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September 30, 2002 - 7,276 subscribers
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IRS Announces Archer Medical Savings Accounts Are Still Available After 2002
Excerpt: "2002 is not a 'cut-off' year for the Archer MSA pilot project by reason of either the 2001 MSA returns test of section 220(j)(2)(A) or the alternative test of section 220(j)(2)(B) of the Code." (Internal Revenue Service)

Independent Medical Review Experiences in California
Target page includes link to 49-page PDF document. Excerpt: "The primary goals of the study were to determine how the mandated external review process affected consumers and plans in California, and to offer recommendations for consumers, physicians, health plans, and regulators as to how the process might be improved." (California HealthCare Foundation)

Buying Your Pills Online May Save You Money, But Who's Selling Them?
Excerpt: "Some studies have found that Internet shoppers can save 25 percent on the cost of prescription drugs, but the California State Board of Pharmacy, in a recent online shopping trip, found that some drugs cost up to five times as much on the Internet as they did at the local pharmacy." (New York Times; free registration required)

COBRA Administrator's Software Misreads Payment Check, Cancels Coverage Due to 2 Cent Shortfall
Excerpt: "A Kirkland woman was shocked when her health insurance was canceled. She was even more stunned when she learned it was all because of a two-cent mistake.... The U.S. Labor Department says even if she had made a mistake, her coverage should not have been dropped. The department recommends companies that administer Cobra coverage give clients a $50.00 grace area." (KOMO Channel 4 in Seattle)

COBRA Required for Divorced Spouse If Plan Gets Notice More Than 60 Days After the Divorce?
Excerpt: "[T]he COBRA statute clearly states that each covered employee or qualified beneficiary 'is responsible for notifying' the plan administrator within 60 days after the date of a divorce of a covered employee from his or her spouse.... Nevertheless, there are several reasons to be cautious in applying this rule to deny COBRA coverage to a divorced spouse." (EBIA Weekly (Question of the Week))

Analysis: In Miami Federal Case, Doctors Allowed To Fight En Masse For Fees
Excerpt: "The decision by Judge Moreno [on Sept. 26, 2002] does not decide the merits of the case--that is whether HMOs have systemically taken money owed to the providers by a variety of nefarious tactics--but it does allow the doctors to sue en masse, making the claims far more threatening to big health insurers ... This case and others like it figure mightily in the ongoing fight to rein in costs in an industry that now accounts for a whopping 16% of the U.S. gross domestic product." (Forbes.com)

IRS Updates Rules for Per Diem Allowances for Employees' Lodging and Meals While Traveling (PDF)
18 pages; Revenue Procedure 2002-63. Excerpt: "Use of a method described in this revenue procedure is not mandatory, and a taxpayer may use actual allowable expenses if the taxpayer maintains adequate records or other sufficient evidence for proper substantiation." (Internal Revenue Service)

Want to Study Accounting or Medieval History? Chances Are, Your Employer Will Foot the Bill
Excerpt: "[Peter Cappelli, director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources] has found [that] virtually all employers offer [employer-paid tuition programs] to some degree. Second, employees do not pay for this benefit in the form of lower wages. In fact, employers actually pay higher wages when they also have this benefit ... In addition, employers who offer this benefit are able to hire more qualified workers." (The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania)

Why Do Employers Pay For College?
Working paper, available for $5 from SSRN.com. Excerpt: "Employers routinely provide financial support for their employees who pursue post-secondary education ... The analysis below examines why employers provide such support ... [T]uition assistance appears to select better quality employees who stay on the job longer, at least in part to keep making use of that benefit." (National Bureau of Economic Research)

Microsoft Tackles Obesity with Wellness Program
Excerpt: "Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions across the nation, racking up some $117 billion in related costs in 2000, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. What's more, it is estimated that companies lose 39 million workdays per year to factors relating to the disease.... Microsoft's target audience for the wellness program consists of employees that are 40 to 50 pounds overweight." (BenefitNews.com)

In California, More Patients Winning on Appeal of HMO Claim Denials
Excerpt: "Consumers once faced a lonely struggle-- and lousy odds-- when they challenged a health insurer's decisions. But that is changing as new methods of appeal give people a fighting chance in disputes with their health plans." (Los Angeles Times; free registration required)

What Information Must Go Into Group Health Plan's SPD?
Excerpt: "[U]nder DOL Reg. Sec. 2520.102-3(j)(3), the SPD for a group health plan is required to contain a description of the following laundry list of specific items relating to benefits ... [S]ubject to one exception, the regulations specifically allow detailed schedules of benefits to be described generally in the SPD, if the SPD refers to the schedules of benefits and explains that they are available without charge to any participant or beneficiary who requests them." (EBIA Weekly (Question of the Week))

BlueCross BlueShield Association Explains Need for Regulation of Direct-To-Consumer Drug Ads (PDF)
Excerpt: "The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) strongly supports the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) continued regulation of direct-to-consumer (DTC) promotion of prescription drugs as a critical function of its public health and safety mission. As such, we appreciate the opportunity to comment on FDA's policies related to commercial speech, advertising and the First Amendment." (BlueCross BlueShield Association)

Wellness Programs Show Their Worth, But Calculating Savings Is Difficult
Excerpt: "[W]ellness programs, which seek to build a healthier workforce through a variety of approaches that often include exercise, sessions on everything from nutrition and weight loss to stress management, motivational talks and consultations with nurses and nutritionists. Proponents say these programs can help reduce absenteeism, anxiety and depression, boost morale ..." (The [Greensboro N.C.] News & Record via the Society for Human Resource Management)



Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Effective Strategies for Defending Against Worker Misclassification Attacks
1-1/2 hour tape of a recent continuing education course from the ABA, newly available for purchase from the ABA. Excerpt: "In this audio program, our experienced faculty guide you on how to protect against attacks by government agencies and plaintiff lawyers based on claims that workers have been misclassified as independent contractors." (American Bar Association, Section of Taxation)

Overview: the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002-- Prohibition of Personal Loans to Executives
Excerpt: "Section 402 of the Act makes it unlawful for any public company, directly or indirectly, to extend credit, maintain credit or arrange for the extension of credit in the form of a personal loan to or for the benefit of any director or executive officer. This prohibition on loans is broadly worded ..." (Cooley Godward LLP)

Commentary: CEOs' Fat Checks Belie Troubled Times
Excerpt: "If early 2002 proxy statements are a barometer, the disconnect between executive compensation and performance remains wide. While average worker salaries are rising just 3.6%, many CEOs are getting double-digit salary increases, fat bonuses, large stock option grants and lavish perks more reminiscent of the bull market 1990s than a 30-month-long bear market, according to a USA TODAY analysis ..." (USA Today via Yahoo! News)

Federal Pension, Health Legislation Probably Will Fall Victim to Calendar
Excerpt: "With Congress trying to wrap up its work and go home to campaign in less than two weeks, both President Bush and congressional Democrats are watching some of their top initiatives fall by the wayside -- victims of the calendar and the two parties' skillful manipulation of it ... Some of the imperiled initiatives could be resurrected if a post-election session is called ... But such 'lame-duck' sessions are notoriously unproductive ..." (Washington Post)




Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings - Post a Help Wanted Ad

Employee Benefits Trust Officer
for Regions Financial Corporation
in AR

Employee Benefits Supervisor
for The Protector Group Insurance Agency, Inc.
in MA

Benefits Supervisor
for QVC, Inc.
in PA

Employee Benefits Broker/Manager
for Omni Employee Benefits Consultants, LLC
in FL

In House Employee Benefits Attorney-N. Orleans
for Davis Search
in LA


Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)

HRA: New Solutions for Consumer-Directed Healthcare
in TX
October 9, 2002
ECFC, ERN Holdings, Inc. and Comsal, Inc.


Newly Posted Press Releases (Post Yours!)

PSCA ANNOUNCES 2002 SIGNATURE AWARDS WINNERS
(Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America)

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