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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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March 18, 2002 - 6,505 subscribers
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Blue Cross Blue Shield Exec: Biggest Blame for Healthcare Cost Increases Lies with Consumers
Excerpt: "BlueCross BlueShield of Florida is devising ways to put the consumer back in the price equation. That includes making them pay more out of pocket for everything from hospital care to drugs." (St. Petersburg Times)

Court of Appeals Allows Physicians' Lawsuit to Go Forward Against HMOs Despite Arbitration Clause
Excerpt: "A federal court Friday rejected an effort by health insurance companies to stop a nationwide lawsuit by doctors claiming that they were victims of a racketeering conspiracy to reduce their fees." (The Miami Herald)

Commission Recommends Federal Health Programs Cover More Alternative Medicine Treatments
Excerpt: "The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine has recommended that the Bush administration consider expanding federal funding of alternative therapies and creating a national office to study such treatments, the AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Controversy Over Aid for U.S. Uninsured Resurfaces
Excerpt: "Senate Democrats are renewing efforts to enact temporary healthcare assistance for unemployed U.S. workers, resparking a debate with Republicans over controversial aid for the uninsured." (Reuters Health via Yahoo! News)

Bush's Proposed 2003 Budget Would Allow $500 FSA Carryovers
Excerpt: "The provision would modify the Code Section 125 'use it or lose it' requirement that all unused funds be forfeited at the end of the plan year. The 2003 budget has not been approved, however, so current carryover rules remain in force unless the provision is part of the final budget that is signed into law." (Thompson Publishing Group)

What Are Our COBRA Obligations When an Employee Does Not Return to Work at the End of an FMLA Leave?
Question of the Week, from the 3/7/02 EBIA WEEKLY. Excerpt: "An employee's failure to return to work at the end of an FMLA leave is usually a COBRA qualifying event, triggering the employer's obligation to offer a COBRA election to the employee (and any family members who are qualified beneficiaries)." (EBIA Weekly)

Insurance Coverage Duration Affects Length of Disability, According To Fortis Study
The duration of disability insurance coverage that an individual has is more likely than the individual's personality traits to determine the length of a claimant's absence from work, according to a study recently released by Fortis Benefits Insurance Company. Perhaps not surprisingly, disability claimants with only short term disability coverage, which typically lasts for six months, returned to work more quickly than did claimants with both short term and long term disability coverage. (Spencernet)

Helping Employers Cope: Multiemployer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) (PDF)
6 pages; March 2002. Excerpt: "The Department of Labor (DOL) estimates that for every $1 spent on an EAP, an employer saves $14 in costs related to workers; problems.... In this era when health care costs remain high and benefit dollars are stretched, the timing may be right to add an EAP to a multiemployer health and welfare plan. This NewsLetter discusses EAPs ... their structure, services and costs; and their benefits for participants and multiemployer plan sponsors." (The Segal Company)

Healthcare Quality Organization Publishes Online Calculator Showing Results of Higher Quality Plans
Excerpt: "[The free online calculator] demonstrates how choosing a higher-quality health plan can help an employer reduce the sick days and sick wages associated with various illnesses. The tool also shows employers how many of their employees are likely to have one or more of eight key health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease." (National Committee for Quality Assurance)

Opinion: California Laws Should Set Boundaries for Health Claim Arbitrators
Excerpt: "Lawsuits are not the most efficient way of resolving medical disputes ... But the arbitration system in California is unfairly rigged against health care consumers.... HMO leaders and Sacramento legislators should embrace a package of bills introduced this week that would clarify that private judging corporations are not entitled to absolute immunity ... and would require private judging corporations to report the results of arbitration proceedings." (Los Angeles Times)

Bills On Insurance For Small Employers, Nonprofits Advances in Connecticut
Excerpt: "Connecticut small employers and more nonprofit groups would be able to buy health insurance through a statewide municipal program under bills approved Thursday by a legislative committee." (The Hartford Courant)

Balanced Life Takes Some Work, Tech Survey Finds
Excerpt: "Of the workers who reported the most stress, half work at firms that lack work-life policies. Even more puzzling, chief executives who completed the electronic study were the most likely to point out that balanced employees are more productive." (Washington Post)

Another Question is Answered in the ERISA Benefit Claims Q&A Column
My long term disability insurer requires that I submit an evaluation report from my doctor every three months. This presents a hardship for me because I don't have insurance to cover these visits. Is the insurance company being reasonable? (BenefitsLink.com)

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

In the Matter of the Estate of Marshall G. Gardiner
Case holds that Kansas need not give full faith and credit to a Wisconsin order for purposes of determining whether a post-operative transsexual was male or female (and accordingly, whether the party's marriage was valid). The case includes a review of prior case law. It could provide guidance in determining spousal status for qualified joint & survivor annuities, qualified domestic relations orders, COBRA, dependent benefits, and other determinations of spousal status under a plan. (Supreme Court of Kansas)

GAO Says Opportunities Exist for Improving Management of the DOL PWBA Enforcement Program
57 pages; GAO 02-232, March 2002. Excerpt: "PWBA has not gathered and analyzed information on the nature and extent of noncompliance. Lack of such data could undermine its enforcement strategy and operations. Although PWBA has taken steps to modernize its technology, most investigative staff still do not have sufficient and timely access to automated information for researching and selecting plans for investigation. Furthermore, PWBA lacks a centrally coordinated quality review process ..." (U.S. General Accounting Office)

DOL Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces New Members of ERISA Advisory Council
Excerpt: "The new members are David L. Wray of Illinois, John J. Szczur of Maryland, Michele M. Weldon of Massachusetts, Judy E. Weiss of New York, and Dana M. Muir of Michigan." (U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration)

Battle Lines Drawn on Stock Options Accounting
Excerpt: "The collapse of Enron and Global Crossing-- companies that generously handed out options to top executives, some of whom sold large amounts of stock before the businesses failed-- has reignited a debate about options. And those events have given life to a seemingly defeated effort to rewrite accounting rules and force companies to deduct from their profits the estimated cost of the options they give to employees." (New York Times; free registration required)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Director, Ongoing Trust Officers for American Express Financial Advisors
in MN
Senior Defined Benefits Analyst for Towers Perrin
in NJ
Director Defined Benefit Plan Services for Retained Search for Large Financial Services Firm
in OH
Pension Administrator for Third Party Pension Administration / Trust Firm
in KY
Qualified Plan Administrator for South Jersey TPA Firm
in NJ
Prototype Services Specialist for Fidelity Investments
in MA

Newly Posted Benefits Businesses for Sale (Post Yours!)
50% of Benefits Administration Firm in Salt Lake CityFacilities in UT

Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)
International Forum on Disability Managementin Canada on May 27, 2002
presented by National Institute of Disability Management and Research
Fundamentals of Stock Plan Administrationin MA on April 25, 2002
presented by National Association of Stock Plan Professionals, co-sponsored by Charles Schwab

Newly Posted Press Releases
Secretary Elaine L. Chao Announces New Members of ERISA Advisory Council (U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration)

Subscribe to the Retirement Plans Edition, too (click)

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.