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December 11, 2002 - 8,136 subscribers
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   Personalized Employee Benefit Statements from Benefit Software

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(Help BenefitsLink to provide this newsletter at no charge to you -- our sponsors pay your way. Remember to visit them periodically; we try to make sure their products and services will be of interest to you. Thanks! --Editor)
California COBRA Coverage About To Go Into Effect (PDF)
At page 3 of 8. Excerpt: "Under the new law, an individual who has exhausted continuation coverage under COBRA must be offered the opportunity to continue coverage for up to 36 months from the date the individual's continuation coverage began." (Jenkens & Gilchrist)

Focusing on Attention Deficit Disorder in the Workplace
Excerpt: "HR professionals need to be aware of how the disorder manifests in the workplace. Educating yourself as well as your managers and employees, who may have ADD and not know it, about the symptoms could lead to accurate diagnosis and treatment, and therefore, higher productivity." (HR Magazine)

Overview: DOL Considers Disallowing Funding of Parental Leave With UI
Excerpt: "The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently proposed rescinding a controversial Clinton-era regulation that allows states to provide partially-paid parental leave using state unemployment insurance (UI) funds." (Thompson Publishing Group)

New Employee Benefit: a Pat on the Back
Excerpt: "Even while laying off thousands of workers and freezing salaries, some employers are trying to boost sagging employee morale by re-energizing their employee-recognition programs. But some question the effectiveness of such measures." (CareerJournal.com)

Employers Press To Quantify, Control 'Presenteeism'
Excerpt: "Although employees that come to work when sick, in pain or otherwise subpar might be considered dedicated, mounting evidence shows their attendance is a pyrrhic victory. The actual costs in diminished productivity remains a relatively new metric for many employers that have long struggled to fight absenteeism. But the phenomenon of presenteeism (being at work although not fully effective) is being found to be just as much, if not more costly." (BenefitNews.com)

Orienting the New Employee
Excerpt: "Your new employee orientation is a make 'em or break 'em experience, for a new employee. At its best, the process of new employee orientation solidifies the new employee's relationship with your organization. It fuels their enthusiasm and guides their steps into a long term positive relationship with you." (About.com)

A Look at Incentive Payments for Physician Performance
Excerpt: "Over the last several years a revolution has occurred in health plan physician incentive programs. Many have moved away from bonuses that rewarded doctors based on appropriate utilization, and are embracing quality-based incentive plans that emphasize preventive care and disease management." (Medscape; free registration required)

California Trends in Managed Care Costs, Accountability and Quality (PDF)
28 pages. Excerpt: "Health care access, quality, choice and affordability are becoming increasingly scarce in California. That is why California employers, consumers and Hispanics in particular need to be aware of their health care options, of how much they are paying for health care and of what they are getting for their money." (The Latino Coalition Foundation)

Escape Fire: Lessons for the Future of Health Care
32 pages. Excerpt: "Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP, is president, CEO, and cofounder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Boston. IHI is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of health care systems through education, research, and demonstration projects, and through fostering collaboration among health care organizations and their leaders. Dr. Berwick is a clinical professor of pediatrics and health care policy at Harvard Medical School." (Donald M. Berwick, published online by The Commonwealth Fund)

White Paper: MSAs Are Not FSAs Are Not HRAs (PDF)
2 pages. Includes a chart comparing various aspects of medical savings accounts, flexible spending accounts, and healthcare reimbursement accounts. (Council for Affordable Health Insurance)

Prescription Drug Spending by Plan Levels Off Slightly
Excerpt: "Most controllers say their employer's costs for prescription drugs leveled off this year.... In general, this 'leveling off' is occurring because companies are adjusting cost sharing arrangements, increasing co-payments, and creating incentives for employees to use less expensive drugs. As a result of these efforts, prescription drug costs were 17% of total medical benefit costs in 2001, down from 17.5% the previous year." (The Controller's Report via International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

Dental Plans Differ In Benefits-- and In Who Pays the Premiums
Excerpt: "Fifty-four percent of employers offer dental benefits plans to their employees, according to Evelyn F. Ireland, CAE, executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) based in Dallas. However, according to their 2001 Dental Benefits Report, most employees enrolled in dental referral plans pay 100 percent of their premiums." (New Mexico Business Weekly via bizjournals.com; free registration required)

Medicare Chief: Hospital Fees Are Rising Simply Because They Can
Excerpt: "Lack of competition, a weakened managed-care system and rising labor costs are the primary drivers behind escalating hospital charges, said Thomas Scully, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, speaking at a Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association briefing on the topic." (Modern Healthcare; free registration required)

More Deaths Caused by Clinical Mistakes Than by Drug Errors, Study Says
Excerpt: "While medication mishaps still pose a danger to patients, clinical errors are reported almost as frequently and are associated with almost five times as many deaths, according to initial data released on Monday by DoctorQuality Inc." (Reuters Health via Medscape; free registration required)

Health Plans Get Allergy Relief From Claritin's Over-the-Counter Switch
Excerpt: "Most insurers plan to discontinue coverage of Claritin once it moves to over-the-counter status - but the ramifications could spread beyond Claritin to other nonsedating antihistamines as well, including Allegra, manufactured by Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Zyrtec, made by Pfizer, Inc. Among payers that have finalized their allergy and asthma pharmacy strategies: ..." (Managed Care Week via AISHealth.com)

In Health Care Cost Control, the Next Best Thing Really Is
In the year 2000, employers and employees spent 288% more on contributions to group health insurance than they had in 1987.1 That's actually a relatively modest gain, because it includes all the years in the 1990s in which health care costs were almost stagnant. In the years after 2000, the health care cost issue has only worsened, and the plight of the employer-based private health insurance system once again is daily news fodder. (SpencerNet)

Two Former NEJM Editors Criticize Drug Companies in the New Republic
Excerpt: "In a scathing attack on the pharmaceutical industry, two former New England Journal of Medicine editors have called for big changes in the way drugs are tested, patented, advertised and priced." (The Boston Herald)

Generic Drugs Sometimes More Costly Than Brand-Names for Medicaid Programs
Excerpt: "In some instances, the generic version of a prescription medication is costing state Medicaid programs more than various brandname alternatives. That's the odd result of Medicaid drug-discounting arrangements that are ratcheting down states' costs for prescription medications -- sometimes below that of corresponding generics." (Medscape; free registration required)

Medical Plan Trend Rates To Rise 14%; Prescription Drugs Are Fastest Rising Component
Medical trend rates in 2003 are expected to continue their double-digit climb by more than 14%, according to the 2003 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey. The survey found that the fastest rising cost component of health care plans is prescription drugs, with trends expected to rise nearly 20% in 2003. If the current increase rates continue, the cost of health care will represent an average of nearly 25% of wages for many plan sponsors in five years, Segal predicts. (SpencerNet)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Compensation Committees Appear Ready to Push Back Pay, Perks for Executives
Excerpt: "[T]he newfound independence of compensation committees has been overlooked by many in the business press. But some observers believe the growing sway of compensation committees could have an impact on the bankbooks of senior executives. For one thing, committee members who meet more often in private will likely be tougher negotiators when dealing with under-performing CEOs and CFOs." (CFO.com)

Stock Options Get a Nod from Business Schools
Excerpt: "As the debate continues over executive stock options, the pro-options camp scores a thumbs up from a new study penned by three business school professors." (CFO.com)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Senior Actuarial Analyst
for Watson Wyatt Worldwide
in MA

Retirement Plan Analyst
for Actuarial Services Group, Inc.
in TX

Actuarial Consultant
for Watson Wyatt Worldwide
in MA

Pension Administrator
for Suburban PA Consulting Firm
in NJ, PA

for Indianapolis Consulting Firm
in IN

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

ASC Announces Single-Step Processing - An Automation Tool Designed to Increase Pension Professional's Productivity
(ASC - Actuarial Systems Corporation)

AHI's BENEFITS ALERT RELEASES NEW FREE REPORT: "Seasonal Tidings: Legal And Practical Suggestions For Bonuses, Perks, And Other Benefits"
(Alexander Hamilton Institute - AHI's BenefitsAlert.com)

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