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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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March 15, 2002 - 6,505 subscribers
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Mental Health Benefits Debated at House Hearing
Excerpt: "The debate over a bill to require 'parity' between benefits for mental health and other ailments picked up where it left off last year Wednesday, with employer groups charging that such a requirement would be too expensive and mental health advocates arguing that the lack of a requirement amounts to unfair discrimination." (Reuters Health via Yahoo! News)

Witness List and Written Statements for House Hearing on Mental Health Parity
March 13, 2002. Witnesses include Kay Nystul, Wausau Benefits; Lee Dixon, National Conference of State Legislatures; The Honorable Patrick Kennedy, U.S. House of Representatives; Henry Harbin, for the American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association; Jane Greenman for the ERISA Industry Committee. (U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Education and the Workforce, Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations)

Court Authorizes Subrogation Claim by Fiduciary Against Bank Holding Funds
Administrative Committee of the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Associates' Health and Welfare Plan v. DeGraffenried (W.D. Tex. 2002). Excerpt: "[T]he Western District of Texas joined the Northern District of Illinois in recognizing that the Supreme Court, in Great-West Life & Annuity Ins. Co. v. Knudson, authorizes ERISA plan fiduciaries to pursue subrogation/reimbursement claims in federal court under 29 U.S.C. §1132(a)(3) when the funds are traceable and are in the defendant's possession." (Attorney John M. Russell)

Coalition Purchasing: a Growing Trend
Excerpt: "Decades of supply-side mergers and acquisitions by vendors have eroded the bargaining power of individual employers, particularly in the Health & Welfare (H&W) benefits marketplace. Yet, these same consolidations can serve as the imperative for purchasers to organize product demand into efficient national and regional buying groups to strengthen negotiation clout." (Aon)

Survey: Recession Causing Shift in HR Priorities
Excerpt: " If the current conditions-- an oversupply of labor and scarce resources to spend on total compensation programs-- prevail, employers will be even more motivated to spend these resources where they will get the greatest return on their investment.... This analysis draws upon data from Mercer's annual Policies and Practices Survey, which queries large U.S. employers about their total rewards policies, practices and programs." (International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

Wellness Programs Generating Results
Excerpt: "[T]he list of the most prevalent wellness programs offered by U.S. employers includes: stress management; ergonomics and injury prevention; self-care and disease management; smoking cessation; nutrition; exercise and fitness; weight control; work-life balance; and screening programs including blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol, body mass index and fitness assessments ..." (Benefits Canada)

Increased Prescription Drug Spending Could Lead To Reductions in Other Health Costs
Excerpt: "Greater spending on prescription drugs may lead to decreased inpatient hospital and other health care costs, according to a new survey of disease-management organizations." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Treating Workplace Stress
Excerpt: "Stress is sending drug costs and disability claims soaring. While benefits programs manage the symptoms, too many have failed to address the sources." (Benefits Canada)

Obesity Linked to Higher Health Care Cost Hikes Than Smoking or Problem Drinking
News release; target page includes link to highlights of the study. Excerpt: "Obesity contributes to higher cost increases for health care services and medications than do either smoking or problem drinking, a RAND researcher concludes in a report published in the journal Health Affairs ... In fact, the report finds that obesity has roughly the same association with chronic health conditions as a person who has gone from age 30 to age 50." (RAND)

Steel Companies Ask for Bailout on Retiree Health Costs
Excerpt: "The big steel companies and their unions took their pleas on behalf of retirees caught without health care to Congress Thursday, after being turned away by President Bush." (StarTribune.com)

Human Resources and Public Policy Implications of the Changing Working Household
Excerpt: "Today, a myriad of household types are represented in American employment. To attract and retain highly-skilled employees, human resource managers will need corporate benefits packages to reflect changed household characteristics and the needs of a changed society." (Center for Work and Family Balance)

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


SEC Goes After Stock Options
Excerpt: "In the first case of its kind since the Securities and Exchange Commission pledged last month to get tougher on corporate executives who manipulate earnings, the agency is trying to force a former New Jersey pharmaceutical executive to return an unspecified amount of stock options allegedly tied to fraudulent earnings growth." (Washington Post)

Stock Option Absurdity: Hoping for Lower Prices
Excerpt: "If companies simply repriced options immediately, then the accounting rules would force the companies to reduce their profits if the value of the options rose over time. But the delay keeps such reality out of earnings statements.... More than 100 companies have used the strategy since it was pioneered by Sprint in 2000." (New York Times; free registration required)




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ACTUARY, GS-1510-15 for U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration
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BENEFITS MANAGER for BLB CONSULTING INC - Search firm
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Client Relationship Manager for Pension Third Party Administrator
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Copyright 2002 BenefitsLink.com, Inc., but you may freely distribute this email newsletter in whole. This newsletter is edited by David Rhett Baker, J.D.