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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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February 18, 2002 - 6,451 subscribers
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Insurers Working to Meet HIPAA Demands
Excerpt: "The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) affects all aspects of the health care industry and requires health care providers, health plans and health clearinghouses to meet national standards in electronic transactions, privacy and security. An Oct. 16 deadline relating to electronic-transaction standards is the first hurdle insurers must meet." (Business First of Louisville via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Savings Can Be Found in Employee Fringe Benefits
Excerpt: "[M]any [employees] overlook other benefits. In addition to flexible spending accounts, they include transportation reimbursement benefits and even adoption assistance programs. Some have been beefed up for 2002 by the tax law passed last year." (New York Times; free registration required)

COBRA Can Be Budget Buster for Self-insured Firms
Excerpt: "Statistics from Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C., show claims of COBRA users average 150 percent higher than the claims of active employees, even though a COBRA user can be charged 102 percent of the applicable plan premium. Employers and their active employees generally bear the brunt of the higher health care costs attributable to COBRA users." (Business First of Columbus [Oh.] via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Housing Loan Is Becoming Popular Perk among Indianapolis-Area Employers
Excerpt: "All [Dearborn County Hospital] employees may apply for the loan after one year of service. The loan is forgiven if recipients continue to work for the hospital at least three years after the money is awarded. It's an unusual benefit. Only 6 percent of employers offer mortgage assistance, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Another 3 percent provide help with down payments." (Society for Human Resource Management)

Milwaukee Group Turns In Signatures For Recall Effort Over Pension Enhancements
Excerpt: "A group trying to oust Milwaukee County' s top administrator over lucrative pension improvements turned in recall petitions Friday with more than 181, 000 signatures -- or more than twice the number that would be needed to force an election." (StarTribune.com)

For Insured ERISA Benefits, What Constitutes the ERISA-Required Plan Document?
Excerpt: "In large part, the insurance policy or contract issued by the insurer will constitute the plan document for each of your insured ERISA benefits. But an important proviso is that insurers do not always draft contracts with ERISA plan document requirements in mind ... Certain optional provisions useful to the plan sponsor and/or plan administrator (e.g., specifying the number of plans maintained by your company for ERISA or COBRA compliance purposes) are also likely to be missing." (EBIA Weekly)

Consumers May Pay More With Tiered-Hospital Health Plans
Excerpt: "Under a tiered hospital plan, you're charged a less expensive co-payment for receiving medical services from a hospital that offers the best rates (typically a community hospital) vs. a more expensive facility, such as a teaching hospital. Supporters say hospital tiering is the next logical step for employer-sponsored health plans trying to rein in runaway health insurance costs." (insure.com)

In California, Closer Look at Complaints on HMOs Urged
Excerpt: "The Department of Managed Health Care is proposing regulations requiring HMOs to submit additional data so it can investigate patients' complaints and look for patterns of abuse. Agency Director Daniel Zingale said the secrecy of the current arbitration process keeps even the regulators in the dark." (Los Angeles Times)

Coalition Focuses On Uninsured: 13 Groups Work Together
Excerpt: "The widespread recognition that there is a crisis of the uninsured brought together the coalition of organizations, which do not often agree when it comes to health policy. They range from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Health Insurance Assn. of America to the AFL-CIO and the AARP. These groups have found common ground on one issue -- that the number of Americans who lack health coverage is unacceptable ..." (American Medical News)

Health Insurers Use 'John Q' Movie in Ad Campaign
Excerpt: "U.S. health insurers, stung by an unflattering portrayal in the new movie 'John Q,' are rolling out an ad campaign aimed at steering federal policy toward providing help for the uninsured and those like the movie's everyman hero." (Reuters via Yahoo! News)

Opinion: Tax Credit is Wrong Approach to Problem of Uninsured
Excerpt: "First, the tax credit would lead some employers to drop or not offer coverage; employers will feel that employees can use the credit to buy coverage on their own. The credit also will draw younger, healthier workers away from employer coverage into the individual market." (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

The MetLife Survey of American Attitudes Toward Retirement (PDF)
Excerpt: "The vast majority of respondents (85%) disagree that they can rely on the government to pay for their long-term care. About one-quarter of respondents across all demographic sub-groups plan to rely on Medicare to finance their long-term care needs. Almost two-thirds (63%) do not feel that they have adequate savings to cover this expense." (MetLife Mature Market Institute)

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

Andersen's Alert: U.S. Compensation and Benefits News Briefs for February 4, 2002
Excerpt: "Our February 4, 2002, issue includes these topics: further September 11 relief for employee benefit plans; two courts apply Supreme Court's Great-West case; bill gives employees 'total control' over 401(k)." (Andersen)

Overview: Split Dollar Lives On
Excerpt: "Employers have a window of opportunity until final regulations are published to review existing split-dollar arrangements. Among the issues to address are: Which arrangements should be recharacterized as a series of employer loans? Which arrangements should be terminated by December 31, 2003?" (Watson Wyatt)

Overview: New Disclosure Rules for Stock Plans
Excerpt: "The SEC adopted new disclosure requirements for reporting companies with stock compensation plans. Registrants must include a new table in their annual reports on Form 10-K, as well as in their proxy statements in years when they are submitting a compensation plan for security holder action." (Watson Wyatt)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Accounting Manager for ExpertPlan
Business Development Executive / Consulting Sales for Executive Search Associates Boston, Inc.
401(k) Investment Educator for ADP, Inc.
Senior Benefits Compliance Representative for Northrop Grumman Corporation
Retirement Plan Administrator for InWest Pension Management, Inc.
Sr. Benefits Consultant for Wachovia Corporation
Health and Welfare Benefits Consultant for Wachovia Corporation
Pension Administrator for California Retirement Plans, Inc.
Sr. Benefits Specialist for Towers Perrin
Defined Contribution Administrator for Northwest Benefit Consultants, Inc.
Accounts Payable Supervisor for Northrop Grumman Corporation
Pensions/401(k) ERISA Compliance Specialist for Pensioncareers Ltd.

Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)
Mid-Sized Pension Management Conferencein CA on March 17, 2002
presented by University of California, Haas School of Business
Mid-Sized Pension Management Conferencein MA on May 14, 2002
presented by New York University, Stern School of Business
Mid-Sized Pension Management Conferencein IL on October 6, 2002
presented by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
Health and Welfare Plan Management for Mid-Sized Employersin IL on June 4, 2002
presented by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
Mid-Sized Pension Management Conferencein FL on January 21, 2003
presented by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Newly Posted Press Releases

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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.