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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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March 20, 2002 - 6,505 subscribers
Today's sponsor: AHI's Benefits Alert

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

   According to a Department of Labor study, over 80% of 401(k) plan
   sponsors are unaware of how much their plan costs are.

   AHI's FREE REPORT, "Understanding 401(k) Plan Fees & Expenses,"
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(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)

Press Release: Labor Department Proposes Amendment of Streamlined Exemption Process (U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration)

Full Text of Proposed Amendment to PTE 96-62 Expanding Availability of Expedited PT Exemptions
Excerpt: "[I]n order to assist parties who in the future wish to utilize ... PTE 96-62, the Department is proposing to expand [that procedure] to permit parties to either base their submission on substantially similar transactions described in two individual exemptions granted within the past 60-months; or on one individual exemption granted within the past 120-months and one transaction which received final authorization by the Department under PTE 96-62 within the past 60-months." (U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration)

FMLA Leave Notice Struck Down by Supreme Court
Excerpt: "The U.S. Supreme Court handed employers a victory with a 5-4 ruling that companies do not have to tell workers that their maternity or medical leave policies satisfy federal law.... Justices struck down a Labor Department regulation requiring the notice." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Text of Ragsdale v. Wolverine, Invalidating DOL FMLA Notice Regulation (PDF)
27 pages. Excerpt: "[Plaintiff Ragsdale] filed suit, alleging that 29 CFR §825.700(a), a Labor Department regulation, required Wolverine to grant her 12 additional weeks of leave because it had not informed her that the 30-week absence would count against her FMLA entitlement.... Held: Section 825.700(a)is contrary to the Act and beyond the Secretary of Labor's authority." (Supreme Court of the United States)

Bush Touts Association Health Plans in Speech to Entrepreneurs
Excerpt: "In an unusually long speech, Mr. Bush proposed allowing small businesses to band together to buy health insurance for their employees at reduced rates.... Mr. Bush's proposal, the most recent version of a plan promoted by House Republicans since at least 1996, would allow small businesses to insure their employees through groups like the National Federation of Independent Businesses." (New York Times; free registration required)

Senator to Push Federal Legislation to Permit Association Health Plans in All States
Press release. Excerpt: "Saying no excuse justifies the plight of the nation's 'employed but uninsured,' Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said ... he will take on the battle to clear legislation allowing national Association Health Plans (AHPs) for small businesses and entrepreneurs ... Currently, AHP plans are only available in some states [so they] cannot provide service to subscribers in other states, severely limiting their ability to draw enough customers to lower health insurance rates." (U.S. Newswire via Yahoo! News)

Court Dismisses ERISA Reimbursement Claim Against Plan Participant Who No Longer Controlled Funds
Administrative Comm. of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Associates' Health and Welfare Plan v. Degraffenried (W.D. Tex., Mar. 13, 2002). Excerpt: "[A] federal district court in Texas has ruled that the Great-West holding does preclude a health plan's ERISA reimbursement action when the plan sues a plan participant who no longer has control over recovered amounts to which the plan asserts a right." (EBIA Weekly)

Benefit Provides "Health Insurance" For Houses
Excerpt: "After rolling out its home warranty product as a benefit to its own employees last year, [Jeffersonville, Ind.-based Service Net, a subsidiary of Kemper Warranty Services] is now offering the benefit to employers nationwide." (BenefitNews.com)

New 529 Plan Incentives Require Follow-Through
Excerpt: "Experts say changes that have made qualified withdrawals from 529 plans free from federal income tax must be followed by strong education and awareness campaigns in order to maximize employee opportunities." (BenefitNews.com)

Analysis: New Law Extends Code's Mental Health Parity Provisions
Excerpt: "[First, the new tax act] removes the tax penalty for non-compliance for services provided on or after September 30, 2001 (the original expiration date) and before January 10, 2002 (the date of the extension). Second, it further extends--to December 31, 2003--the Code's penalty for failure to comply with the MHPA." (EBIA Weekly)

Analysis: New Law Extends Archer MSAs and Clarifies Adoption Assistance and Dependent Care Provisions
Excerpt: "On March 9, 2002, President Bush signed into law the Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act of 2002 ... The 2002 Tax Act extended the MSA program for one more year, until Dec. 31, 2003." (EBIA Weekly)

Florida 'Bare Bones' Health Insurance Bill Modified to Restore Mandated Benefits
Excerpt: "It originally allowed companies to not cover certain procedures now required under state law, such as mammograms and treatments for HIV-related diseases and cleft palate.... [Rep. Frank] Farkas agreed to restore all 26 procedures ..." (St. Petersburg Times)

Layoffs Boost Short-Term Health Plans
Excerpt: "But people should be aware of some pitfalls. Signing up for temporary health insurance could ruin an individual's chance to get a permanent plan, especially for people with pre-existing health problems." (East Bay Business Times via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Most Health Claimants Rarely Take HMO Disputes to Higher Level
Excerpt: "Americans rarely take advantage of state programs for settling disputes with their health plans, even though consumers prevail in 45% of cases, according to a study released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation." (Reuters Health via Yahoo! News)

Health Insurance Coverage in America: 2000 Data Update
Excerpt: "This chart book provides year 2000 data on health insurance coverage, with special attention to the uninsured. It includes trends and major shifts in coverage and a profile of the uninsured population." (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation)

Health Care Benefits Rank Top Among Employees Who Value Choice, Control: Hewitt Survey
Employees rank health care as their top benefit priority, even higher than compensation, and they want more control and choice in that benefit, according to a study recently released by Hewitt Associates. The Hewitt Employee Health Care Survey of 528 employers found that health care is the most important benefit, outscoring compensation by a margin of two to one. (Spencernet)

Welcome to new BenefitsLink advertiser Affordable Health & Benefits
Excerpt: "We offer comprehensive Discount Health Benefits that the consumer can afford. You can save up to 70% on Dental, Doctors Visits, Hospitalization, Prescriptions, Vision Care, Chiropractic, Alternative Medicine Specialties, Nurse Hotline and more. Our plans range in price from $9.95 to $49.95 a month. All Pre-existing conditions accepted. Nationwide PPO networks."

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

Joint Committee on Taxation Describes Background and Present Law Relating to Tax Shelters (PDF)
53 pages. Includes a discussion of the Winn-Dixie corporate-owned life insurance (COLI) litigation. (Joint Committee on Taxation)

Workforce Shifts to Big Companies
Excerpt: "For the first time, big businesses appear to employ more U.S. workers than small businesses." (USA Today)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
401(k) Sales/Client Service Consultant for Pension Specialists, Inc.
in CA
Pension Enrollment Specialist for Diversified Investment Advisors
in NY
Educational Specialist for CIGNA Retirement and Investment Services
in CT
in CA

Newly Posted Press Releases
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)
NuView's HR Software Selected For New High-Tech Public Library in Salt Lake City (NuView Systems, Inc.)
Labor Department Proposes Amendment of Streamlined Exemption Process (U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration)

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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.