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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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April 4, 2002 - 6,435 subscribers
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Vision Care Costs Expected to Rise Only Moderately
Excerpt: "Unlike overall health costs, estimated to rise about 13% this year, vision care costs are expected to rise only about 3%." (BenefitNews.com)

PBS 'NewsHour' Profiles Debate Over Underinsured
Excerpt: "PBS' 'The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer' on April 1 featured a story about a 'real-life problem that inspired a Hollywood movie': the growing number of people who, like the title character of the recent movie 'John Q.,' have some insurance coverage but not enough to cover the cost of some procedure ... An audio file of the report is available online." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Overview: DHHS Proposes Changes to HIPAA Privacy Regulations
Excerpt: "The proposed regulations provide clarification as to the level of administrative burden imposed upon plan sponsors whose only access to PHI is through exposure to enrollment/disenrollment information. The proposed changes relating to sharing PHI between covered entities, provider consents, and authorization tracking will help ease plan administration burdens. Plan sponsors will want to review their existing administrative agreements and contracts with their business associates ..." (EBIA Weekly)

Failure to Timely Notify Employees of Cancellation of Group Health Insurance Policy Violated ERISA
Russo v. B&B Catering, Inc. (N.D. Ill. 2002). Excerpt: "[T]he court found that the employer was responsible as plan fiduciary under ERISA Section 104(b)(1) for notifying covered employees of the termination of coverage. (ERISA Section 104(b)(1) requires that a summary of material modification (SMM) be provided within 60 days of the adoption of any 'material reduction in covered services or benefits' under a group health plan.)" (EBIA Weekly)

Analysis: Several Proposed Changes to HIPAA Regs Will Affect Group Health Plans and Insurers (PDF)
Excerpt: "Health plans would be able to obtain PHI from providers needed for quality assessment activities, accreditation, performance measures, population-based activities relating to improving health or reducing health care costs, and case management activities.... [Further, in] what HHS calls a 'clarification,' it proposes that covered entities would no longer be required to account for disclosures made pursuant to an individual's written authorization." (Miller & Chevalier Chartered)

Opinion: Proposed Changes to HIPAA Regs Are Loss to Medical Privacy
Excerpt: "Many of the activities that we [in the Clinton administration's initial proposal] called marketing the Bush administration calls 'recommending treatment.' The bottom line? Any drug company can now pay a pharmacy to mail information about a new drug to its customers, without their knowledge or consent. Even worse, there is no way for the patient to get off the mailing list - ever." (Donna Shalala in the New York Times; free registration required)

Heart Disease Management Program Boasts High Return on Investment
Excerpt: "Since implementing a coronary artery disease (CAD) management program through Simsbury, Conn.-based Cardium Health Services in late 1999, [self-insured employer Northeast Utilities System] says it's realized a $2.33 return for every $1 invested in the service." (BenefitNews.com)

Increase in Employer-Based Health Coverage Offset by Decreases in Other Coverage Areas
Excerpt: "Despite an increase in the number of Americans receiving employer-sponsored health coverage between 1994 and 2000, the rate of uninsurance remained roughly constant over the same period, Urban Institute Health Policy Center Director John Holahan and Urban Institute researcher Mary Beth Pohl write in a Health Affairs Web Exclusive." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Great-West Life v. Brown: Court Distinguishes Knudson, Rules Great-West is Entitled to Restitution
Excerpt: "The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia ... distinguished ... Knudson ... and held that, unlike Knudson, Great-West Life was entitled to equitable relief under ERISA because the funds at issue in Brown, having been placed by Brown's attorney in his trust account, 'are identified and clearly traceable to the award from third parties.' As such, the court held that Great-West Life was entitled to restitution with respect to the funds." (Thomas H. Lawrence, Esq.)

Welcome to new BenefitsLink advertiser Datamyne Corp.
Excerpt: "Products include SubroMine subrogation software, which allows users to track subrogation cases for initial identification to final recovery, and the Systemix reporting suite, a battery of overpayment/cost-containment reports including duplicates, coordination of benefits, Medicare, third party liability, paid after term, end stage renal disease and unbundling. For more information visit our web site at: http://www.datamyne.com"

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

Overview: DOL Modifies Filer Voluntary Compliance Program
Excerpt: "The old rules provided only for use of the most current form available; the new rules allow the administrator to choose between the form for the plan year for which relief is sought, or the most current form available.... Now that the IRS will grant relief to filers that comply with the DFVC Program, plans will be assured that their participation in the DFVC Program will not lead to IRS problems." (EBIA Weekly)

Overview: DOL Modifies Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program
Excerpt: "[T]he permanent VFCP retains the basic structure of the interim VFCP, but there are a few significant changes: The program will be expanded to permit the correction of delinquent contributions to insured welfare plans and welfare plan trusts.... The permanent VFCP eliminates the interim VFCP's requirement that written notice of the correction be provided to participants [but] the class exemption contains notice requirements that must be followed if excise tax relief is sought." (EBIA Weekly)

Opinion: the Perverse Incentives of Stock Options
Excerpt: "In the conclusion to a two-part column, Whitney Tilson highlights the many perverse incentives that stock options create and recommends that companies instead set up programs to encourage actual stock ownership." (The Motley Fool)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
401 (k) / Retirement Plan Administrator for Pension Parameters, Inc.
in NJ
Benefits Calculation Associate for Towers Perrin
in NJ
Employee Benefits Analyst for Watson Wyatt Worldwide
in MA
Actuary for Benetech, Inc.
in CA
Pension Plan Administrator for Benetech, Inc.
in CA
Daily Valuation Administrator for Benetech, Inc.
in CA
ERISA Associate for Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice
in DC
Employee Benefits Trust Officer for Regions Financial Corporation
in AR
Pension Administrator/Consultant for Pension Benefits Unlimited
in CA

Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)
15th Annual Cincinnati Employee Benefits Conferencein OH on June 20, 2002
presented by Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Cincinnati Bar Association Employee Benefits Committee

Newly Posted Press Releases
Sentinel Benefits Hires New Director of Marketing to Spearhead Marketing Campaign (Sentinel Benefits)
Sentinel Benefits Brings on Sales Pro Kevin Yew to Broaden Managed Care Marketshare (Sentinel Benefits)
CNA Trust Has Busy Easter Weekend Providing "No-Blackout" Transfer of More Than 750 Retirement Plans (CNA Trust)

Newly Posted Announcements of Promotions and New Personnel (Post Yours!)
James W. Fredrickson (Innovative Process Administration, LLC.)

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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.