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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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April 29, 2002 - 6,429 subscribers
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Government Agencies Launch New Health Care Quality Information Web Site
Excerpt: "The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and the U. S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) today jointly announced the official launch of a new government Web site designed to help benefit managers, consumer advocates, and state officials communicate with their audiences about health care quality." (Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)

Debate Over Mental Health Parity Legislation Likely To Center on Breadth of Covered Conditions
Excerpt: "While President Bush is expected on April 29 to announce his support for mental health parity legislation, it is unclear whether he will endorse equal coverage for all behavioral disorders or only the most serious illnesses, the Washington Post reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Senate Begins Major Trade Debate; Health Coverage for Trade-Displaced Workers at Issue
Excerpt: " Democrats want to expand the existing assistance program to include a 75 percent subsidy for the federal health insurance plan called COBRA. Republicans object to creating what they say is a new government entitlement program costing more than $8 billion over the next decade." (AP via Yahoo! News)

American Benefits Council Comments on Proposed HIPAA Privacy Regulations (PDF)
8 pages. Excerpt: "We did want to raise one point about the new consent arrangements that would affect on-site medical clinics, nursing services and other limited health services provided by employers. We do not believe that the Department intends these services generally to be 'health care providers' subject to the consent requirements and the other rules." (American Benefits Council)

Analysis: HIPAA Privacy Standards and Employer-Sponsored Health Plans
April 2002. Excerpt: "[This 17-page summary is] intended to help employers who sponsor health benefit plans understand and comply with the HIPAA privacy regulations." (Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP)

Analysis: Weight-Loss Expenses Reimbursable under Health FSAs (PDF)
Excerpt: "Because a health FSA is permitted to be more restrictive in the medical care expenses that are reimbursable than the full range allowed by the tax code, plan sponsors must first determine whether to cover weight-loss expenses.... If a decision is made to reimburse participants for costs associated with weight-loss programs, policies and procedures to administer reimbursement of these expenses must be developed to ensure that only appropriate expenses are reimbursed." (Milliman USA)

Patients Look To Federal Courts For Green Light To Sue HMOs
Excerpt: "The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel is set to hear oral arguments May 6 in three Texas cases involving patients who want to sue their health plans for harm they say they sustained when company officials made medical decisions.... At the heart of each case being argued before the 5th Circuit is the question of whether an HMO's medical necessity decision falls outside of the federal ERISA scope." (American Medical News)

Tennessee Medical Association Lawsuit Alleges Four Managed Care Orgs Hurt Patient Care
Excerpt: "The Tennessee Medical Association, which represents 6,600 physicians in the state, filed a lawsuit on April 25 against the state's four largest health plans for alleged 'unfair and deceptive business practices that harm physicians' and patients, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Military Pension Proposal for Disabled Retirees Angers Some
Excerpt: "Under current law, disabled veterans must give up part of their retirement pay to receive disability compensation. Disabled retirees have tried for years to overturn the century-old law and win 'concurrent receipt' of retirement pay and disability pay." (The [Hampton Roads, Va.] Daily Press)

'Dead Peasant' Policies Pay Out To Bosses When Employees Die
Excerpt: "Many companies have bought corporate-owned life insurance, which is also known as 'dead peasant' or 'dead janitor' insurance. The nicknames reflect the fact that these policies are on low-ranking employees, rather than the top-ranking executives whose death could be a financial blow to the company. Oregon is one of many states that allow 'dead peasant' coverage." (San Francisco Chronicle)

Sicker Enrollees In For-Profit HMOs, Says New England Journal of Medicine
Sick people enrolled in for-profit health maintenance organizations (HMOs) were less satisfied with their care, and rated their interactions with physicians lower than similar people in nonprofit HMOs, reported a study conducted by Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), a nonpartisan policy research organization funded exclusively by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In addition, enrollees in for profit plans reported higher out-of-pocket costs. (Spencernet)

25% of Small Businesses Say Rising Health Premiums 'Threaten' Their Viability, Study Says
Excerpt: "Nearly 25% of small business owners in Michigan say 'feverish' health premiums 'threaten' their ability to stay in business, according to a study released on April 28 by the Small Business Association of Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

The Coming Revolution in Health Care
May 6, 2002. Articles include Health Care Choice at a Price; Giving Power to the Patient; Need Help with the Health-Care Maze?; Q&A: The Next Stage of Managed Care; Soon We'll All Be Paying More for Drugs. (Business Week)

New Model for Health Plans Gaining Ground
Excerpt: "Choice and flexibility are making a comeback under the umbrella of defined contribution health plans. It's a term that means different things to different people. In its purest sense, defined contribution refers to a voucher that employees use to buy health care on the open market." (Charlotte Business Journal via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Healthcare's Bold New Frontier: Consumerism
Excerpt: "As health care costs rise again, industry officials are looking to a new concept to help control costs: consumerism. The idea is that patients take personal responsibility for their health care and begin to pay more of the actual cost of services." (New Mexico Business Weekly via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Leapfrog Group Expands Patient Safety Campaign To 12 New Regions
Excerpt: "The Leapfrog Group, a consortium of Fortune 500 companies and other large health care purchasers, asks employers to base their health care purchasing decisions on hospitals' adoption of three patient safety standards ..." (iHealthBeat.com; free registration required)

Kennedy to Revive Fight for Wider Health Care Coverage
Excerpt: "Seeking to put health care reform 'back on the table' a decade after President Clinton's effort flopped, Senator Edward M. Kennedy plans to launch initiatives aimed at cutting medical costs and guaranteeing insurance coverage for millions of Americans." (Boston Globe)

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

Application of Employment Taxes to Stock Options in 2003 Could Reduce Use of Options
Excerpt: "[C]ritics say new taxes will discourage employees and companies from participating in what are some of the most widely used benefits to both attract and retain workers, particularly in the hard-hit technology industry." (CNET News.com via Yahoo! News)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Director of Client Services for ArlenGroup
in CA
REGIONAL ENROLLMENT MANAGER for Diversified Investment Advisors
in FL, GA
Pensions/401(k) ERISA Compliance Specialist for Pensioncareers Ltd.
in NJ, NY
Provider Network Account Manager for Corporate Benefit Services of America, Inc. - National TPA
in MN
Associate Attorney for Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey, P.L.C.
in MI
Retirement Plan / Employee Benefits Consultant for MK Consulting, Inc.
Trust Participant Record Keeping Officer for First Virginia Bank
in VA

Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)
401(k) Retirement Plans: Current Issuesin MA on June 11, 2002
presented by Greater Boston Chapter, International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists
Fundamentals of Health and Welfare Plansin MA on September 10, 2002
presented by Greater Boston Chapter of the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists

Newly Posted Press Releases
Newkirk and Communi(k) join forces (Newkirk)

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.