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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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April 10, 2002 - 6,439 subscribers
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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)

Employers Push More Health Coverage Costs to Workers
Excerpt: "Without a clear answer for containing double-digit healthcare cost increases, large US employers this year are passing substantially more of the cost of employee healthcare coverage to workers than in years past, a leading health benefits consultant said on Capitol Hill Monday." (Medscape; free registration required)

In Connecticut, Small Businesses May See Changes in Terms Allowed in Health Insurance Policies
Excerpt: "Insurance Commissioner Susan F. Cogswell confirmed Tuesday that her agency will now approve health plans with higher dollar co-pays than it would previously, and will consider HMO plans that charge consumers a percentage of their medical bills. The plans are expected to appeal especially to small employers of as many as 50 workers, and are seen as an alternative for financially strapped businesses that otherwise might have to drop coverage." (The Hartford Courant)

Consumer Alert Regarding Liquidation of Companies Named American Benefit Plans, NAWA and UEVEBA
Published by the Georgetown University Institute for Health Care Research and Policy. NAWA is the National Association for/of Working Americans; UEVEBA is the United Employers Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association. (HealthInsuranceInfo.net)

Must Child on COBRA Get Right to Extended Coverage When He Or She Drops Out?
Excerpt: "COBRA provides for certain circumstances in which a COBRA qualified beneficiary (who is not a covered employee) receiving COBRA coverage may have his or her maximum coverage period extended upon the occurrence of a second qualifying event. This happens only when the first qualifying event is termination or reduction of hours of the covered employee (an event that entails an 18-month maximum coverage period, or a 29-month maximum coverage period in the case of a disability extension)." (EBIA Weekly)

Opinion: Give Patients Control of Their Medical Records
Excerpt: "The most far-reaching proposal for change, however, concerns [the prior proposed rule] that the patient's consent must be obtained 'prior to using or disclosing protected health information to carry out treatment, payment or health care operations.' Thompson's justification for removing this protection is that the necessity for consent would have created unintended consequences ... So the remedy for poor drafting is not to be better drafting, but the abandonment of core principle." (STLToday.com)

Panel on NPR's 'Talk of the Nation' Discusses Prescription Drug Use, Prices and Advertising
Excerpt: "The second hour of NPR's 'Talk of the Nation' on April 9 featured a panel discussion on questions raised by the recent National Institute for Health Management study that found U.S. prescription drug spending rose more than 17% in 2001, driven largely by several 'heavily advertised, high-priced' treatments." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Pros and Cons of Bush's Health Insurance Coverage Proposals
Excerpt: "President Bush [may be] on to something with his call to create Association Health Plans to let small businesses band together across state lines to buy health care for their workers at reduced rates.... [But they] would be exempt from state law and 'would undermine state insurance reforms, ultimately destabilizing the insurance market and jeopardizing state and federal efforts to expand coverage ...' said Mary Nell Lehnhard of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association." (Scripps Howard News Service via TCPalm.com)

NFIB Makes Case for Lower-cost Association Health Insurance Plans
Excerpt: "The ranking Republican on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneur-ship Committee vowed to lead the battle for association health plans in the Senate. AHPs would allow small businesses to purchase health insurance through national trade associations.... The legislation would exempt AHPs from state coverage mandates ..." (Wichita Business Journal)

Business Groups in Massachusetts Take Aim at Bill Eliminating Cap on HMO Liability
Excerpt: "The measure, which would eliminate a $20,000 liability cap currently enjoyed by HMOs, would be a serious blow against efforts to control costs for HMOs and employers, opponents said." (Boston Business Journal via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

A Look at the California Department of Managed Care
March 2002. Excerpt: "California sets a precedent again, with a bold effort to regulate the HMO industry. While the new Department of Managed Health Care is facing down 50,000 consumer gripes monthly, director Daniel Zingale intends to keep administrative red tape from overwhelming plans, patients, providers, and his department." (Managed Care magazine)

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

SEC Chairman Stays Neutral on Stock Options Accounting Issue
Excerpt: "Corporate America should not be forced to treat stock options as expenses on income statements until other ways are tried to make the executive perk less prone to abuse, the top U.S. securities regulator said Tuesday.... [Harvey] Pitt said stock options need to be better explained to shareholders and structured to align the interests of managers and investors." (CNN Money)

Bush Weighs In on Debate Over Stock-Option Rules
Excerpt: "Mr. Bush took issue with a proposal supported by Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, that would force companies to record such options as expenses, like other forms of compensation." (New York Times; free registration required)

Overview: DOL Reduces Delinquent Filer Penalties (PDF)
Excerpt: "The DFVC Program is only available to a plan administrator who has not received a written notice from the DOL of a failure to file a timely annual report. In addition, certain filings not required under Title I of ERISA (such as Form 5500-EZ) are not eligible for the DFVC Program." (Milliman USA)

Treasury Department, IRS Seek Comments On Items For Next Guidance Priority List
In Notice 2002-22, I.R.B. 2002-14, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service request public comments concerning items that should be included in the agencies' Guidance Priority List for 2002-2003. Each year, the Treasury Department and the IRS use the priority list to identify and prioritize the tax issues that should be addressed through regulations, rulings, and other published administrative guidance. (Spencernet)

Overview: Claims Procedures For Pension Plans Providing Disability Benefits (PDF)
March-April 2002 issue; begins on page 7. (Jenkens & Gilchrist)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Trust Administrator for CNA Trust
in CA
Sr. Benefits Specialist for Apple Computer, Inc.
in CA
401(k) and Pension Marketing/Consultant for Leggette Actuaries, Inc.
in TX
Senior Compliance Analyst for CitiStreet (a State Street and Citigroup Company)
in MA

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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.