion Specialistfor Strong Capital Management seeks Senior Conversion Specialist
in WI

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