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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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May 21, 2002 - 6,398 subscribers
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HIPAA Privacy with a New Twist
48 pages. Presented to the ABA Section of Taxation's May 2002 meeting. Excerpt: "This paper summarizes the HIPAA privacy regulations as modified by the March 27, 2002 proposed modifications. It particularly looks at the responsibilities of a group health plan and its plan sponsor under the regulations." (Greta Cowart, Esq. of Haynes and Boone, LLP)

House Panel to Sample Opinion on Cafeteria Plan Benefits for Federal Employees; Union Opposed
Excerpt: "In a news release yesterday, [the American Federation of Government Employees] portrayed cafeteria plans as a possible backdoor way of reducing the government's contribution to the health benefits program for federal employees and retirees. AFGE also warned that employees could end up with smaller pensions because money diverted through such tax-favored plans would not count as basic pay in the annuity-calculation formula." (Washington Post)

People Ages 50-64 Living Longer But More Likely to Be Overweight, Have Chronic Health Problems
Excerpt: "Americans ages 50 and older 'generally can expect to live longer -- but not necessarily better' than they did 20 years ago, according to a report released May 21 by AARP." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Overview: Flexible Spending Accounts May Accept Documented Claims For Obesity Treatment
The IRS recently issued Revenue Ruling 2002-19 identifying obesity (as diagnosed by a physician) as a medical condition and explaining the conditions under which expenses for certain weight-loss programs may be qualifying medical expenses under Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code, to the extent not reimbursed by insurance or otherwise. Participants in medical flexible spending accounts may enjoy the greatest benefit of the IRS ruling. (Sanders, Schnabel & Brandenburg, P.C.)

State Law Imposing Continuation Coverage Notice Requirement on Employers Is Preempted by ERISA
Perry v. FTData, Inc. (D. Md. 2002). Excerpt: "This case is consistent with other cases and DOL Opinion Letters finding that state continuation coverage laws that impose obligations directly on the employer (as opposed to on the insurer) are preempted by ERISA." (EBIA Weekly)

Penalties Awarded to Both Participant and Child for Employer's Failure to Provide COBRA Notice
Torres-Negron v. Ramallo Bros. Printing, Inc. (D.P.R. 2002). Excerpt: "This case is not the first to hold that a qualified beneficiary's knowledge of her COBRA rights does not excuse a plan administrator's failure to provide a COBRA election notice. However, it is unusual for the relatively high daily penalty assessed [-- $45 per day].... This case is also notable for the fact that the court assessed a separate penalty for the failure to provide notice to the former employee's child." (EBIA Weekly)

Court Improperly Dismissed Claim For LTD Benefits That Was Filed Only Ten Days Late
A federal district court improperly dismissed a plaintiff's suit seeking long term disability benefits where the plaintiff filed her request for review of the initial denial of the benefits ten days late, due to her mental disability. This was the ruling of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Chapman v. ChoiceCare Long Island Long Term Disability Plan (No. 01-7282). (Spencernet)

Relocation Policies Change to Fit Changing Times
Excerpt: "In a wobbly economy, it's harder than ever to justify the expense of relocation. The average cost of a domestic move for a home-owning employee is $45,000 ... Some employees balk at relocations ... For some jobs, working via the Web, e-mail, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, and a beefed-up travel schedule have proved to be just as effective as working from a new location. Smart companies are changing their relocation practices to adjust ..." (Workforce.com)

Being Overweight Can Nix Your Chances for Individually-Owned Health Insurance
Excerpt: "[W]hat scares individual health insurers about issuing policies to their heavier applicants is that obesity causes or worsens more than 30 medical conditions, including breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, according to the American Obesity Association." (insure.com)

Issue Brief: a 10-Foot Rope for a 40-Foot Hole-- Tax Credits for the Uninsured (PDF)
40 pages; updated May, 2002. Excerpt: "To find out what such a tax credit would mean for the target population-- uninsured, low-income people-- Families USA gathered and analyzed information in 2001 about insurance plans offered in 25 states and the District of Columbia. This 2002 update is based on data gathered for 50 states and the District of Columbia." (Families USA)

Issue Brief: Private Health Insurance Would Provide Inadequate Drug Coverage for Seniors (PDF)
Excerpt: "As the following analysis demonstrates, relying on private insurance companies to deliver drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries-- rather than incorporating a drug benefit into the Medicare program-- virtually guarantees that coverage will be uneven in availability, cost, and value." (Families USA)

Welcome to new BenefitsLink advertiser DataPath, Inc.
Excerpt: "1-2-3 COBRA Administration System (DPI-COBRA) is a Windows-based COBRA administration system developed by DataPath, Inc. and integrates with other systems in Datapath's employee Benefit Software Suite. For more information, go to www.dpath.com or email sales@dpath.com."

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

Overview of IRS, DOL and DHHS Regulations Projects
Excerpt: "Recently, the DOL, DHHS and the Treasury Department published their semiannual regulatory agendas." (EBIA Weekly)

Expensing Stock Options
May 20, 2002 item on NPR's Morning Edition, with clips from Alan Greenspan. Excerpt: "Free and discounted stock options are a common incentive companies offer employees, but NPR's Elaine Korry reports that stockholders may be paying the price later on. (3:33)" (National Public Radio)

States Improve Employees' Pension, Military Leave Policies For 2002, According To Survey
Pensions and military leave policies were the primary targets of states' modifications to employee benefits in 2001, according to the latest State Employee Benefits Survey from Workplace Economics. For state employees retiring as of the beginning of 2002, ten states improved the formulas used to calculate monthly pension benefits, while Pennsylvania reduced the time required for full vesting in pension benefits from ten years to five years. (Spencernet)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Pension Administrator for Means & Associates, LLC
in CA
Manager, Compliance Calcs/401(k)'s, etc. for Associated Pension Consultants - Third Party Administrator
in CA
Director of Client Communications for Diversified Investment Advisors
in NY
Financial Benefits Analyst for Corning Incorporated
in NY
Benefits Analyst for SCANA Corporation
in SC
Actuary for USI Consulting Group, Inc. (USICG)
in CT, NY
Retirement Plans Regional Service Representative (Req 6193) for Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co.
in CO, NE, TX, WA
Pension Analyst for USI Consulting Group, Inc. (USICG)
in CT, NY

Newly Posted Webcasts (Post Yours!)
Defined Benefit SERP Design on May 23, 2002
presented by Clark/Bardes Consulting - Compensation Resource Group

Newly Posted Press Releases
Labor Department Proposes Amendment For Underwriter Exemptions (U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration)

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.