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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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April 15, 2002 - 6,426 subscribers
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CalPERS Bids Show Rising Health Costs
Excerpt: "In a sign that health care costs could be set to rise sharply across the nation, the California Public Employees Retirement System, one of nation's largest buyers of health care, said on Sunday its insurance rates could rise by up to 41 percent in 2003." (Reuters via Yahoo! News)

Flexible Spending Account Participation May Build With Plastic
Excerpt: "The introduction of debit cards tied to flexible spending accounts is beginning to turn the tide, providing employees with an easier way to manage their FSA accounts and eliminating the arduous process of filling out claim forms and receipts - a paperwork savings many employers embrace as well." (BenefitNews.com)

Employer-Assisted Housing Gains Momentum as an Employee Benefit
Excerpt: "Just 6% of employers currently offer mortgage assistance benefits, while another 3% have programs to assist employees with home down payments, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). But the benefit is expanding with the help of mortgage fund brokerage Fannie Mae ..." (BenefitNews.com)

From Here to Maternity: Parental Benefits Are Big Hit at Mutual of Omaha
Excerpt: "[T]he Nebraska-based insurer's parental benefits plan features on-site maternity case management, prenatal education classes, and a lactation program.... [T]he benefits have demonstrated an impressive return on investment in terms of keeping mothers and babies healthy, reducing absenteeism, and encouraging mothers to remain in the workforce." (BenefitNews.com)

Consolidation Begins to Shape e-Benefits Health Industry
Excerpt: "Though some would-be players have already Tweedledumbed their way out of the online health-benefits business, this e-Wonderland remains populated with a disorienting number of companies and services.... How's a benefit manager to navigate on the other side of the looking glass? The following might help you mentally organize the landscape." (Employee Benefit News via CareerJournal.com)

Election Change OK If Employee's Spouse's Employer Increases Deductible Under Spouse's Health Plan?
Excerpt: "As described in more detail below, a mid-year election change may be permitted under these circumstances if your cafeteria plan permits election changes because of a 'change under another employer plan' and the Other Employer's cafeteria plan permits coverage to be dropped because of a permitted election change event, such as a 'significant curtailment of coverage.'" (EBIA Weekly (Question of the Week))

Los Angeles Times Examines Health Coverage Options for Those Ages 55-64
Excerpt: "The Los Angeles Times today reports on the problems that many Americans ages 55 to 64 -- the 'near elderly' -- face if they lose their employer-sponsored health insurance.... Although some people in this age group may qualify to participate in COBRA ... many cannot afford health insurance through the program." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Executive Summary: Strategies for Reducing Employee-Related Expenses
Excerpt: "The following is a summary of effective cost-cutting strategies that are based on the strategies of highly productive corporations working with Hewitt consultants in areas such as compensation, health and welfare, retirement, HR delivery and labor force issues." (Hewitt Associates)

Rules Finalized Allowing Federal Government Employees to Keep Frequent Flyer Miles
Excerpt: "The fiscal 2002 Defense Authorization bill, signed into law in December, included a provision allowing civil service, military and Foreign Service employees to use frequent flier miles obtained on government travel for personal use. Prior to the law's passage, federal employees were not allowed to use their frequent flier miles ..." (GovExec.com)

Consumer Watchdog Group Criticizes HMO Arbitration Administrator
Excerpt: "The 'independent' administrator for Kaiser Permanente's mandatory arbitration system has refused to answer serious questions about her independence and failures within the arbitration system she administers." (Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights)

Florida Regulators Say Verify Before You Buy Health Insurance
Excerpt: "The Florida Department of Insurance (DOI) is launching a media blitz featuring the slogan 'verify before you buy' to prevent more employers and individuals from falling prey to the siren song of low cost health insurance offered by unlicensed companies in the state." (insure.com)

Thousands of Florida Residents Paid Premiums to Unlicensed Health Insurers
Excerpt: "The Orrs are among at least 15,000 Florida policyholders who have been duped during the past two years into buying health insurance from unlicensed carriers that collect premiums but later fail to pay medical claims.... Last week, the department issued a warning to employers and consumers to avoid companies that cannot prove they are licensed by the agency to sell insurance in the state." (Orlando Sentinel via International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

Nearly One-Quarter of Patients Ask Doctors for Brand-Name Medications, According to FDA Study
Excerpt: "Patients who ask their physicians for a specific brand-name drug usually get a prescription for that medication, according to a new FDA survey that 'underscore[s] the powerful role consumer advertising plays in how America's physicians are treating illnesses,' the Wall Street Journal reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Media Campaign by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Increases Use of Generic Medicines
Excerpt: "In its own small way, the Michigan Blues' generics campaign seeks to offset the blitz of advertising for brand-name medications that physicians and patients encounter every day. In recent years, the insurer has witnessed a decline in the percentage of prescriptions filled with generics as pharmaceutical manufacturers pushed their blockbuster drugs to doctors and consumers." (Reuters via Yahoo! News)

Are Employers Too Lavish With Health Plans?
Excerpt: "[A]ccording to the Society for Human Resource Management's 2002 Benefits Survey ... [a] total of 99 percent of respondents' organizations offer some type of health insurance coverage, whether it be through a preferred provider organization (PPO), health maintenance organization (HMO), exclusive provider organization (EPO), indemnity, or defined-contribution plan." (CFO.com)

New Anti-Terrorism Laws: Health Insurers and Employers Must Comply (PDF)
Excerpt: "This Alert briefly describes ... required screening for terrorists under an Executive Order issued shortly after the 9/11 attacks, which must be conducted by, among other entities, both health insurers and employers; USA PATRIOT Act requirements applicable to health insurers; HIPAA Privacy Rule implications ... and an overview of key elements for an anti-terrorism and PATRIOT Act compliance program." (Miller & Chevalier Chartered)

Some See Doom for Patients' Bill of Rights as Politics Stall Deal
Excerpt: "Since the Senate passed its patients' rights bill in June, followed by House passage of a competing version in August, negotiations between the Senate sponsors and President Bush have run 'hot and cold, mostly cold,' a Senate aide said." (The [Lakeland, Fla.] Ledger)

HIAA Research Optimistic on Group Long-Term Care Insurance Market
Excerpt: "In seven years, from 1993 through 1999, the number of policies sold doubled from 3.4 million to more than 6.8 million, with 3,200 employers contributing about 25% to the 750,000 sold in 1999 and averaging 35% annual growth. More than half the number of employers had 1 to 500 workers on staff, although there also have been substantial increases in the number of medium and large employers who offer LTCI." (BenefitNews.com)

The Two Faces of Managed Care
Excerpt: "Critics of managed care have long contended that certain payment methods could decrease the quality of patient care, but new research says that's not what's happening.... [W]hile doctors spent about a minute and a half less per visit on patients with 'capitated' reimbursement, these patients received more preventive care, such as pap smears and cholesterol screening." (HealthScout News via Yahoo! News)

Florida to HMOs: Pay Up for Making Payments Late to Doctors and Hospitals
Excerpt: "[I]n the first full-scale review of how Florida HMOs pay bills, the state's Department of Insurance has fined 16 of the state's 32 HMOs because they aren't forking over cash to doctors and hospitals fast enough." (The Orlando Business Journal via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

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

TIAA-CREF to Appeal to SEC Commissioners on Shareholder Approval of Broad-Based Stock Option Grants
Excerpt: "Current exchange rules allow companies to bypass shareholders, even if executives are included, as long as the option plans are broadly distributed through the employee base." (Dow Jones Business News via Yahoo! News)

Nasdaq May Alter Shareholder Approval Rules on Executives' Stock Options
Excerpt: "[A]n advisory committee to the Nasdaq Stock Market [on Friday April 12] recommended preliminary changes to its corporate governance rules, including requiring shareholder approval of any stock-option plans that include officers or directors." (Washington Post)

Commentary: the Stock Options Accounting Debate
Excerpt: "Leading Long Island and New York City companies have improved their reported profits by nearly $11 billion during the past three years by utilizing accounting regulations that allow them to ignore the cost of stock options.... The stakes in the dispute have grown with the stature of the combatants. Greenspan, who has been uncharacteristically persistent in his criticism, has squared off against President George W. Bush. It represents the first public dispute between the two." (Newsday)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Product Administrative Assistant-Part Time for Ryan, Beck & Co. LLC
in NJ
Benefits Administrator for Baker & Daniels (Law Firm)
in IN
401(k)/DC Plan Administrator for Suburban Philadelphia Pension Consulting Firm
in PA
Health & Welfare Associate Principal for Buck Consultants
in MO
Retirement Plans Specialist for Snap-on Incorporated
in WI

Newly Posted Webcasts (Post Yours!)
Assess Your Readiness for Medical Privacy Regulations on April 10, 2002
presented by Hewitt Associates

Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)
Domestic Partner Benefitsin MA on April 18, 2002
presented by WEB Worldwide Employee Benefits Network
Form 5500 workshopin MA on May 22, 2002
presented by WEB Worldwide Employee Benefits Network
Delaware Valley 401(k) Plan Symposiumin NJ on April 23, 2002
presented by Morgan Stanley and Scialabba & Morrison, P.C.
Delaware Valley 401(k) Plan Symposiumin PA on April 24, 2002
presented by Morgan Stanley and Scialabba & Morrison, P.C.
National Retirement Policy Panel Discussionin IL on May 1, 2002
presented by The Center for Tax Law and Employee Benefits at the John Marshall Law School

Newly Posted Press Releases
Lawson & Fields P.C. Merger With McCue & Lee P.C. (Lawson & Fields P.C.)
ERIC Calls on Senators to Oppose COBRA Subsidy Provision in Trade Bill (The ERISA Industry Committee)

Newly Posted Announcements of Promotions and New Personnel (Post Yours!)
Michael B. Kimball (Plan Administrators, Inc.)

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.