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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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March 19, 2002 - 6,505 subscribers
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American Benefits Council Publishes Chart Comparing Pending Health Legislation, Showing Bill Status (PDF)
12 pages. Includes patients' bill of rights, mental health parity, genetic nondiscrimination, health care assistance for displaced workers, Medicare reform and prescription drug coverage, retiree health, more. (American Benefits Council)

Survey: State External Review Programs
Excerpt: "A new report for the Kaiser Family Foundation by researchers at Georgetown University's Institute for Health Care Research and Policy finds that 42 states have external review programs to resolve disputes between health plans and consumers. Although consumers are granted relief about half the time on average, the report finds the programs are used infrequently." (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation)

Bush To Advocate MSA Expansion, Allowing Small Businesses To Pool Purchasing of Health Benefits
Excerpt: "President Bush on March 19 is expected to call for proposals that would help small businesses cover the cost of health insurance for employees, the Wall Street Journal reports. In particular, Bush plans to 'reiterate his support' for reducing the deductible for tax-free medical savings accounts ..." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Excerpt: Healthcare Provisions in the President's Fiscal Year 2003 Budget Proposal (PDF)
29-page excerpt; includes discussion of refundable tax credit for the purchase of health insurance; above-the-line deduction for long-term care insurance premiums; allow up to $500 in unused benefits in a health flexible spending arrangement to be carried forward to the next year; permanently extend and reform Archer Medical Savings Accounts; more. (Joint Committee on Taxation, trimmed by BenefitsLink)

Low Pay Increases Need for Family-Friendly Benefits
Excerpt: "Low-wage earners, unlike professional staff, often can't receive phone calls at work from sick children or lose a day's wages when family emergencies arise. They're often reprimanded or suspended for taking time off.... Employers can't do it all, [said Ellen Bravo of the 9to5 organization] 'but they can provide adequate wages to support a family, transportation, paid leave, flexible scheduling and equal hourly wages, and pro-rated benefits for part-time employees.'" (Chicago Tribune; free registration required)

Group Therapy Could Reduce Medical Tab for Hypochondriacs
Excerpt: "Billions of dollars could be saved if hypochondriacs, who run up 15% of U.S. medical costs, were identified and treated in brief therapy groups, a Harvard Medical School researcher said over the weekend." (USA Today via International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

Wisconsin Regulators Crack Down On Unlicensed Health Plan Marketers
Excerpt: "Due to a lack of clarity in [ERISA] and some instances of fraud, a change was made in 1983, shifting multiple employer welfare arrangements to state regulation. However, most states, including Wisconsin, do not allow multiple employer welfare arrangements. Some companies still claim they can arrange employee benefit programs under the federal law. Application forms and marketing materials look like that of licensed insurers." (The Business Journal of Milwaukee via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Making the Case for a 'Health Care Fed': Should Uncle Sam Decide What Works?
Excerpt: "A U.S. government agency, some argue, should be created to rule on usefulness of medications, equipment, and procedures. Britain has just instituted such a system." (Managed Care magazine)

Opinion: Bad Medicine-- Collision Between Healthcare Costs and Government Willingness to Spend
Excerpt: "Why do health care costs keep on rising? It's not because doctors and hospitals are greedy; it's because of medical progress. More and more conditions that once lay beyond doctors' reach can now be treated ... [W]e have already reached the point at which we must either come up with more money or deny health care to retirees." (Paul Krug in the New York Times; free registration required)

California HMOs' New Programs Shine Spotlight on Hospital Costs
Excerpt: "PacifiCare and Blue Shield of California hope to juice up competition and pressure hospitals to control costs by establishing new tiered health insurance systems, which require members to pay more for treatment at expensive hospitals." (San Francisco Business Times via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Hospitals Skeptical of Cost-Shifting by HMOs
Excerpt: "Blue Cross will test the concept of tiered hospital care in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties, said Craig Thomas, vice president of development.... Hospital officials said they are skeptical that it will save money, because doctors -- not patients -- control which hospital to use. And they fear it could lead to a second-class system of low-priced health care." (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

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

GM Chief Executive Says Healthcare Costs, Pension Funding Drag Down Stock Price
Excerpt: "Despite recent U.S. market share gains and a rosier earnings outlook, General Motors Corp. still has two clouds looming over its balance sheet and stock price. They are rising health care costs and an under-funded pension fund, GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said Monday." (Detroit News)

Analysis: the ERISA Claims Procedure Odyssey Continues (PDF)
Originally published October 2001. Excerpt: "[R]ecently the DOL delayed the effective date [of the new claims procedure regulations] for health plans to the first day of the plan year beginning after July 1, 2002, but not later than January 1, 2003. Retirement plans and other welfare plans (such as severance or life insurance plans) will require only minor revisions under the rules." (Gardner Carton & Douglas)

Opinion: Coke Lowers Bar for CEO to Earn Free Stock
Excerpt: "Coca-Cola Co. has thrust Chief Executive Officer Douglas Daft into at least the semi-finals of the high jump in what I like to call the Executive Compensation Olympics.... But if a CEO hits the bar, he doesn't go anywhere. Rather, the bar is lowered to five feet and he is invited to try again. If necessary, the bar is lowered further and further." (Graef Crystal, on Bloomberg.com)

Description of Revenue Provisions in the President's Fiscal Year 2003 Budget Proposal - Full Text (PDF)
178 pages. (Joint Committee on Taxation)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Employee Benefits Attorney for Thompson Hine LLP
in DC
Director of Pension Plan Administration/Actuarial for SDG Consulting
in MA
Pension Administrator for Associated Pension Consultants
in CA
H&W System Implementation Specialist for Towers Perrin
in NY
Health & Welfare Employee Benefits Sales Rep for Superior Benefit Plans LLC
in PA
Benefits Manager for RMH Teleservices
in PA
ERISA Document Specialist for National Retirement Services, Inc. (NRS) - Seal Beach Office
in CA
Internal Wholesaler - Recordkeeping for Redwood Administrators, Inc.
in NJ
Assistant Employee Benefits Administrator for The National Bank & Trust Company of Sycamore
in IL

Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)
Employer Stock Investments: What To Do After Enronin NY on April 18, 2002
presented by NYC Chapter of WEB
U.S. Defined Contribution Plans Overview Coursein PA on May 20, 2002
presented by Society of Professional Administrators and Recordkeepers

Newly Posted Press Releases
Health Care Management Among Top Benefit Concerns Covered in New Book (International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)
Commerce National Insurance Services Selects vSimplify To Cross-Sell Financial and Insurance Products (vSimplify)
vSimplify Partners with MKTech As Exclusive Canadian Distributor: Software Firm Leverages vSimplify's Web-Based Worksite Marketing Platform To Cross-Sell Insurance and Financial Services (vSimplify)
SIMPLE Illustrator Software Released (GSL Galactic Consulting)

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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.