Herding Cats

Monday, August 30, 2010
My friend Mitch, who lives in Montreal, was stuck overnight in Cleveland. Mitch used to live on Solon. He misses his friends, our shopping, and our health care – in that order. While visiting him at the airport Marriott, he once again regaled me with his stories of fighting for the attention of Canadian doctors and hospital staff. He hopes to return to the U.S. one day. He is counting on our system to still be here for him.

Mitch and my friends on the far right are very worried that we will one day have a single payer, rigid system like Canada’s. My one word answer is to RELAX. If you would like proof that their fears are in vain, I give you an article in yesterday’s Plain Dealer.

The story, a reprint of a New York Times article, was about medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in some states, illegal in others. It is banned by some employers while ignored by others. The federal government has raided distribution centers while giving lip-service to states’ rights.

We are Americans. We could never tolerate an absence of choice. We would never accept a one-way, the only way, type of health care system. We are contrarians by nature. Our rules constantly change because we are constantly changing.

The short article included a brief description of Nick Stennet’s employment problem. Mr. Stennet told his employer about his health problems and his daily use of medical marijuana. He was later fired when, surprise, he failed the drug test. The lawyers should have a field day with this.

The laws in Rhode Island might be like the laws in Hawaii, but very different than those in Utah or Alabama. People in Maine choose to live in Maine, not New Hampshire. And California is constantly at war with itself. That’s us. This is the essence of the United States.

Rigid? Choiceless? Single-payer with no other options? That’s just not our style.



Museums and Arts Organizations At Risk for Losing IRS Tax Exempt Recognition: Is Your Organization on the List?

Friday, August 20, 2010
The IRS recently published a long list of non-profits that have not filed appropriate forms for the last three years. Many museums, historical societies, and arts organizations are featured. These groups risk losing their tax-exempt status if action is not taken soon.

The IRS is giving organizations the opportunity to keep their tax-exempt recognition so long as paperwork is filed by October 15, 2010.

See if you are on the list at

The Display of Art - A Fiduciary Duty of the Museum

Recently Eli Broad, art collector and philanthropist, told the American Association of Museums about its members' duty to take art out of storage and put it on display. “If 90% of your work is in storage you need to begin lending it to other institutions. Get art out of the basements,” The Art Newspaper reported.

The fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, and obedience obligate art museums to display their works. Museums are generally institutions legally formed for the public good. They hold works in trust for the viewing public. When works are accessioned and not displayed, museum boards of directors may be putting themselves at risk of violating their fiduciary duties.

While these duties have not been traditionally enforced by state attorneys general, the rise in deaccessions by institutions to raise revenue for operating costs could prompt greater scrutiny of these fiduciary duties. Taking works out of the basement makes good legal sense.

As Seen In The Plain Dealer

Monday, August 16, 2010
My last post on Health Insurance Issues With Dave generated a lot of responses. Some people were frustrated with yet another under-publicized provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Some used my article as an opportunity to complain about the Democrats, in general, and the President, in particular. But the phone calls all went something like this:

Dave, OK I’m scared. This doesn’t apply to me, right? I’m grandfathered.
No, it does and you aren’t!

There was an excellent article about the rules to be eligible to retain grandfathered status in the August 8th Plain Dealer Forum Section. It was written by Michael P. Coyne. The article tied in so well with my blog and my clients’ concerns that I felt compelled to write a Letter to the Editor. This appeared Saturday, August 14th.

Michael P. Coyne's article about "grandfathered" health plans (Forum, Sunday) shed some light on the challenges small businesses face with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Please let me add a real-world example.
A client called recently to verify that his plan still qualified as "grandfathered." It didn't. He employees about 25 skilled and semiskilled workers and has always provided health insurance. His June renewal with a major carrier included a rate increase of 23.7 percent. Luckily for his employees, another carrier with a little better coverage was less expensive. The employees won. The employer won. Everyone is happy -- except Washington.
You lose your "grandfathered" status if you change insurance carriers.
"Why should I be punished?" my client asked. "They now have better coverage."
The answer, of course, is simple. None of this is about coverage.

Is it really that simple? Yes. Unions can change insurance carriers without forfeiting their grandfathered status. Businesses can not. Will this affect the client’s employees and how he does business? Definitely. I’m positive that this legislation will have a significant impact on the payment and delivery of health care.

The rules may be written on the fly, but the outcome appears to be predetermined.



By the way, special thanks to those of you who followed ALL of the links in the last post. Even the most serious of topics needs a little levity.

Don't Cry Uncle, Stay Grandfathered

Monday, August 2, 2010
Grandfathered - The right to stay under the old rules and regulations that new policies must follow. The more onerous the new rules and regulations, the more desirable it is to be grandfathered.

The new rules are coming. In a rush to change the delivery and payment of health care as quickly and as irrevocably as possible, Congress made the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act effective the day it was signed into law, march 23, 2010. The rules have yet to be written. The U.S. Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services are issuing interim final rules. Nothing is set in stone, except that all of the rules they create will apply to all group and individual health insurance policies that aren't grandfathered.

Policies on the books as of March 23, 2010 may be grandfathered, may be exempted from some of the new rules. Which rules? Who knows? The rules and regs are fluid. The insurers are being pressured to institute some changes "voluntarily".

How important is grandfathered status? There is no way to assess the value at this point, but the government is attempting to make it very difficult to maintain. So difficult in fact, that the rules to keep that status got my attention. When Washington erects this many roadblocks, and a damaged bridge isn't involved, you might want to see what is on the other side.

The following, courtesy of Medical Mutual of Ohio, is a synopsis of the Interim Final Rule for the maintenance of the status of a grandfathered plan. The following changes will cause individual and employer plans to no longer be grandfathered:
* A merger, acquisition or similar business restructuring, if the principal purpose of the action is to cover new individuals under the grandfathered plan.
* A substantial elimination of benefits to diagnose or treat a particular condition.
* Any increase in cost-sharing percentage requirements (such as coinsurance) above the level in effect as of March 23, 2010.
* An increase in the fixed-amount, cost-sharing requirements (e.g., deductible or out-of-pocket limits) above the level in effect on March 23, 2010, other than copayments, that exceeds the sum of medical inflation plus 15 percent.
* An increase in copayments above the level in effect on March 23, 2010, by an amount that exceeds the greater of the sum of medical inflation plus 15 percent or $5, adjusted annually by medical inflation.
* A contribution rate decrease by an employer or employee organization of more than 5 percent below the contribution rate on March 23, 2010, for any tier of coverage and any class of similarly situated individuals.
* The addition of an overall annual limit on the dollar value of benefits if the plan was not imposing an overall annual or lifetime limit on the dollar value of benefits on March 23, 2010.
* The addition of an overall annual limit on the dollar value that is lower than the dollar value of the lifetime limit on March 23, 2010.
* Any decrease in dollar value of the overall annual limit (regardless of whether the plan had an overall lifetime limit on March 23, 2010), if the plan imposed an overall annual limit on the dollar value of all benefits.
* A change in health plan carriers (changing a third party administrator has no effect).

Almost any change made since March 23, 2010 disqualifies your plan from being grandfathered. Did you know that in April when you raised your deductible? Have you changed your copays lately? Even replacing the exact same benefits with a different insurance carrier causes you to forfeit your grandfathered status. This isn't about you, your business, or your employees. It certainly is not about making your current policy more effective.

Will there be any benefit to having a grandfathered health plan? I don't know. But, the government thinks that there will be a real value and Washington is working very hard to take it away from you.