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March 16, 2006
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Complete Benefits Law Guidance from Law Journal Press

The nation's workforce and health care system are constantly evolving and so are the legal issues. Law Journal Press helps you handle any benefits law question with up-to-date, authoritative books on all aspects of the field. Get legal and practical advice from leading experts on everything from COBRA to ERISA, "contingent" employees to family and medical leave, and more. Browse our product listings for detailed information and special offers.

(Please visit our sponsors. We try to make sure their products and services will be of interest to you. Thanks! --Editor)

Overview: Final HIPAA Enforcement Rule
Excerpt: "This Capital Checkup covers the following: HHS's general approach to enforcement of the HIPAA Administrative Simplification rules; The process that will govern the imposition of civil monetary penalties by HHS against 'covered entities'; Important information for covered entities that rely on business associates and other agents; and Guidance on certain aspects of HHS's approach to enforcement of the security rule." (The Segal Company)

FAQ on 'Health Plans Disclosing PHI to Persons Assisting Beneficiaries'
Excerpt: "[Question:] May a health plan disclose protected health information to a person who calls the plan on the beneficiary's behalf? Yes, subject to the conditions set forth in 45 CFR 164.510(b) of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. " (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

Patient E-mails Are Now Being Retooled Three Years After HIPAA
Excerpt: "Three years into compliance with the privacy rule, some CEs are retooling their procedures for communication with patients, including e-mails and newsletters, because their initial efforts ran into trouble. While potential patients are not covered by the privacy rule, entities that use the same communication vehicle for patients and non-patients would still have to ensure the communication is compliant." (Report on Patient Privacy via

Executive Summary of Testimony: Transparency in Health Care -- The Time Has Come
Excerpt: "Giving the public better information about health care costs and quality is essential to improving the health care system, Fund Senior Program Officer Sara R. Collins told a March 15 U.S. House of Representatives hearing, 'What's The Cost?: Proposals to Provide Consumers With Better Information About Healthcare Service Costs.'" (The Commonwealth Fund)

Senators Question Healthcare Group Purchasing Industry Initiative
Excerpt: "Leaders of a Senate subcommittee questioned the independence and enforcement authority of the Healthcare Group Purchasing Industry Initiative, a voluntary ethics initiative aimed at averting legislation that would regulate group purchasing organization business practices." (ModernHealthcare; one-time registration required)

Testimony: Health Care Consumer Price Shopping
March 15, 2006, Hearing on What's the Cost?: Proposals to Provide Consumers with Better Information about Healthcare Service Costs. Excerpt: "HSC President Paul Ginsburg testified today before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on consumer price shopping in health care. Ginsburg testified that fostering consumer price shopping for health services can potentially help contain costs but cautioned that some are overselling the magnitude this potential." (Center for Studying Health System Change)

Plan to Raise Military Retirees' Health Costs Faces a Tough Fight
Excerpt: "Like any other large employer, the Defense Department is struggling to hold down spending on health care, especially for retirees. But a Bush administration plan to raise fees and co-payments for medical coverage provided to military retirees under 65 has run into tough opposition." (The Washington Post; one-time registration required)

The Wal-Mart Tax -- Shifting Health Care Costs to Taxpayers (PDF)
16 pages. Excerpt: "To shine a light on large employers forcing others to pick up their health care tab, the AFL-CIO developed the model Health Care Disclosure Act, which requires states to report which employers' workers are forced to rely on publicly funded health care." (AFL-CIO)

Large Employers Would Have to Cover Health Care or Pay the Piper under Minnesota Legislation
Excerpt: "The bill would cover only the handful of Minnesota firms with 10,000 or more employees. It would require those companies to spend on health benefits an amount equal to 8 percent of the wages it pays to its lower paid workers, or pay the difference to a state fund." (Star Tribune: one-time registration required)

Massachusetts Gov. Romney Holding Off OK on Health Care Package
Excerpt: " 'We have to see how it will be applied,' said Romney, referring to an idea to impose a $295 per-worker assessment on firms that don't provide health insurance coverage for employees." (Boston Herald)

Ford Limits Spouse Health Care Coverage -- Adds Surcharge If Coverage Available Elsewhere
Excerpt: "Ford Motor Co. this week is rolling out a series of cutbacks to health care benefits for its salaried work force, including an unconventional move to charge extra to cover spouses who have access to other health care insurance." (The Detroit News)

Wendy's Puts Some 'Beef' in Its Full Replacement Consumer-Directed Health Plan
Excerpt: "About 85% of the company's 9,000 eligible employees are enrolled in one of four high-deductible health plan (HDHP) options from UnitedHealth Group. Each option includes an HSA contribution that covers approximately 60% of the annual deductible. About 90% of the company's enrollees had HSA dollars left at the end of the year." (INSIDE CONSUMER-DIRECTED CARE via

Chrysler Group to Announce Reduction in Health Benefits for Salaried Employees
Excerpt: "The Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler [will] announce a reduction in health benefits for salaried employees after a scheduled meeting of company officials to consider the plan, the Wall Street Journal reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Opinion: Personal and Portable Health Insurance
Excerpt: "President Bush has proposed making health insurance individually-owned, personal and portable, traveling with employees from job to job." (National Center for Policy Analysis)

Opinion: Bush's Answer to Hillarycare
Excerpt: "In his State of the Union address, President Bush devoted only a few sentences to health policy. But as the president was speaking, the administration released a five-page document describing health policy proposals so sweeping and bold, they are comparable in scope to Hillary Clinton's proposals of a decade ago." (National Center for Policy Analysis)

Health Savings Accounts on Rise, but Savings Program Could Backfire, Experts Say
Excerpt: "[C]ritics of the accounts - designed as a cost-effective alternative to traditional health insurance under the Medicare Modernization Act - say they are harmful to many low-income and middle-class patients." (The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights)

Wal-Mart Has More Employees in Public Health Care Programs than Other Companies in 19 States
Excerpt: "Wal-Mart Stores has more employees enrolled in public health care programs than any other company in at least 19 states, according to a report issued on Tuesday by the AFL-CIO, Reuters/Washington Post reports. The report, titled 'The Wal-Mart Tax: Shifting Health Care Costs to Taxpayers,' examined data from 23 states in which information about Medicaid and other public health assistance programs could be linked to employers." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Aetna Taps Tufts to Strengthen Presenteeism Data
Excerpt: "Aetna is looking for a few good employers to participate in its presenteeism data pilot project with Tufts-New England Medical Center. The project's aim is to augment the available data about presenteeism, which, according to Aetna, costs employers approximately $150 billion each year." (The Advisor)

Workplace Requirements and Family Health Responsibilities Often Conflict, Study Finds
Excerpt: "Inflexible workplace requirements often conflict with family health responsibilities -- such as caring for sick children, grandchildren or parents -- according to a study by the Center for WorkLife Law, APM's 'Marketplace' reports." (Kaiser Family Foundation)

SPD at Disability Sets Standard of Review
Excerpt: "The SPD in effect when an individual became disabled and entitled to disability benefits, not an amended SPD in effect later upon benefit denial, establishes the appropriate standard of judicial review of a plan administrator's benefits determination, according to a 2nd Circuit ruling reversing a district court decision. [Gibbs v. Cigna, No. 05-3879]" (Pensions & Benefits Weblog)

Disability Benefit Denial Reversed
Excerpt: "A disability plan's administrator/insurer failed to comply with ERISA when it terminated an individual's benefits without reviewing the specific ground for its decision, according to a 5th Circuit ruling reversing the district court's summary judgment for the administrator." (Pensions & Benefits Weblog)

Montana Health Insurer Adds Small Firm Domestic Partner Coverage
Excerpt: "Montana's biggest health insurer announced that it intends to offer coverage to domestic partners of employees of small businesses, extending what is already available through its large-business policies." ( one-time registration required)

Links to Items on Executive Comp, Benefits in General

Blog: Accounting for OPEB Split-Dollar Arrangements
Excerpt: "At its meeting [today], the FASB Emerging Issues Task Force will address employers' recognition of liability and relater compensation costs for endorsement split-dollar life insurance policies that provide an employee benefit that extends to postretirement periods. [EITF Issue No. 06-4]" (Pensions & Benefits Weblog)

Nationwide ERISA Suit Survives Challenge
Excerpt: "A federal judge in Connecticut has rebuffed efforts by two financial services companies seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed by trustees of five 401(k) plans claiming the financial services firms breached their fiduciary duties." ( one-time registration required)

Hewitt Federal Legislation Quick Guide Updated as of March 14, 2006
Excerpt: "Hewitt's Federal Legislation Quick Guide provides short updates on federal legislation that is currently under active consideration by Congress or has recently been enacted into law regarding health and welfare benefit plans, retirement plans, and human resources and employment law." (Hewitt Associates)

Beating the Fade: Optimizing Human Capital Investments for Superior Shareholder Returns (PDF)
11 pages. Excerpt: "Traditional capital budgeting and financial planning frameworks offer very little to guide human capital investment decisions; yet payroll and benefits typically constitute 30%-70%1 of operating expenses, with training, recruiting, and other such expenses adding substantially to this cost. In spite of the magnitude of these investments, most companies are without a compass when it comes to people issues." (Valuation Issues via Hewitt Associates)

Newly Posted Events
(Post Yours!)

Individual Health Insurance Policies in the Workplace-- Avoiding Pitfalls and Limiting Employer Obligations
Nationwide on April 6, 2006
presented by Employee Benefits Institute of America Inc. (EBIA)

Newly Posted Press Releases
(Post Yours!)

Employer Interest in Consumer-Directed Health Plans Growing, Watson Wyatt/National Business Group on Health Survey Finds
(Watson Wyatt)

PSCA Joins In Group Effort To Urge Senate To Enact Permanency Of The EGTRRA Savings And Pension Provisions
(Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America (PSCA))

New Survey Finds 56% of Employers Have a HIPAA Privacy/Security Committee
(International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

Remember to Celebrate National Employee Benefits Day on April 3
(International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans)

Newly Posted or Renewed Job Openings
Post a Help Wanted Ad

Pension Administrator
for Creative Pension Consultants, Inc.
in NY

Employee Benefit/Employment Tax Specialist Position in Cincinnati or Columbus
for Deloitte Tax LLP
in OH

Employee Benefit Tax Specialist Position in Cincinnati
for Deloitte Tax LLP
in OH

Health Benefits Analyst
for Segal Company
in MA

401(k) Administrator - Analyst
for The Pension Group, Inc.
in CA

Plan Administration Specialist
for Boston Financial Data Services
in MA

Processing Clerk
for Chicago TPA Firm
in IL

Handy Links:

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