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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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January 22, 2002 - 6,390 subscribers
Today's sponsor: ERISA Compliance for Health & Welfare Plans, by EBIA

(Click on company name or banner to learn more.)

   ERISA Compliance for Health & Welfare Plans is an authoritative
   resource for employers, administrators and advisors.

   Written by leading employee benefits attorneys, this manual has
   all the information you need to bring your welfare benefit plans
   into compliance with ERISA.

   Always kept current through periodic updates!

(Help BenefitsLink to provide this newsletter at no charge to you -- our sponsors pay our way. Remember to visit them periodically; we try to make sure their products and services will be of interest to you. Thanks! --Editor)

Parched, Big Steel Goes to Its Washington Well; Cost of Retiree Health Benefits is Key Factor
Excerpt: "Thomas J. Usher, the chief executive of the U.S. Steel Corporation, has an offer he feels the Bush administration cannot refuse. He wants $12 billion in government aid to pay for employee retirement benefits that are now the obligation of the steel industry." (New York Times via Yahoo!)

Analysis: Final Cafeteria Plan FMLA Regulations Include a Few Surprises
Excerpt: "On October 17, the IRS issued final regulations regarding the effect of leaves of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) on cafeteria plan elections. The final regulations, which are effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2002, replace the current proposed regulations that were issued in 1995. They also supplement the final change in status and cost or coverage change regulations recently issued." (HRHero.com)

Rhode Island Municipality Stops Allowing Indefinite COBRA-Type Coverage for Former Employees
Excerpt: "Ten years after she left office, former town administrator Elizabeth D. Faricy still makes use of the town's group health insurance plan. That will change for Faricy on Jan. 31, however, when the town ends its policy of granting former employees and town employees' dependents coverage under the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).... The federal COBRA law only requires an employer to provide temporary coverage to a departing employee ..." (WoonsocketCall.com)

Ellen Goodman: HMO Horror Story Reveals Duplicity
Excerpt: "While we have been focused on the war against terrorism and the struggle against recession, the guerrilla action against health maintenance organizations has been continuing, one person at a time. The highest court heard arguments that may determine who has the right to decide our care: doctors or managers." (Ellen Goodman in The Dallas Morning News)

Some Employers Offer Medical Data Services as Employee Benefit
Excerpt: "As employers begin to offer insurance coverage that requires workers to take on more financial responsibility for their health care choices, a few are also trying to provide information to help them make those decisions. A handful of start-up firms are rushing to fill the information void, offering medical literature searches, data on the quality of local hospitals and information about treatment options." (USA Today via International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

Report: Insurers Do Not Follow Their Own Rules for Emergency Care Reimbursement
Excerpt: "Even when patients receive insurance company authorization for emergency department care many of the claims are initially denied and reimbursed claims are uniformly downcoded, researchers report in the January issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine." (Medscape; free registration required)

Opinion: Lack of Affordable Treatment Could Fuel New Push for Patients' Bill of Rights
Excerpt: "Washington politicos from both parties thought things were under control with the growth of health maintenance organizations. Now the HMOs themselves have become instruments for inflated costs, driving essential health care beyond the means of millions of Americans." (Ventura County Star)

Opinion: Why Health Costs Sting Again
Excerpt: "How did managed-care companies get costs down? They promised employers lower premiums if they switched large numbers of workers into their plans. The HMOs then demanded deep discounts from doctors and hospitals, promising in exchange to send more patients their way.... Managed care did a great job of achieving a one-time savings." (Los Angeles Times)

The Impact of Terrorism and the Recession On Americans' Health Priorities
Excerpt: "[B]y December 2001 the war/defense had become Americans' top priority for government action, followed by the economy and jobs. Health care continues to be a much lower priority than it was in May 2001." (Health Affairs)

Health Care Could Be 'Sleeper Issue' for Congress as Elections Loom, NPR Reports
Excerpt: "With elections approaching in November, health care could be a major 'sleeper' issue in Congress this year, despite public opinion polls showing that it has 'slipped somewhat' among voters' priorities, NPR's 'Morning Edition' reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Physician Financial Incentives More Likely to Target Quality Than Cause Limits to Care
Excerpt: "Physicians are more likely to face direct financial incentives aimed at improving patient care than incentives that might curtail needed care, according to a study released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC)." (Center for Studying Health System Change)

Chronically Ill Most Unhappy With Managed Care
Excerpt: "Treating people with chronic illness is where managed-care plans are coming up short in terms of patient satisfaction." (Modern Healthcare)

Public Cites Medicare Drug Benefit, Public Health System As Most Important Issues
Prescription drug coverage under Medicare and strengthening the public health system--not a patients' bill of rights or Medicare reform--are the top public policy issues among the population, according to a recent Harris Interactive poll. Nearly one-third (32%) of the survey respondents rated the Medicare drug benefit issue as the most important, followed by the public health system (30%). (Spencernet)

Why Time Spent Alone Helps You Find Balance
Excerpt: "Though it may seem counterintuitive, given how much we complain about not having enough time for our family, [time spend alone] may be just what's needed to remind us why that time is so important." (CareerJournal.com)

Family-friendly Plans Flourish In Connecticut
Excerpt: "As an avid collector of data on work/life initiatives, I've noticed that a good hunk of the recent news to cross my desk about advances that benefit working women and men involves one state in particular: The winner is Connecticut." (Chicago Tribune)

(Following items are in both editions of the BenefitsLink Newsletter)

The HR View for 2002: Employee Benefits in the New Year (PDF)
Includes brief descriptions of New Claims Procedure Rules; HIPAA Privacy Rules and Implementation Tasks in 2002; EGTRRA Changes Effective for Plan Years Beginning after 12/31/2001; IRS Safe Harbor Rollover Notice; more. (Gardner, Carton & Douglas)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
401(k) Daily Valuation Administrator for Ingham Group in Miami, Fl
Employee Benefits Attorney for Thompson Hine LLP
Junior Account Executive for The Paragon Alliance Group, LLC
Fast Growing Company for Benefits Manager
Benefits Analyst for Bloomberg LP
Pension Administrator for Compensation Systems Northwest, Inc.
Client Service Manager for Fidelity Investments - Marlborough, Massachusetts

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Copyright 2001 BenefitsLink.com, Inc., but you may freely distribute this email newsletter in whole. This newsletter is edited by David Rhett Baker, J.D.