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February 27, 2006
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Employer's Failure to Provide SPD Did Not Excuse Employee's Delay in Filing Claim for LTD Benefits
Excerpt: "This employee lost because she failed to show that she was harmed by the failure to furnish the SPD-- her own testimony 'belies any inference that a failure to notify her of the LTD plan ... prejudiced her.' Employees in other cases, however, may be able to show detrimental reliance." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

Health Costs for State Retirees to Take Center Stage
Excerpt: "U.S. state governments wrestling with inadequately funded pension plans are bracing for new accounting rules that will put a spotlight on the costs of massively expensive health benefits for retired workers." (Business Insurance)

Employer Could Not Prove that Election Notice Was Mailed
Excerpt: "The court held in favor of the employee, ruling that there was insufficient proof that the employer mailed a COBRA election notice to him. The court found that the employer, which was both the plan sponsor and administrator, had the exclusive duty to notify the employee of his COBRA rights and that mailing a notice to the employee's last known address would suffice." (Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc.)

In Brief: The HIPAA Privacy Rule and Patient Access to Medical Records (PDF)
2 pages. Excerpt: "This In Brief, based on the PPI Issue Paper of the same title, describes the provisions of the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which grants patients access to their medical records (paper and electronic)." (AARP)

Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act Privacy Rule & Patient Access to Medical Records (PDF)
39 pages. Excerpt: "[AARP] commissioned this study ... to provide a comprehensive examination of the HIPAA protections afforded to patients to access their medical records. The study examines the rights and responsibilities of the parties who have or control access to an individual's medical record, reports on some obstacles to more widespread consumer access to medical records, and presents recommendations for improving the public's and clinicians' understanding of the regulatory ...." (AARP)

State of Minnesota Grades Health Insurers on Administrative Expenses
Excerpt: "The Minnesota Department of Health this month released the annual report tallying 40 state insurers' administrative costs -- the money spent on salaries, billing, claims processing, marketing and so on -- as a percentage of total spending. The result: In 2004 (the most recent data available) 8.6 percent of spending by insurers goes to their own administrative costs." (The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal via; one-time registration required)

As Can.ada's Slow-Motion Public Health System Falters, Private Medical Care Is Surging
Excerpt: "The country's publicly financed health insurance system -- frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity -- is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

Kaiser Permanente's Experience of Implementing an Electronic Medical Record: A Qualitative Study (PDF)
1 page. Excerpt: "It is important to note that this was Kaiser's experience with one EHR system in one region. The implementation of the replacement system, while not without difficulties, has gone well, with broad support among clinicians and managers. [The full text of the article published in BMJ is at]" (The Commonwealth Fund)

The Need for Price Transparency in the World of Consumer Directed Health Care
Excerpt: "Aetna was the first major insurer to disclose its negotiated prices to consumers, beginning in Cincinnati last August. These Aetna members can go online to find out the negotiated rates for hundreds of office visits, diagnostic tests and minor procedures 'provided by 5,000 individual physicians and physician groups in Cincinnati, Dayton and Springfield, OH, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana.'" (Galen Institute)

Wal-Mart Chief Makes Plea to States on Health Care Costs
Excerpt: "With Wal-Mart Stores under mounting pressure to spend more on employee health insurance, the company's chief executive [yesterday] urged the nation's governors not to pass legislation that would burden the giant retailer, and pledged to work with the governors to move workers off state Medicaid rolls." (The New York Times; one-time registration required)

'Wal-Mart' Bill in New Jersey Seeks Health Benefits
Excerpt: "State Sen. Joe Vitale fought for years to expand FamilyCare, New Jersey's health-insurance program for families just above the poverty line. But the parents who lined up for the new coverage won last summer by the Middlesex County Democrat weren't working the collection of part-time jobs he had expected. They were full-time employees of Home Depot, Target, CVS and Wal-Mart." (Philadelphia Inquirer via BlueCross BlueShield Association)

Opinion: Don't Play Politics with Health Care Benefits
Excerpt: "The challenge of bringing affordable health coverage to those in need is the enormous cost: Premiums and pres.cription drug prices are soaring and the cost of providing basic health care services has been steadily climbing. Harnessing this cost should be the No. 1 concern, yet these legislative solutions do nothing to address the ballooning costs associated with providing health care." (Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel via BlueCross BlueShield Association)

Wal-Mart CEO to Outline Plans for Improving Worker Health Benefits in Weekend Speech to Governors
Excerpt: "Wal-Mart [last week] issued a press release announcing that it will expand its employee health benefits and add 50 in-store clinics, .... Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott will formally announce the changes [February 26] at a meeting of the National Governors' Association, and the company will provide more detailed information regarding the complete package over the next several months, the Washington Post reports ...." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Reps. McDermott & Thomas Opinion Pieces Respond to Plan To Expand Health Savings Accounts
Excerpt: "The Arizona Daily Star on Sunday published two opinion pieces on a proposal by President Bush to expand health savings accounts. " (Kaiser Family Foundation)

The Bush Administration's Fiscal Year 2007 Budget: Analysis of Key Health Care Provisions
Excerpt: "This budget offers the clearest insight to date into the Bush Administration's overall view of the health care system in this country and what should be done to make health care more available and more affordable." (Families USA)

Blog: Summary Judgment Denied in CBA Retiree Health Case
Excerpt: "A district court has denied an employer's request for declaratory judgment that would have recognized the employer's legal right to unilaterally modify or terminate retiree health benefits provided under a collective bargaining agreement. The court also denied union requests for summary judgment to compel arbitration and exclude the employer's expert testimony. [Rexam v. USW and IAM et al, D. Minn., Civ. 03-2998 ADM/JJG]" (Pensions & Benefits Weblog)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Options and the Deferred Tax Bite
Excerpt: "There's more to handling employee stock options than selecting a valuation method. FASB Statement no. 123(R) has tax accounting implications as well. This article explains how to handle them." (Journal of Accountancy)

Employee Compensation: Employer Spending on Benefits Has Grown Faster than Wages
Excerpt: "In this report, GAO examined federal data on private employers' costs for active workers and sought perspectives from 17 experts to identify (1) recent trends in employers' total compensation costs; (2) composition of the trends; (3) whether employees' costs, participation, or access to benefits changed; and (4) possible implications of the changes for private systems. [Highlights are at]" (U.S. Government Accountability Office)

LTC Plans Add Muscle to Executive Benefits
Excerpt: "Smaller firms are responding well to the message that LTC as an executive benefit protects key people's personal financial assets, provides permanent and portable coverage, and offers significant tax benefits to both the company and the executive." (National Underwriter Life & Health; free one-time registration or paid subscription required)

Blog: Benefits Growth Outpaces Compensation Growth .... Maybe
Excerpt: "The GAO attributes most of the increase in benefits costs to health insurance and retirement income, the cost of which comprise almost 60 percent of benefit packages. Paid leave, traditionally the most expensive benefit, yielded first place to health insurance during the study period. Escalation in health care costs was attributed to advances in medical technology, increased utilization of expensive procedures and services, and population aging." (Pensions & Benefits Weblog)

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

The SPARK Institute Releases Rule 22c-2 Data Standards And Frequent Trading Policy For Retirement Plan Intermediaries
(Society of Professional Administrators and Recordkeepers (SPARK))

AICPA Employee Benefit Plan Audit Quality Center Issues Tool to Help Plan Sponsors Select Their Plan Auditor
(American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA))

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Pension Administrator
for Primark Benefits
in CA

401(k) Enroller/Contractor - Bilingual
for Transamerica

401(k) Enroller/Contractor
for Transamerica

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