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The BenefitsLink Newsletter -
Welfare Plans Edition
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August 12, 2002 - 6,490 subscribers
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Analysis: HHS Releases Final Amendments to HIPAA Privacy Rule
Excerpt: "[T]he most important change ... is the elimination of the need for a written patient consent to allow providers to use protected health information (PHI) for treatment, payment and health care operations. This consent was purely symbolic, because HIPAA would have prevented anyone who refused to give it from obtaining treatment. The requirement would also have resulted in a great deal of regulatory complexity, and threatened to impede access to health care." (Davis Wright Tremaine LLP)

Fact Sheet (Prepared by HHS): Final HIPAA Privacy Regulations
Excerpt: "[HHS] on August 14th will publish final modifications to the Privacy Rule to ensure that the Rule provides strong privacy protection without hindering access to quality health care. President Bush and Secretary Thompson are committed to maintaining protections for the privacy of individually identifiable health information. Based on the comments received on the notice of proposed rulemaking, the Department modified a number of provisions of the Privacy Rule." (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

HHS Issues Final Privacy Regulations (Press Release)
Press release. Excerpt: "Most covered entities have until April 14, 2003, to comply with the patient privacy rule; under the law, certain small health plans have until April 14, 2004 to comply." (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Pre-Publication Version of Final HIPAA Privacy Regulations (PDF)
420 pages; 1.1M file size. Created from a Microsoft Word version of the document, published online by the Office for Civil Rights (an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services) at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/finalreg.html (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Washington Post Coverage: HHS Issues Privacy Rules For Use of Health Records
Excerpt: "When they take effect ... the rules will require a host of new protections, including guaranteeing that people may inspect their medical records and correct mistakes, find out who else has looked at them, and seek penalties against anyone who misuses the information. The final regulations, however, omit a requirement that patients' written permission must be obtained before their personal health information can be handled by doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and insurance plans...." (Washington Post)

NY Times Coverage: Bush Rolls Back Rules on Medical Privacy
Excerpt: "The Bush administration today formally rolled back some major protections for the privacy of medical records adopted by President Bill Clinton. But at the same time, it also set new standards for the use of personal information to market prescription drugs and other health care products." (New York Times; free registration required)

American Association of Health Plans Generally Satisfied with Final HIPAA Regulations
Excerpt: "First, we will continue to work with the Administration to address current confusion and inconsistency between the federal rule and the individual laws of 50 states. Second, in light of the April 14, 2003 deadline for implementing this rule, we urge the Administration to work with health plans and providers on a transition schedule ..." (American Association of Health Plans)

Report: Dual Code Sets Are Acceptable for Reporting Medical Procedures
36 pages. Excerpt: "The merit of replacing dual procedural code sets-- those that are used for reporting inpatient hospital procedures, physician services, and other medical services including hospital outpatient procedures-- with a single procedural code set is uncertain in light of practical considerations." (U.S. General Accounting Office)

How To Correct FSA Reimbursements Mistakenly Made Earlier This Year?
Excerpt: "We administer two flexible spending accounts (FSAs) under a calendar-year cafeteria plan--a health FSA and a DCAP. In an expense audit performed in July, we learned that we mistakenly reimbursed two expenses that should not have been paid ... How should we correct these errors?" (EBIA Weekly (Question of the Week))

Employer Not Liable for Failing to Advise Employee of Benefits Ramifications of Switch to Part-Time
Watson v. Deaconess Waltham Hospital (No. 01-2133, 1st Cir. 2002). Excerpt: "When ERISA itself has specified a duty and a corresponding remedy, we will impose a further duty on fiduciaries only in very narrow circumstances." (U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, via FindLaw.com)

Amicus Brief of Employers Association Arguing Exclusion of Contraceptives Does Not Violate PDA (PDF)
38 pages; filed February 4, 2002 in Erickson v. The Bartell Drug Co. (No. 01-35870, 9th Cir. 2002). Excerpt: "Statement of the Issue: Whether the exclusion of prescription contraceptives from Defendant-Appellant's employee prescription drug benefit plan constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ... as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ..." (Equal Employment Advisory Council)

Tax Breaks Pump Up College Savings Plans
Excerpt: "Investment managers have begun to compete both to manage the money and to sell the accounts. They include industry giants like TIAA-CREF, the teacher pension-fund management organization, which manages New York's plan." (New York Times; free registration required)

Drug Prices Likely to Rise With More Regulatory Oversight of Clinical Research Programs
Excerpt: "[T]he Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has stepped up its monitoring and oversight of clinical research programs to ensure compliance with research and fiscal requirements.... It is likely that proposed [federal] legislation will seek to apply the 'Common Rule,' a federal policy for protection of human subjects that governs all federally sponsored research, to privately funded research as well." (Medscape; free registration required)

Latest Findings on Employer-Based Coverage of Contraception
Excerpt: "This memorandum provides background on the issue of contraceptive coverage and presents new findings from the soon to be released Kaiser/HRET 2002 Annual Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Decade After Health Care Crisis, Soaring Costs Bring New Strains
Excerpt: "It is not just a problem of rising costs. The troubled economy is expected to cause a rise in the number of Americans without insurance ... Politicians in both parties are beginning to respond, but they are profoundly divided on the issue ... Employers are beginning to pass on those higher costs to their workers, in the form of higher copayments and deductibles." (New York Times; free registration required)

Reimporting Rx Drugs From Canada-- Would It Work?
Excerpt: "John E. Calfee, a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and Elizabeth A. Wennar, M.P.H., D.H.A., President and C.E.O. of United Health Alliance in Bennington, Vermont, debate the issue." (Point-Counterpoint Column published by the BlueCross BlueShield Association)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General
(These items appear in both editions of the BenefitsLink Newsletter)

Stock Options to Executives Do Not Raise Corporate Performance, Study Finds
Excerpt: "[I]sn't the economic rationale for awarding managers stock to align their interests with those of shareholders as solid as it has always been? No-- and it was never really as solid as it seemed, says a new paper that will be presented [August 12, 2002] at an academic conference in Denver." (New York Times; free registration required)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad
Retirement Service Specialists for Constantin Control Associates
in NJ, NY
401(k) Administrators for Geller & Wind, Ltd.
in NY
Pension / Benefits Specialist for RBG & CO.
in MO
Pension Account Manager for CNA TRUST
in CA
Defined Contribution Plan Administrator for Northeast Planning Services, Inc.
in MA
ERISA Attorney/Pension Consultant for Mellon HR Solutions
in NJ
401(k) Plan Administrator for Caribbean Pension Consultants, Inc.
in FL

Newly Posted Press Releases
Benefit Consultants Profit from Web-Based Employee Benefits Portal (Benefit Software Inc.)

Subscribe to the Retirement Plans Edition, too (click)

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Editor and Publisher: David Rhett Baker, J.D.