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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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April 30, 2002 - 6,429 subscribers
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Bush Says He Backs Parity for Mental Health Expense Coverage
Excerpt: "The White House failed before today's event to reach agreement with congressional lawmakers on a bill requiring employers to provide equivalent health insurance coverage for mental and other illnesses, but officials said talks continue and an agreement is expected in coming weeks." (Washington Post)

White House Fact Sheet on Mental Health Parity Mandate (PDF)
1 page, April 29, 2002. Excerpt: "The President announced that he will work to pass federal mental health parity legislation to eliminate disparities in the coverage of mental health benefits." (Reprinted online by the American Benefits Council)

Supreme Court Upholds Seniority Against Disability Rights in ADA Case
Excerpt: "The Supreme Court ruled [on Monday April 29, 2002] in an important disability rights case that an employer is not ordinarily required to distort a valid seniority system in order to accommodate the need of a disabled worker for a transfer to another job." (New York Times; free registration required)

NPR's 'Morning Edition' Examines Debate Over Health Benefits for Trade-Displaced Workers
Excerpt: "As the Senate prepares to debate a bill authorizing presidential trade negotiating authority, NPR's 'Morning Edition' reports on the debate over providing health benefits for American workers displaced by international trade." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Position Paper: Individual Tax Credits Do Not Work to Increase Healthcare Coverage of Uninsured (PDF)
Excerpt: "If not rejected, sicker people face coverage exclusions or higher premiums.... People who get sick face prohibitive premium increases.... Individual tax credits will undermine the employer-sponsored insurance market, where the vast majority of insured Americans obtain their health coverage." (Families USA)

Insurer Liable for $100 Per Day Statutory Penalties for Failure to Provide Participant's Claim File
DeLeon v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. Long Term Disability Plan (D. Ore. 2002). Excerpt: "Most penalty claims arise from a failure to provide the specifically-enumerated documents in ERISA Section 104(b)(4) (plan documents, SPDs, etc.). We certainly agree that documents must be provided as part of a plan's claims process, but we think that it is a stretch to find the per day penalties applicable to this kind of failure to provide documents." (EBIA Weekly)

ERISA Subrogation-Reimbursement Claim Where Plan Intervenes in Underlying Tort Action
Yerby v. United Healthcare Ins. Co. (Miss. Sup. Ct. 2002). Excerpt: "In this opinion ... the court affirms the lower court's allowance of the subrogation claim because the subrogation company had intervened in the state court case instead of bringing its own separate action to enforce its claim.... The dissent in this case is correct, we believe, in pointing out that the Knudson opinion limits a plan to obtaining equitable relief when pursuing a subrogation-reimbursement claim." (EBIA Weekly)

Some Employers Cutting Back on Fringe Benefits
Excerpt: "Continued economic uncertainty has more employers trimming employee perks and benefits. The belt-tightening is affecting such coveted extras as health benefits, paid maternity leave, tuition reimbursement and employee 401(k) matches." (USA Today via Society for Human Resource Management)

Congressmen Ask For Delay of Claims Regs
Rep. John A. Boehner (Ohio) chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and Sam Johnson (Texas), the chairman of the committee's Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations have asked the Secretary of the Department of Labor to delay the effective date of pending claims regulations for group health plans and to provide additional opportunities for comment before issuing a revised rule. (Spencernet)

Long Term Care Insurance Becoming Available to 20 Million Federal Employees
Excerpt: "There's talk that the feds' foray into the long-term-care-insurance arena may lower prices on private policies, but we don't believe that rates on high-quality policies issued by strong companies will drop significantly.... Insurers who have a good grip on underwriting and pricing their policies won't rush to offer lower-priced 'copycat' policies similar to the government's." (Kiplinger's Retirement Report via the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

GAO Report: Number and Market Share of Carriers in the Small Group Health Insurance Market
4 pages. Excerpt: "The enclosure summarizes by state the number of licensed carriers, the largest carrier and its market share, and the market share of the five largest carriers in the small group market." (U.S. General Accounting Office)

CalPERS To Develop Database To Determine Quality of Healthcare Providers
Excerpt: "Facing 25% average increases in its health insurance premiums for next year, the California Public Employees' Retirement System 'wants proof' that the higher costs will lead to better care for its 1.3 million members, the Sacramento Bee reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Survey: Health Insurance Costs Hurting Small Businesses in Michigan
Excerpt: "Blue Cross & Blue Shield, which controls 71 percent of the health insurance market for groups of 100 or fewer workers, is not now allowed to apply age, gender or health status to a group for rating purposes.... Competitors take advantage of those constraints by offering lower rates to healthy groups and higher rates to higher-risk groups. That leaves BCBSM as a repository for the sickest consumers." (Detroit Free Press)

Physicians and Insurers Battle Over Prompt Pay in Georgia
Excerpt: "[Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine] has the authority to fine only a small percentage of the state's health plans. The law exempts the plans of companies that self-insure -- typically very large employers.... Health-plan officials argue that regulation and penalties are not the answer." (Atlanta Business Chronicle via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Opinion: Doctors and Allied Industries Are the Arthur Andersens of Healthcare
Excerpt: "Hence Part I of the Enron parallel: Professional conflicts of interest.... Doctors are supposed to advise patients on which drugs they need, but drug firms corrupt their judgment with assorted blandishments.... Hospital companies have been on a merger binge ... Anyone who messes with the doctor-industrial complex risks [being sued] ... State governments have tried to impose a list of cost-effective medicines for use by Medicaid, but the pharmaceutical lobby is now suing them." (Sebastian Mallaby in the Washington Post)

Doctors Who Have Studied Managed Care Less Likely To Enroll In HMO Themselves, Study Says
Excerpt: "Doctors who are experts in the study of managed care are half as likely as nonphysician managed care experts and academicians in other fields to enroll in an HMO, according to a study published in the current issue of the journal Medical Care." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Defined Contribution Health Plans: Legal Issues
Excerpt: "One of the major issues that will affect whether DC health plans are a viable alternative for employers is the tax treatment of these arrangements.... The three tax options are: ... Health Flexible Spending Arrangement ('FSA') ... Archer Medical Savings Account ('MSA') ... [and] Self-Insured Section 105 Medical Reimbursement Plan." (Groom Law Group)

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


DOL Updates List of EFAST-Approved Form 5500 Software Vendors
Excerpt: "The following vendors have successfully completed software certification for the EFAST 2001 Forms Print control (i.e., to generate machine print forms with the 1D and/or 2D Bar Code) and/or certification for transmitting Form 5500 Series Reports via magnetic media and modem-to-modem." (U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration)

Ex-Andersen Partners Sue To Block Mergers
Excerpt: "The former partners are worried that the plans of Andersen partners in the United States and elsewhere to defect to rival firms will decimate the pool of money available to pay pension and other benefits to those who have retired from Andersen." (Chicago Tribune via The [San Jose] Mercury News)

Labor Department Announces Plan to Correct Non-Standard Form 5500 Returns/Reports
Excerpt: "According to a DOL representative we talked to, the most common mistakes were: (1) using a pre-1999 Form 5500 and simply crossing off the old date; (2) copying the information copy of the Form 5500 from the EFAST website even though it is printed with the legend 'DO NOT USE FOR FILING'; and (3) using non-approved software to generate the form." (EBIA Weekly)

Retired Andersen Partners Sue, Cite Concerns Over Firm's Ability to Continue Payment of Benefits
Excerpt: "As sellers, [the actively employed] partners must set divestiture terms fairly and fund pensions properly to meet their fiduciary obligations to the retired partners and spouses of deceased partners who depend on the payment and security of retirement plan benefits under ERISA laws and contracts." (Business Wire via Yahoo! Finance)

New FASB Chief to Jump Into the Fray
Excerpt: "New FASB chief Bob Herz will walk right into a hornet's nest of controversy when he takes over for outgoing chairman Edmund Jenkins on July 1 ... [but whether] companies should treat all stock options as an expense is one area where he's happy to let the IASB take the lead. The IASB plans to issue an exposure draft on the subject by the end of this year, and is likely to issue a formal standard next year." (CFO.com)




Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
401(k) Compliance Administrator for Pension Specialists, Inc.
in CA
Benefits Specialist - Retirement Plans for Georgetown University Hospital
in DC
Health Management Consultant - AF-020222-004 for Hewitt Associates LLC
in VA
ERISA/Employee Benefits Attorney for Parsinen Kaplan Rosberg & Gotlieb P.A.
in MN
Actuary, Pension for Stephen H. Rosen & Associates, Inc.
in NJ



Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)
Section 529 Plans - SAVING FOR COLLEGEin NJ on May 14, 2002
presented by WEB NJ Chapter



Newly Posted Press Releases (Post Yours!)
NuView Systems, Inc. Enhances Employee Optimization with "MyHRIS Metrics" (NuView Systems, Inc.)

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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.