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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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May 14, 2002 - 6,379 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)

Blue Cross Plans Bulldozing Over the Competition in Small Employer Health Market
Excerpt: "But whether the near total domination of the nation's small-business market by BCBS is cause for celebration or alarm depends on who's spinning the story." (insure.com)

HMOs Losing 70% of Appeals on Denial of Mental Health Claims
Excerpt: "A striking pattern of insurers wrongfully denying mental health care has emerged in a new study showing that Texans who appeal HMO decisions usually win. More than half of all HMO denials for medical care were overturned when submitted for an independent review, but that spiked to 70 percent for mental health care, according to the Consumers Union report." (Houston Chronicle)

North Carolina Establishes Managed Care Office To Comply with State Patients' Rights Law
Excerpt: "North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley (D) on May 13 announced that the state has established a new Office of Managed Care Patient Assistance in the state Department of Justice as part of a patients' rights law enacted last October, the Raleigh News & Observer reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Wisconsin Health Plan Markets Evidence-based Treatment Software to Employers
Excerpt: "A Wisconsin health plan is touting a 'new approach' to controlling health care costs that relies heavily on a software system that provides physicians with medical advice drawn from evidence-based treatment guidelines. Preferred provider organization HealthEOS is marketing the CareEngine software system as an option to employers, who can choose to have the system issue patient care recommendations to employees' physicians." (iHealthBeat.com; free registration required)

Increasing Numbers of Fathers Take Time Off after Birth of Baby
Excerpt: "A small but growing number of fathers are taking time off from work after the birth of a child." (The Bakersfield Californian via Society for Human Resource Management)

Parents See New Appeal in 529 Plans Funded by Payroll Withholding
Excerpt: "In response to growing demand for state-sponsored college savings plans, also known as '529' plans, large employers across [North Carolina] are offering a new benefit: automatic payroll deduction." (The [Raleigh, N.C.] News and Observer via International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

Employers Expanding Voluntary Legal Benefits
Excerpt: "Despite the recession and its related cost pressures, voluntary benefit sponsorship remains strong, as witnessed partly by employers' interests in group legal plans. Indeed, tough economic times often compel employers to maintain or increase voluntary offerings ..." (Employee Benefit News via CareerJournal.com)

HIPAA Question: Can Former Employee, Who is on COBRA, Enroll Dependents In Middle of Plan Year?
Excerpt: "Two laws apply in the situation you describe: HIPAA and COBRA. HIPAA requires a group health plan to give two special enrollment opportunities to certain employees, dependents, and COBRA qualified beneficiaries. Special enrollments are available as a result of (1) a mid-year loss of other group health coverage; and (2) the acquisition of a new spouse or dependent by marriage, adoption, placement for adoption, or birth." (EBIA Weekly (Question of the Week))

HIPAA Privacy Manual and Forms (PDF)
126 pages; Excerpt: "This HIPAA Privacy Manual addresses the confidentiality and security of health care information as embodied in the privacy regulations published in December 2000. Since that time, 'HIPAA' and 'privacy' have been inextricably linked in the consciousness of the American public. To understand how they are linked, however, requires some appreciation of HIPAA's history.' More recent developments are described at http://www.dwt.com/practc/hc_ecom/bulletins/04-02_DHHSProp.htm (Davis Wright Tremaine LLP)

Bare-Bones Health Plans: Are They Worth the Money? (PDF)
4 pages. Excerpt: "Both public and private sector policymakers are interested in making less-costly health insurance available by offering a bare-bones benefit package. This analysis develops several alternative insurance policies that would cost 30 percent less than a current basic benefit plan and examines the implications of these policies for purchasers." (The Commonwealth Fund)

Increasing Number of Doctors Leaving Managed Care, Moving Toward Cash-Only Practices
Excerpt: "The Chicago Tribune on May 11 reported on the increasing number of physicians nationwide who have dropped their contracts with managed care plans and are asking their patients to pay for services in cash." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Are Tax Credits Alone the Solution to Affordable Health Insurance? (PDF)
28 pages. Subtitled 'Comparing Individual and Group Insurance Costs In 17 U.S. Markets.' Excerpt: "Employer group insurance offered coverage that was substantially less expensive than that in the individual market for all but young, healthy males." (The Commonwealth Fund)

Rising Health Care Costs Might Spark Resurgence of HMOs Among Consumers
Press release. Excerpt: "Cost considerations-- not whether people are healthy or sick-- play a major role in privately insured people's decision to enroll in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) when they have a choice of health plans, according to a study by Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) researchers published in the May/June edition of the journal Health Affairs." (Center for Studying Health System Change)

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

Issue Brief: Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) and Incentive Stock Option (ISO) Withholding
Excerpt: "Most publicly traded high technology companies make liberal use of ESPPs and ISOs because they are important tools for companies to encourage employee ownership. However, additional tax liabilities and administrative costs will discourage employers from offering these programs. Imposing payroll taxes on otherwise nontaxable transactions will confuse employees and weaken incentives for them to participate." (AeA (high tech trade association))

Microsoft Fighting Employment Taxes On Stock Options
Excerpt: "The companies are protesting regulations the IRS issued last fall that would force them to collect Social Security and Medicare taxes from stock-option incentives and employee stock-purchase plans starting next year." (The Seattle Times)

Tech Execs Fight Against Proposed Employment Taxes on Stock Options
Excerpt: "The IRS plans to impose payroll taxes on incentive stock options and employee stock purchase plans (ESPP) beginning Jan. 1, 2003. The taxes already apply to some stock plans, but this rule would extend the taxes to ESPPs and other currently exempt plans that are widely used in the computer industry to recruit and reward staff." (CNET News.com via Yahoo! News)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Pension Administrator/Accountant for First Mercantile Trust Company
in NC, TN
Director of Retirement Planning for The MONY Group
in NY
Pension Plan Administrators for Ingham Group
in FL
Analyst/Consultant for ESOP Economics, Inc.
in PA
401(k) Administrator for Qualified Retirement Plan Services, Inc.
in NC
401(k) Plan Administrator for PFPC
in MN
Compliance Analyst for PFPC
in MN
Project Manager/Business Analyst for Linea Solutions, Inc.
in CA
Senior Project Manager--Contract for Linea Solutions, Inc.
in CA
RFP Consultant for CIGNA Retirement and Investment Services
in CT

Newly Posted Webcasts (Post Yours!)
Preparing for the Reality of Pan-European Pensions on May 8, 2002
presented by Hewitt Associates

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.