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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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May 6, 2002 - 6,424 subscribers
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Hewlett-Packard Retirees Succeed in Suit for Benefits Under Product Rebate Program for Retirees
Excerpt: "Plaintiff Mark Leonard, a 23-year H-P employee, sued the giant computer maker in California Superior Court after H-P withdrew the program from retirees it classified as former Agilent Technologies workers. The program allowed H-P personnel to get back part of the purchase price for H-P products." (PLANSPONSOR.com; free registration required)

Costs of Childhood Obesity on the Rise in U.S.
Excerpt: "[T]he cost in 2001 dollars of providing hospital-based healthcare for obesity-related childhood diseases rose from $35 million to $127 million annually during the [past 20 years]." (Medscape; free registration required)

Small Businesses Face Greater Cost-sharing and Increasing Complexity in Health Insurance
Excerpt: "Rising health care costs put pressure on health plans to develop, and purchasers to buy, health coverage with less comprehensive benefits and more cost-sharing at the point of service.... This analysis presents examples of new benefits introduced to small businesses and individual purchasers between Summer 2001 and Spring 2002. It describes the complexity of some new cost-sharing arrangements and explores their implications for consumers." (California HealthCare Foundation)

Atlanta Area Physicians Working With Insurers to Get More Reimbursement for Preventative Care
Excerpt: "For some doctors, making more money may become as simple as prescribing aspirin. Or generic drugs. Or encouraging mammograms. Those methods are the fiber of an emerging agreement between a local group of physicians and one of the state's largest health insurers to slow escalating medical costs." (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Hospital Choice Grows Costlier in California
Excerpt: "Taking aim at escalating hospital bills, California's biggest insurers are pushing new health plans that make it significantly more expensive for consumers to use hospitals that insurers consider too pricey." (Los Angeles Times)

Duke Endowment Funds Effort to Lower Cost of Health Insurance for Small Businesses in Charlotte
Excerpt: "Charlotte's nonprofit Metrolina Health Initiative has formed an insurance carrier focus group. For the first time, representatives from major health insurance companies will work jointly to find creative ways to make coverage more affordable for the small businesses that comprise about half of the Charlotte region's job market ..." (Charlotte Business Journal via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Commentary: We Need a Prescription for Weighing Drug Costs
Excerpt: "[N]o one has volunteered to make the tough calls on the costs and benefits of medicine. By default, the job has fallen back to the HMOs. Maybe that's good. Maybe it's bad. But one thing is for sure ... Someone has to make the decisions." (Boston Globe)

Commentary: Drug Industry Spends Huge Sums Guarding Prices
Excerpt: "As consumers press lawmakers to reduce prescription drug costs and make medications affordable for more people, drugmakers are fighting many such efforts every inch of the way." (AARP)

Prescription Drug Benefit, Drug Patent Reform Bills Not Likely to Become Law, CQ's Goldreich Says
Excerpt: "By proposing competing Medicare prescription drug benefit plans last week, Democrats and Republicans are 'staking out ground' to continue debate on the issue through the November elections, Congressional Quarterly senior reporter Samuel Goldreich says in this week's 'Congressional Quarterly Audio Report.'" (KaiserNetwork.org)

Genetics and Privacy: a Patchwork of Protections
Excerpt: "This report ... discusses how genetic information is vulnerable to inappropriate use and disclosure. And it examines the role of Internet health in genetics privacy and the gaps in national policy that leave genetic information exposed to potential misuse.... Genetic-related advances in medicine will not occur if individuals are afraid to provide their genetic information to scientists for research purposes." (California HealthCare Foundation)

Opinion: BlueCross BlueShield Cautions House Panel on Dangers of AHPs
Excerpt: "[A]n [association health plan] exemption [from state insurance law regulations] would not increase accessibility or affordability of health insurance coverage for small firms." (BlueCross BlueShield Association)

ADA Does Not Require Job Assignment That Conflicts With Seniority System: Supreme Court
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require an employer to assign a disabled employee to a particular position when that assignment would conflict with the employer's established seniority system. The ruling came in US Airways, Inc. v. Barnett (Docket No. 00-1250). (Spencernet)

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

What Are SARs and What Happens If We Don't Provide Them to Employees?
Excerpt: "I have heard that ERISA plans are supposed to provide summary annual reports to employees. What is a summary annual report and what is the consequence of not providing them?" (EBIA Weekly (Question of the Week))

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Document and Compliance Specialist for Louis Kravitz & Associates, Inc.
in CA
Pension Administrator for Associated Pension Consultants, Inc.
in CA
Legal Analyst for First Trust Corporation
in CO
Financial Analyst for Aon Consulting - Executive Benefits
in GA
Bundled Retirement Products Alliance Manager for Bank of America
in IL
Customer Service Representative, Employee Benefits for Twentieth Century Fox
in CA
Human Resources Specialist for Harrah's - Shreveport
in LA
Benefits Analyst for BLB Consulting Inc. (Search firm)
in NY
Assistant General Counsel for Fortune 500 Staffing Firm
in TX

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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.