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October 29, 2002 - 7,545 subscribers
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Changes in Dependent Care Tax Credit May Affect an Employer's Dependent Care Assistance Program
Excerpt: "Employers offering dependent care assistance programs should note that, beginning in 2003, the tax credit that individuals can claim for child and dependent care expenses will increase.... These changes will impact an employee's analysis of whether it is better to claim the tax credit or to participate in pre-tax salary reduction reimbursements through the employer's dependent care assistance program." (Faegre & Benson LLP)

DOL Partially Settles U.S. Alliance Health Care Case; Multimillion Dollar Loss Involved
Press release. Excerpt: "Under the consent judgment, Walter Nieves is liable for payment of $2.8 million in unpaid medical claims due to at least 1,500 participants in the U.S. Alliance-related health plans because of his fiduciary breaches of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)." (U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration)

LTD Benefits Denial Overturned Where Court Finds No Substantial Evidence to Support Denial (PDF)
Spencer Norris v. Citibank, N.A. Disability Plan, No. 01-2886 (8th Cir. 2002). Excerpt: "Aetna also noted that Pollock had been approved for Social Security Disability Benefits.... A plan administrator's fact-based disability decision is reasonable if it is supported by 'substantial evidence' .... The Plan does not ... address the extensive medical evidence relating to Pollock's disability or the consistent conclusions of her doctors and various Aetna personnel that she could not work." (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, via FindLaw.com)

Court Applies Federal Common Law in Interpreting Terms of ERISA-Governed Severance Plan
Cassidy v. Akzo Nobel Salt, Inc., No. 01-1580 (6th Cir. 10/21/02). The district court properly applied federal common law precedents to interpret the contractual language of defendant's severance plan. Excerpt: "The district court did not decide whether or not the severance plan is a employee welfare benefit plan under ERISA, reasoning that 'general rules' of contract interpretation apply regardless. This is an imprecise statement." (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, via FindLaw.com)

Benefits "Summary" Distributed Before Adoption of Plan Was a Written "Plan" Under ERISA
A benefits 'summary' that was distributed to employees nearly nine months before the benefits plan itself was actually adopted constituted a written 'plan' within the meaning of ERISA and, as a result, employees disabled during that nine-month period were entitled to unreduced long term disability benefits. This was the decision of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Feifer, et al. v. Daily News, L.P., et al. (Nos. 99-9451 and 00-9568). (SpencerNet)

Legislators Question IRS 419A(f)(6) Regulations, Ask Why No Safe Harbors Provided (PDF)
Letter to the Treasury Department, Oct. 8, 2002. Excerpt: "[W]e have been working with your staff for a number of months on the issue of Section 419A(f)(6) Welfare Benefit Plans. We appreciate that the Department issued proposed regulations ... We have a few questions about ... how the Department arrived at the current formulations of these provisions." (Rep. Philip M. Crane, Five Other Representatives)

Federal Government Rolls Out Consumer-Driven Health Plan Option for Employees
Excerpt: "Along with the usual lineup of health insurance plans facing federal employees during the open season that begins Nov. 11, there's a newcomer that may merit a close look.... If subscribers don't spend their entire allotment, at year's end the leftover money rolls over into the next year's fund. But if they exhaust the account before the year is up, they pay for the next $600 of care ($1,200 for a family) out-of-pocket." (Washington Post)

Complaints from Massachusetts Consumers Regarding Denied Mental Health Treatment More than Tripled
Excerpt: "The number of Massachusetts residents who filed complaints that they were denied mental health services this year has increased more than 300% over last year, when the state implemented a new patients' bill of rights, the Boston Globe reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Managed Care Meets Mental Health With Mixed Results
Excerpt: "[F]ar from being flush with profits and promise, the $4.5 billion managed behavioral health care industry is in flux.... The managed-care approach requires therapists to submit treatment plans after initial visits with patients. But shaping a plan for someone with mental illness can be more challenging than treating a broken arm, experts say." (Washington Post)

Managed Care Organizations in California Start Shifting More Hospital Cost To Patients
Excerpt: "Now that four major health plans in California have a tiered hospital plan on the market, it's clear which plans got a good deal from which hospitals the last time contracts were negotiated. Everything else about the new plans is a little fuzzy-- including whether they actually control care costs as advertised." (Sacramento Business Journal via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Doctors, Public Disagree On Medical Errors Issue
Excerpt: "While many physicians are concerned about medical errors, only a handful agree that the problem is as significant as the public contends, according to a report in Archives of Internal Medicine. While 90% of the public said the government 'should implement a system of mandatory reporting of serious medical errors,' only 55% of physicians supported such an idea ..." (iHealthBeat.com; free registration required)

CMS Administrator Discusses Health Costs on C-SPAN
Excerpt: "CMS Administrator Tom Scully appeared on C-SPAN's 'Washington Journal' on Oct. 28 to discuss the issue of rising health care costs. Scully talked about factors contributing to increased health care expenses, such as higher costs for new technologies, prescription drugs and physician malpractice insurance, and he addressed ways that health insurance plan drug formularies can negotiate discounts." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Sen. Wellstone Will Be Remembered for Work on Mental Health Parity Bill
Excerpt: "Wellstone supported enhanced insurance coverage for mental illnesses ... Along with Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), he co-sponsored a bill that aims to build upon a 1996 mental health parity law. The 1996 law mandated that health plans that cover mental illnesses could not establish different annual and lifetime benefits for those illnesses than for physical illnesses." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Death of an Advocate
Excerpt: "The death last week of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Democrat who made healthcare issues a top legislative priority, came as a shock and perhaps even a setback to the provider community that knew him as an advocate.... During his nearly 12 years in the Senate, Wellstone worked to expand coverage for the uninsured, support struggling rural hospitals and require insurers to provide mental health benefits.... Wellstone also was vocal on the prescription-drug issue ..." (Modern Healthcare)

Health Groups Praise Sen. Wellstone's Fights on Issues
Excerpt: "Healthcare interest groups on Monday praised the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, highlighting his advocacy for the mentally ill, poor veterans, and other disenfranchised persons." (Reuters via Medscape; free registration required)

Former Surgeon General Satcher Calls for Improved Mental Health Treatment, Access
Excerpt: "The United States should make improved treatment and access to care for individuals with mental illness a 'top national priority,' former Surgeon General David Satcher said on Oct. 25 at an annual conference of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports." (KaiserNetwork.org)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

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2002 Midyear Report of Subcommittee on Criminal Enforcement of ERISA
10 pages; originally published February 2002. Discusses recent case law on embezzlement and civil RICO actions. (ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, Employee Benefits Subcommittee)

Opinion: Bush Doesn't Really Care About Reforms
Excerpt: "It also is discouraging that the SEC has rejected the near-universal choice of reformers -- including many of those on Wall Street -- to head a new oversight board of the accounting industry. The SEC passed over John Biggs, the head of a large pension system, after pressure was placed on the agency by the White House, top Republicans and the accounting industry -- they all worried Biggs would be too tough." (Las Vegas Sun)

Opinion: AT&T Employees Get Shortchanged in Stock Option Repurchase Offer
Excerpt: "If you put a quarter in a pay phone, get a busy signal, hang up and then get 15 cents back, you would be irritated. Yet that is exactly the way that AT&T Corp. is treating its own employees as it offers them the equivalent of free shares in exchange for underwater stock options." (Graef Crystal on Bloomberg.com)

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

Vice President, Human Resource Planning
for Top Global Public Relations Firm - NYC
in NY

Actuarial Benefit Consultant
for Fidelity Investments
in MA

Assistant Actuary Health & Welfare
for Buck Consultants
in CA

Senior Benefit Specialist Health & Welfare
for Buck Consultants
in CA

Benefits Manager
for The Owens Group, Inc.
in SC

Health & Welfare Manager
for Company Withheld
in NY

Inside Phone Sales Rep
for Metavante 401(k) Services
in CA

Senior Compliance Advisor
for Minnesota Life Insurance Company
in MN

Newly Posted Conferences (Post Yours!)

ERISA Workshop -- 1 day workshop (8:30 am - 4:30 pm--lunch included)
in MI
October 31, 2002
SunGard Corbel

ERISA Workshop -- 1 day workshop (8:30 am - 4:30 pm--lunch included)
in MI
November 1, 2002
SunGard Corbel

ERISA Workshop -- 1 day workshop (8:30 am - 4:30 pm--lunch included)
in FL
November 7, 2002
SunGard Corbel

ERISA Workshop -- 1 day workshop (8:30 am - 4:30 pm--lunch included)
in WI
November 7, 2002
SunGard Corbel

ERISA Workshop -- 1 day workshop (8:30 am - 4:30 pm--lunch included)
in WI
November 8, 2002
SunGard Corbel

ERISA Workshop -- 1 day workshop (8:30 am - 4:30 pm--lunch included)
in FL
November 8, 2002
SunGard Corbel

Newly Posted Press Releases

Tony Allred and Al Mathews establish Abacus Retirement Solutions, LLC
(Abacus Retirement Solutions, LLC)


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