Stamer, Others To Discuss Technology Use/Risks in Employee Benefits, Tax & HR Consulting & Administration

July 29, 2009

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will speak about “Technology Issues for Tax Attorneys and their Clients” on September 26, 2009 at the American Bar Association 2009 Fall Joint Tax Meeting in Chicago. 

The September 26 program will feature a panel discussion of:

  • Research tools, anti-virus, encryption and other technology practice aids, tools and tricks tax practitioners;
  • IRS, DOL and other rules impacting opportunities for employers and employee benefit plan administrators to use electronic communications to reduce employment and employee benefit plan communication expenses;
  • Electronic communications with government agencies and the need to be prepared to provide electronic records for tax audits;
  • Expanding personal information privacy and data security considerations; and
  • More.

Moderated by Frank Palmieri of  Palmieri & Eisenberg, Alexandria, VA, the confirmed panelists include:

  • Catherine Sanders Reach of the American Bar Association, Chicago, IL;
  • Cynthia Marcotte Stamer of  Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP, Dallas, TX;
  • Joy M. Mercer of Joy M. Mercer, PC, Florham Park, NJ; and
  • Danny A. Martin, Jr. of Shell Oil Company, Houston, TX.

The session is scheduled to take place from 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 26, 2009.  To register for the meeting or other details, see here.

Chair Elect of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Compensation Committee, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits  Council member, and Chair of the Curran Tomko Tarski Labor, Employment & Employee Benefits Practice, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is  nationally and internationally recognized for her work assisting businesses, employee benefit plan fiduciaries and vendors, governments, and other entities to develop administer and defend cost-effective employee benefit other human resources programs, policies and procedures to meet their budgetary, risk management and compliance and other objectives.  Board certified in Labor & Employment law, Ms. Stamer applies her extensive experience regarding employment, employee benefit, tax, privacy and data security and other related laws to assists clients in a wide range of business and litigation contexts.   The co-founder of the Solutions Law Consortium, Ms. Stamer also makes extensive use of cloud computing and other technology in her own practice and provides input to human resources and other clients others about the use of these and other technology tools to manage employee benefit, human resources, internal controls and other operations.  In connection with this work, Ms. Stamer has works, writes and consults extensively with a diverse range of clients about  the development, use technology and other processes to streamline health and other benefit, payroll and other human resources, employee benefits, tax, compliance and other business processes and the management and protection of sensitive personal and other information and data.

If your organization or employee benefit plan needs assistance managing or evaluating options or responsibilities associated with the use of technology and data in connection with its health care, employee benefits, tax or other operation or other human resources, employee benefits or and compliance concerns, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see here.

More Information & Resources

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here /the Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here or e-mailing this information to Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here. For important information concerning this communication click here.    If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Businesses Cautioned To Strengthen Investigation & Employment Practices To Minimize Potential Exposure To Retaliation Claims In Light Of Recent Supreme Court Retaliation Decision

July 22, 2009

Businesses that fire or discipline employees increasingly face retaliation claims by disgruntled workers claiming the protection of nondiscrimination and other federal and state whistleblower and anti-retaliation laws. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Crawford v. Metropolitan Gov’t of Nashville and Davidson County, No. 06-1595, highlights the need for employers to exercise constant vigilance to potential retaliation claims and the need to act to avoid retaliating, or appearing to retaliate against employees when conducting internal investigations, terminations, promotions or other workforce management activities. While the decision specifically addressed retaliation under Title VII, the use of similar language in other federal laws regulating business conducting – including those covered by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines – makes it likely that the decision has much broader implications.

Technically, the Crawford decision specifically applied to retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) in the context of a sexual harassment complaint investigation.  However, business should anticipate that creative plaintiffs and their legal counsel soon will ask courts to apply the Crawford holding beyond sexual harassment to reach to claims brought by employees claiming injury in retaliation for statements made in relation to investigation of other federal statutes prohibiting retaliation.  A host of federal and state employment and other laws prohibit businesses from retaliating against employees for reporting possible prohibited conduct or seeking to exercise certain rights legally protected rights.  Because many of these statutes use the same or similar language to the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VI, share the same or similar purpose, or both,  businesses should anticipate that certain courts will be inclined to view the Crawford  rationale, if not its holding, as applicable to retaliation claims under certain of these other federal statutory prohibitions.  Accordingly, pending further guidance, most businesses interested in minimizing exposures to retaliation claims will want to design and administer investigations to avoid the impression of illegal retaliation against witnesses in sexual harassment investigations as other investigations where similar anti-retaliation provisions may apply.  Accordingly, most U.S. businesses will treat Crawford as having potential implications both in relation to sexual harassment and other investigations under Title VII as well as investigations conducted other federal laws containing similar anti-retaliation provisions.

The Crawford Decision

In its February 2, 2009 unanimous Crawford decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII protect employees against retaliation for giving a “disapproving account” of unlawful behavior when responding to questions asked during the employer’s investigation of a sexual harassment discrimination, even if the employee took no further overt action to complain about, seek to remedy or stop the misconduct.

Vicky Crawford sued the employer under Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision, which prohibits an employer from terminating a worker because she “has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice” under Title VII.   The Crawford case arose from statements Ms. Crawford made in response questions addressed to her as part of her employer’s investigation of sexual harassment rumors.  Asked if she’d witnessed any inappropriate behavior by a supervisor, Ms. Crawford answered told the employer about a series of harassing acts by the supervisor toward herself.  Besides reporting her experience in reply to employer questions during the investigation, however, Ms. Crawford did not file a sexual harassment complaint or otherwise report her alleged sexual harassment experience to the employer.  Following the interview, the employer did not discipline the supervisor.  However, the employer subsequently fired Ms. Crawford and two other employees who also reported being harassed by the supervisor.  As part of its defense, the employer argued that Ms. Crawford’s report during the course of the investigation did not qualify as “opposition” prohibited under Title VII.  

The question before the Supreme Court was whether simply disclosing an act of harassment in answer to a question constitutes “oppos[ing]” an unlawful practice, or whether – as the court of appeals had held – opposition within the meaning of the provisions requires something more assertive.

 Applying the ordinary meaning of “oppose,” the Supreme Court unanimously found that “When an employee communicates to her employer a belief that the employer has engaged in . . . employment discrimination, that communication virtually always constitutes the employee’s opposition to the activity.”  Accordingly, the Supreme Court ruled that protected opposition under Title VII includes giving a “disapproving account” of unlawful behavior, even if the employee takes no further action on her own to seek to stop or remedy the conduct.

Explaining its conclusions, the Supreme Court stated that a contrary rule that would require a worker to engage in “active, consistent” behavior in order to engage in protected opposition would be inconsistent with common usage.  For example, the Court explained, one can “oppose capital punishment” without doing anything active to end it.  The Supreme Court rejected as “freakish” an interpretation of “opposition” that would protect an employee who reports discrimination on her own initiative but not one who reports the same discrimination in the same words when her boss asks a question.”

While concurring in the unanimous opinion, Justices Alito and Thomas cautioned against reading that opinion too broadly. Their opinion clarifies that in their view, covered opposition must be “active and purposive” to qualify as protected.  Consequently, they warned that the Court’s opinion should not be read to suggest that Title VII protects merely opposing a practice in principle (like opposing capital punishment) without taking any action at all to express that opposition.

 

Other Broader Potential Implications & Lessons From Crawford

Although the report by Ms. Crawford involved her notification to the employer that she too may have been sexually harassed, the implications of the Crawford decision reach more broadly. 

Crawford specifically construed the anti-retaliation provisions of 42 U. S. C. §2000e–3(a), which makes it unlawful “for an employer to discriminate against any . . . employe[e]” who (1) “has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter”, or (2) “has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this subchapter”.  This provision of Title VII and other equal employment opportunity laws, as well as the Family & Medical Leave Act and various other employment laws commonly contain similar prohibitions against an employer or business discriminating against protected persons for opposing unlawful practices or making charges, testifying, assisting or participating in investigation of practices prohibited under the applicable employment law.  Consequently, there exists a significant probability that courts will apply the Crawford holding to retaliation claims brought by employees for testimony or other participation in investigation in other equal employment opportunity charges under Title VII and other employment laws.

It also is possible that employees ask the courts to extend the holding of Crawford to retaliation claims brought by employees claiming to have been retaliated against for participating in the investigation of or expressing opposition to illegal practices under a wide range of other statutes.  Beyond the employment context, many other federal laws incorporate similar prohibits against employer discrimination against employees for opposing practices made unlawful under their provisions or providing testimony or participating in investigations of potential violations of their provisions. For example,  in connection with its criminal prohibition of major fraud against the United States, paragraph (h) of 18 U.S.C § 1031 creates a right for individuals discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment by an employer because of lawful acts done by the employee on behalf of the employee or others “in furtherance of a prosecution under this section (including investigation for, initiation of, testimony for, or assistance in such prosecution)” to recover for job and seniority reinstatement, 2 times the amount of back pay, interest, litigation costs and reasonable attorneys fees and other special damages.

Given these similarities, pending further guidance, U.S. businesses generally will want to exercise sensitivity when dealing with employees who express opposition, testify or otherwise participate in investigations or prosecutions of potential violations under Title VII and other federal laws that contain the same or similar anti-retaliation provisions. 

Read from this perspective, the Crawford decision highlights the advisability for businesses not to overlook the potential significance of the statements and conduct by employees involved in any internal investigation, performance, or other activity that might later form the basis of a retaliation complaint.  

Businesses generally should listen carefully when conducting investigations, employee counseling and discipline meetings, and exit interviews with an eye out for the need to investigate potential legal violations, defend against retaliation charges, or both.

Although businesses should continue to require employees to report known or suspected discrimination or other prohibited conduct in accordance with a specified formal procedure, the Crawford decision reminds businesses not to overestimate the protection afforded by the establishment of formal reporting procedures. 

Crawford also highlights the need for businesses to be careful to investigate and properly respond to new charges of discrimination or other potential legal or policy violations that may be uncovered in the course of an investigation, disciplinary meeting or exist interview.   

Additionally, businesses also should seek to evaluate the potential implications of their dealings with employees who previously have made charges, participated in investigations, or claimed other protected rights such as taking a protected leave or the like. 

Likewise, as in the defense of other employment claims, Crawford also reflects the value and importance of businesses appropriately documenting performance concerns relating to a specific employee and legitimate business challenges motivating employment actions as they arise, in the event that it subsequently becomes necessary to present evidence of a valid performance or business justification to defend against allegations by an employee claiming to have been discharged or otherwise discriminated against in retaliation for engaging in protected conduct under Title VII or other similar federal anti-retaliation laws.

Finally, businesses should keep in mind the potential value of strong documentation.  When seeking to defend against claims of discrimination or retaliation, the strength of the employer’s documentation often can play a significant role in the cost and ease of defense of the claim or charge.  Businesses should work to prepare and retain documentation not only of allegations, investigations and determinations regarding both employee performance and discipline, as well as the handling of alleged violations of equal employment opportunity or other laws.  Documentation should be prepared and retained on a systematic basis with an eye to strengthening the organization’s ability to prevent and defend against charges that the organization violated the core obligations under the applicable law as well as to defend employment decisions involving employees who may be in a position to assert retaliation claims.

The importance of good investigation and documentation practices takes on particular importance in the current tough economic environment.  While retaliation claims have been rising for many years, the recent economic downturn is fueling an increase in the number of employees seeking to claim protection in the tightening economy based on retaliation or other employment law protections.  Workforce dissention and changes in personnel also can complicate further the ability to defend these claims just as the Department of Labor and other federal regulators are turning up the enforcement heat.  As a result, appropriate investigation and documentation procedures are particularly important in the current environment.

Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Can Help

If your business needs assistance auditing, updating or defending its human resources, corporate ethics, and compliance practices, or responding to employment related or other charges or suits, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see here.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity and other labor and employment, compensation and employee benefit compliance and risk management concerns, as well as advising ad defending employers against federal and state employment discrimination and other labor and employment, compensation, and employee benefit related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations.  

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented employers on wage and hour and a diverse range of other labor and employment, compensation, employee benefit and other personnel and staffing matters for more than 20 years.  

More Information & Resources

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here /the Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here or e-mailing this information to Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here. For important information concerning this communication click here.    If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


OFCCP To Apply Special Procedures, Heightened Scrutiny To Equal Employment Practices of Government Contractors, Subcontractors On ARRA Funded Projects

July 20, 2009

U.S. businesses engaged to provide services on projects funded from the $787 billion of stimulus funding provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA”) signed into law by President Barack Obama in February, 2009 will face heightened equal employment opportunity scrutiny and be subject to special procedures by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) according to “Procedures for Scheduling and Conducting Compliance Evaluations of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) Funded Contractors” issued July 7, 2009.  See OFCCP Order No. ADM 0901/SEL the “ARRA Procedures”). 

Businesses providing services or supplies on ARRA funded projects directly or as subcontractors be considered government contractors, required to comply with the equal employment opportunity requirements of  Executive Order 11246, as amended (EO 11246); Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,as amended (Section 503); and the Vietnam Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended, 38 U.S.C. 4212 (VEVRAA).   OFCCP has made clear that it will conduct compliance evaluations and host compliance assistance events to ensure that federal contractors comply and are aware of their responsibilities under EO 11246, Section 503 and VEVRAA. 

A review of the ARRA Procedures makes clear that ARRA funded contractors can expect to face much more rigorous scrutiny during their compliance audits that normally applies in non-ARRA contract compliance reviews.

OFCCP has established separate scheduling procedures to provide for compliance evaluations of ARRA funded contractors separate from those usually applicable to government contractors because ARRA obligates OFCCP separately to track its ARRA-related and non-ARRA-related enforcement activities.

The ARRA Procedures require that Regional, District and Area offices conduct a full compliance evaluation, including a full desk audit and onsite review, of every ARRA funded contractor establishment scheduled, even in the absence of systemic discrimination indicators. Normally applied by OFCCP to non-ARRA government contract reviews, Active Case Management (ACM) procedures normally allow OFCCP to conduct only an abbreviated desk audit in the absence of systematic discrimination indicators in non-ARRA compliance evaluations.  These ACM procedures will not be used in ARRA compliance evaluations. 

Due to the special nature of ARRA, OFCCP also has indicated that the ARRA compliance evaluations will not apply the following scheduling exceptions typically applicable in non-ARRA contract compliance reviews:

  • No more than 25 establishments per contractor exception: Presently, for contractors with multiple establishments, the Federal Contractor Scheduling System (FCSS) limits the number of compliance evaluations scheduled to 25 new evaluations during a scheduling cycle. The 25-establishment limit does not apply to ARRA compliance evaluations.
  • Two year exception: Presently, contractor establishments that have been reviewed by OFCCP are excepted from further review for a 24-month period. Under ARRA scheduling procedures, ARRA funded contractor establishments may be eligible for an ARRA compliance evaluation even if they have been reviewed within the previous 24 months. However, pre-award clearance is not required for contractor establishments reviewed by OFCCP within the past 24 months.

However, ARRA scheduling procedures will apply the following scheduling exceptions:

  • ARRA funded contractor establishments that have undergone an FCSS compliance evaluation will be excepted from scheduling and review under ARRA procedures for six months from the date of the FCSS case closure.
  • ARRA funded contractor establishments that have undergone an ARRA compliance evaluation will not be subject to another ARRA evaluation.
  • ARRA funded contractor establishments that have undergone an ARRA evaluation will also be excepted from scheduling for a standard OFCCP compliance evaluation, pursuant to FCSS, for 24 months from the date of closure of the ARRA compliance evaluation.

ARRA funded contractors also are subject to other special pre-award clearance, pre-award intake, pre-award classification and other special procedures.  The ARRA Procedures also set for special requirements particularly applicable to construction contracts funded by ARRA.

The special procedures and heightened compliance review procedures provided for under the ARRA Procedures indicate that government contractors or subcontractors providing services or supplies on projects funded with ARRA funds will want to place special attention on compliance with OFCCP and other federal equal employment opportunity and other employment regulation compliance.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity and other labor and employment, compensation and employee benefit compliance and risk management concerns, as well as advising ad defending employers against federal and state employment discrimination and other labor and employment, compensation, and employee benefit related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented employers on wage and hour and a diverse range of other labor and employment, compensation, employee benefit and other personnel and staffing matters for more than 20 years.  If your business needs assistance auditing or updating its wage and hour or other human resources compliance practices, or responding to wage and hour or other employment related charges or suits, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here /the Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here or e-mailing this information to Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here. For important information concerning this communication click here.    If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Federal minimum wage rises to $7.25 per hour Friday As DOL Steps Up Wage & Hour Enforcement

July 20, 2009

The federal minimum wage for non-exempt employees increases to $7.25 per hour this Friday, June 24, 2009.  This means that by Friday, every employer of employees subject to the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) will be required to:

  • Ensure non-exempt employee pay equals or exceeds the increased federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour; and
  • Update the federal minimum wage and hour notice postings that the FLSA requires employers post in a conspicuous place in all of their establishments to notify employees about the FLSA minimum wage and overtime rules.  A revised Federal minimum wage poster, reflecting the minimum wage increase to $7.25 per hour is now available free of charge on the Department of Labor’s Web site here in multiple languages.

While implementing these required updates, U.S. employers also generally should audit existing wage and hour practices and documentation and take other steps to defend against the heightened emphasis on enforcement of federal wage overtime, minimum wage, child labor and other wage and hour laws announced by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division (WHD). In March, 2009 Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced that the Labor Department was adding 250 new field investigators and taking other steps to strengthen its enforcement of these federal wage and hour laws.  See WHD Press Release.    Consistent with this promise to emphasize wage and hour enforcement, the Labor Department has announced a series of wage and hour enforcement actions since President Obama took office in January affecting various industries in all regions of the nation.  These include the following:

Labor Department officials are promising continued strong enforcement of federal wage and hour and other labor and employment laws in the months ahead.

The continuing emphasis of the DOL upon FLSA enforcement, coupled with the growth in FLSA enforcement actions by private plaintiffs, provides an important warning to employers of low wage workers specifically, as well as employers generally, of the importance of being prepared to defend their worker classification and overtime practices against DOL and/or private litigant investigations.  When it updated its regulations governing the classification of workers as exempt versus non-exempt under the FLSA in 2004, the DOL urged employers to review and update their worker classification and overtime practices to comply with the updated regulations.  At the same time, the DOL announced its intention to vigorously enforce its FLSA regulations against employers failing to adhere to these updated rules.  Despite these widely publicized compliance efforts, DOL studies of employer compliance with overtime rules continue to reflect that 50 percent of employers are not in compliance with these mandates.

Therefore, in addition to adjusting existing rates of pay to comply with the increased minimum wage, employers also should:

  • Audit overtime pay practices to verify they comply with applicable federal and state requirements,
  • Review workers classified as exempt employees and/or non-employee contractors in light of the FLSA and applicable state wage and hour laws to assess the sustainability of these characterizations against a legal challenge; and
  • Audit the adequacy of current practices for tracking and documenting time worked by non-exempt workers in light of the FLSA and applicable state wage and hour laws.

Employers are cautioned to keep in mind that employers generally bear the burden of proving that their existing worker classification, wage and overtime practices meet or exceed the minimum standards imposed by the FLSA and any applicable state wage and hour law.  In addition to specifically targeting wage and hour enforcement generally, the Obama Administration also has directed the Department of Labor and other agencies to carefully scrutinize the appropriateness of situations where businesses classify persons performing services as working in a non-employee capacity. 

The minimum wage increase that takes effect this Friday is the last of three provided by the enactment of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, which amended the FLSA to increase the federal minimum wage in three steps: to $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007; to $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and now to $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. The latest change will directly benefit workers in 30 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming) where the state minimum wage is currently at or below the federal minimum wage, or there is no state minimum wage. It will also benefit workers in the District of Columbia, where the minimum wage is required to be $1 more than the federal minimum wage.  A family with a full-time minimum wage earner will see its monthly income increase by about $120.

Every employer of workers subject to the FLSA’s minimum wage provisions must post, and keep posted in each of its establishments, a notice explaining this act. The notice must be posted in conspicuous places to permit employees to readily read them. Posters and other compliance assistance materials concerning the minimum wage increase are available free of charge from the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division and may also be obtained from the agency’s Web site at http://www.wagehour.dol.gov.

Many states have minimum wage laws with provisions that differ from the federal law. When an employer is subject to both, the employer must pay the higher of the two rates.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with wage and hour and other employment and compensation compliance and risk management concerns, as well as defending employers against federal and state Department of Labor and private plaintiff wage and hour and other labor and employment, compensation and employee benefit charges, claims and investigations.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented employers on wage and hour and a diverse range of other labor and employment, compensation, employee benefit and other personnel and staffing matters for more than 20 years.  If your business needs assistance auditing or updating its wage and hour or other human resources compliance practices, or responding to wage and hour or other employment related charges or suits, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here /the Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here or e-mailing this information to Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here. For important information concerning this communication click here.    If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Contact House Blue Dog Democrats About Health Care Reform Bill Concerns

July 18, 2009

Individuals concerned about the  “American’s Affordable Health Care Choices Act of 2009” health care reform proposal introduced by the House Democratic Leadership earlier this week should target their input on the Democrats in Congress most likely to listen to those concerns. In the House of Representatives, these members likely are the “Blue Dog Democrats” in the House.  Read about Blue Dog Democrats here.    

The fiscal conservatism of Blue Dog Democrats makes them more likely to listen to concerns about the cost and other concerns relating to the health care reform bills touted by the Democrat Leadership in the House and Senate.  In fact, many Blue Dog Democrats already are speaking out about their concerns about the cost and other aspects of the Bill. 

Contact from voters and contributors in their districts and others could make a major difference in the ability that the House Democrat Leadership needs to pass their Bill.  Immediately contacting these members and getting others – particularly voters and contributors in the districts that elect these members – is one of the most important steps that concerned Americans can do to position their concerns to be heard.   

For most concerned voters, telephone or fax contact is the best means to convey these messages.  To minimize spam, most members only accept e-mail submitted through their website links.  Security concerns can delay receipt of written correspondence for weeks.

For persons interested in making their voices heard and sharing information with others who wish to do the same, the following contact information may be of interest:

The number of the Capital Switchboard is 202-224-3121.

The Blue Dog Leadership Team and there telephone and fax numbers are:

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration, Telephone: 202.225.2801 , Fax: 202.225.5823

Rep. Baron Hill (IN-09), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy,Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-6866

Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA-03), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-3944

Rep. Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip, Telephone:  202-225-6401, Fax: (202) 226-6422

The Blue Dog Members and their telephone numbers are :

Altmire, Jason (PA-04),(202)225-2565

Arcuri, Mike (NY-24), (202)225-3665

Baca, Joe (CA-43),(202)225-6161

Barrow, John (GA-12), (202) 225-2823

Berry, Marion (AR-01), (202) 225-4076

Bishop, Sanford (GA-02), (202) 225-3631

Boren, Dan (OK-02), (202) 225-2701

Boswell, Leonard (IA-03), (202) 225-3806

Boyd, Allen (FL-02), (202) 225-5235

Bright, Bobby (AL-02), (202) 225-2901

Cardoza, Dennis (CA-18), (202) 225-6131

Carney, Christopher (PA-10), (202) 225-3731

Chandler, Ben (KY-06), (202) 225-4706

Childers, Travis (MS-01), (202) 225-4306

Cooper, Jim  (TN 5th), (202) 225-4311

Costa, Jim  (CA 20th), (202) 225-3341

Cuellar, Henry  (TX 28th), (202)  225-1640

Dahlkemper, Kathleen A. (PA 3rd), (202) 225-5406

Davis, Lincoln (TN 4th),(202) 225-6831

Donnelly, Joe  (IN 2nd), (202) 225-3915

Ellsworth, Brad  (IN 8th), (202) 225-4636

Giffords, Gabrielle  (AZ 8th), (202) 225-2542

Gordon, Bart  (TN 6th), (202) 225-4231

Griffith, Parker  (AL 5th), (202) 225-4801

Harman, Jane  (CA 36th), (202) 225-8220

Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie  (SD At Large), (202) 225-2801

Hill, Baron P.  (IN 9th), (202) 225-5315

Holden, Tim  (PA 17th), (202) 225-5546

Kratovil, Frank Jr. (MD 1st), (202) 225-5311

McIntyre, Mike  (NC 7th), (202) 225-2731

Marshall, Jim  (GA 8th), (202) 225-6531

Matheson, Jim  (UT 2nd), (202) 225-3011

Melancon, Charlie  (LA 3rd), (202) 225-4031

Michaud, Michael H. (ME 2nd), (202) 225-6306

Minnick, Walt  (ID 1st), (202) 225-6611

Mitchell, Harry E.  (AZ 5th), (202) 225-2190

Moore, Dennis  (KS 3rd), (202) 225-2865

Murphy, Patrick J.  (PA 8th), (202) 225-4276

Nye, Glenn C.  (VA 2nd), (202) 225-4215

Peterson, Collin C.  (MN 7th), (202) 225-2165

Pomeroy, Earl  (ND At Large), (202) 225-2611

Ross, Mike  (AR 4th), (202)  225-3772

Salazar, John T.  (CO 3rd), (202) 225-4761
Sanchez, Loretta  (CA 47th), (202) 225-2965

Schiff, Adam B.  (CA 29th), (202) 225-4176
Scott, David  (GA 13th), (202) 225-2939

Shuler, Heath  (NC 11th), (202) 225-6401

Space, Zachary T. (OH 18th), (202) 225-6265

Tanner, John S.  (TN 8th), (202) 225-4714

Taylor, Gene  (MS 4th), (202) 225-5772

Thompson, Mike  (CA 1st), (202) 225-3311

Wilson, Charles (OH-06), (202) 225-5705

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


JOB ANGELS NETWORKING FAIR SCHEDULED JULY 18 IN PLANO

July 16, 2009

Three Dallas organizations take flight to assist others 

Job Fair In Plano This Weekend

 Dallas area jobseekers still can make plans to participate in a free Jobseeker’s Networking Fair to be held in Dallas July 18, 2009           

No Cost – No pre-registration

8:00am-1:00pm

St. Andrew United Methodist Church – Wesley Hall

5801 W. Plano Parkway Plano, Texas 75093

(Park in North lots on Mira Vista St.)

8:00am             Registration begins, Speed Networking, One-On-One Coaching; Resume Review, Career Direction etc.

9:00am             Keynote Address: Bryan Dodge – “How to Build a Better You”

Highlighting his new book “The Good Life Rules” subtitle “8 Keys to Being Your Best at Work and Play”

Educational Sessions following keynote to include:

Linkedin, Tweeter/Facebook, 30 Second Commercial, Attitude, How to Jump Start Your Job Search, Interview Skills, Resume Writing, Negotiating the Offer…and more. Speed Networking continues.

Contact:           Bill Brewer – 214-291-8082 – bbrewer@standrewumc.org or

Terry Stallcup – 972-720-8844 – tstallcup@ultimateconsulting.net  or

Cathy Henesey – 214-725-0710 – cathysphr@verizon.net       

Talk about event on twitter enter #NETFAIR.  Don’t know what this means, come to one of the Twitter sessions to learn more.


Nomination of Phyllis Borzi as Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employment Benefits Security Administration Unanimously Confirmed

July 16, 2009

On Friday (July 10, 2009), the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination of attorney Phyllis Borzi as Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration.

Highly respected by both union and non-union employee benefit plan practitioners and leaders, Ms. Borzi brings to her position an extensive resume of employee benefit experience including extensive governmental and private practice experience.  Her private practice employee benefit experience has encompassed extensive representation of union and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries and others.

In addition to her extensive private sector experience, Ms. Borzi also has extensive Congressional and other governmental experience.  Until January 1995, Ms. Borzi served as pension and employee benefit counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Labor-Management Relations of the Committee on Education and Labor.  She was on the Committee staff for 16 years.

In 1993, in connection with the Presidential Task Force on Health Care Reform, chaired by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ms. Borzi served on working groups dealing with insurance reform, workers’ compensation and employer coverage.  She holds a Master of Arts degree in English from Syracuse University and received her law degree from Catholic University Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the law review.

Ms. Borzi is a charter member and a former President of the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel.  She served as a member of its Board of Governors from 2000-2008.  Ms. Borzi has served as a member of the Advisory Board of the BNA Pension & Benefits Reporter (and a former co-chair of the Board) and a former member of the Advisory Committee of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

Ms. Borzi has also served on the Advisory Board of the Pension Research Council, The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Board of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER).

In 2008, Ms. Borzi was appointed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to serve as a public member of the Administrative Committee for the Goodyear VEBA, an entity that was judicially established pursuant to a negotiated settlement agreement between the company, the Steelworkers and class representatives for the Steelworkers retirees.

Ms. Borzi has published numerous articles on ERISA, health care law and policy and retirement security issues and is a frequent speaker on programs sponsored by legal, professional, business, consumer and state and local governmental organizations.

An active member of the American Bar Association throughout her career, Ms. Borzi surrenders her post as chair of the ABA’s Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (representing the Health Law Section).

 Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Attorneys Can Help

Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, and other members of Curran Tomko Tarski LLP has extensive experience advising employer and other plan sponsors, benefit plans and their fiduciaries about a diverse range of domestic and international health and managed care, pension, deferred compensation and other ERISA and employee benefit and employment compliance, administration, operational and public policy matters.  A member of the Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (representing the Real Property, Trusts and Estates Section), Ms. Stamer is the current Vice-Chair and 2009-2010 Chair Elect of the RPTE Employee Benefits and Compensation Committee.

If your organization needs assistance with employee benefits and ERISA, compensation, managed care or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit concerns or regulations, please contact Ms. Stamer here or at (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Helpful Resources & Information

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of the Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here.  If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here or e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our HR & Employee Benefits Update distributions here.  Also stay abreast of emerging internal controls and compliance challenges by registering for our Corporate Compliance, Risk Management & Internal Controls distributions.  For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@cttlegal.com.

©2009 Curran Tomko Tarski LLP.  All rights reserved.


House Democrats Introduce Their Version of Health Care Reform, the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009″

July 15, 2009

House Democrats introduced their proposal for health care reform this afternoon (July 14, 2009), the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (the “House Bill”).  Introduced under the sponsorship of three key House committees -Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor — the 1018 page House Bill details the sweeping and comprehensive health care reforms that Democrat Leaders in the House are touting.  A copy of the House Bill as introduced may be reviewed here.

The House Bill proposes sweeping reforms built around the establishment of a public plan option while technically continuing to permit private plans to operate but in a federally regulated form allowing for little meaningful plan design control to private payers, health care providers or the individuals choosing among the plan options.   The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the coverage side of the bill will cost $1 trillion and cover 97 percent of the legal population within 10 years.

The following is a brief overview of certain key provisions of the House Bill drawn mostly from a series of high level summaries released by House Democrats along with the House Bill.  Long on politically comforting phrasing and short on details, you can read these summaries here.

Public Plan Option.  The House Bill proposes the establishment of a public health insurance option that would compete with allowable private plans, both of which would be subject to sweeping federal controls.  Democrat House co-sponsors represent the House Bill:

  • Provides a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers within the Health Insurance Exchange.
  • The public health insurance option would be made available in the new Health Insurance Exchange (Exchange) along with private health insurance plans that comply with the design dictates established in the House Bill.
  • The public health insurance option and private plan options meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance market reforms
  • The public option’s premiums would be established for the local market areas designated by the Exchange.
  • Individuals with affordability credits could choose among the private carriers and the public option.
  • Require that the public health plan and private health plan options and private options each must be financially self-sustaining
  • Promote primary care, encourage coordinated care and shared accountability, and improve quality.
  • Institute new payment structures and incentives to promote these critical reforms.
  • Specify health care provider participation in the plans will be voluntary; Medicare providers are presumed to be participating unless they opt out.
  • Provides for provider reimbursements for services from the plans initially will be established using “rates similar to those used in Medicare with greater flexibility to vary payments.
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has announced plans to proceed immediately on mark up on the House Bill with the intention to of scheduling a vote on the House Bill by the end of July. Assuming that House leaders adhere to this schedule, the planned timetable leaves little opportunity for critical evaluation and input by members of Congress or the public who may have questions or concerns about the proposed legislation. Prompt and coordinated action is required for individuals with concerns about any of the proposed reforms.

Federal Mandates Health Plan Benefits.  In order to achieve affordable, quality health care for all, the House Bill would impose federal standards regulating the benefits that the public health plan and private health plans would be required and permitted to offer.  Under these provisions, the House Bill would:

  • Establish a standardized benefit package that covers essential health services.
  • Vest the power in the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the coverage that would be included in this mandated standardize benefit package.
  • Eliminate cost-sharing for preventive care (including well baby and well child care)
  • Impose caps annual out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families.
  • Create a new independent Benefits Advisory to recommend to the Secretary and update the core package of benefits.
  • Provide for the public health plan option to offer four tiers of benefit packages from which consumers can choose to best meet their health care needs. Each allowable plan would be required to provide the dictated core benefits.
    • The Basic Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits and cost sharing protections;
    • The Enhanced Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Basic plan;
    • The Premium Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Enhanced plan; and
    • The Premium Plus Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits, the more generous cost sharing protections of the Premium plan, and additional covered benefits (e.g., oral health coverage for adults, gym membership, etc.) that will vary per plan. In this category, insurers must disclose the separate cost of the additional benefits so consumers know what they’re paying for and can choose among plans accordingly.

The House Bill empowers the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the federally dictated, required core set of benefits provides coverage with input from a newly created Benefits Advisory Commission.  These core benefits are intended to include inpatient hospital services, outpatient hospital services, physician services, equipment and supplies incident to physician services, preventive services, maternity services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services, well baby and well child visits and oral health, vision, and hearing services for children and mental health and substance abuse services.  However, the particular, terms and scope of these benefits is left to HHS to define.

Health Insurance Exchange.  The House Bill also calls for the establishment of a “Health Insurance Exchange” meeting federal mandates through which low income individuals initially, and certain small businesses would be offered the option to purchase health care coverage through federally mandated purchasing groups.  In the first year, the House Bill provides for the Health Insurance Exchange to accept those without health insurance, those who are buying health insurance on their own, and small businesses with fewer than 10 people. In the second year, the Health Insurance Exchange could accept small businesses with fewer than 20 people. After that, “larger employers as permitted by the Commissioner.” In other words, expansion is discretionary, not mandated.

Affordability & Subsidies.  The House Bill provides sliding-scale affordability credits for individuals and families with incomes above the Medicaid thresholds but below 400% of poverty and imposes a cap on total out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families covered under the plans regardless of income.  In addition, the House Bill would broaden Medicaid coverage to include individuals and families with incomes below 133% of poverty.

Effective 2013, sliding scale affordability credits would be provided provided to individuals and families between 133% to 400% of poverty. That means the credits phase out completely for an individual with $43,320 in income and a family of four with $88,200 in income (2009).

The sliding scale credits limit individual family spending on premiums for the essential benefit package to no more than 1.5% of income for those with the lowest income and phasing up to no more than 11% of income for those at 400% of poverty.

The affordability credits also subsidize cost sharing on a sliding scale basis, phasing out at 400% of poverty, ensuring that covered benefits are accessible.

The Health Insurance Exchange would administer the affordability credits in relationship with other federal and state entities, such as local Social Security offices and Medicaid agencies.

The essential benefit package, and all other benefit options, limit exposure to catastrophic costs with a cap on total out of pocket spending for covered benefits. Special provisions would apply to Medicaid. 

Effective 2013, individuals with family income at or below 133% of poverty ($14,400 for an individual in 2009) are eligible for Medicaid. State Medicaid programs would continue to cover those individuals with incomes above 133% of poverty, using the eligibility rules states now have in place.

Paying The Tab.  House Democrats propose to finance approximately half of the estimated $1 trillion bill for their proposed reforms through projected $500 billion or so in savings from Medicare and Medicaid achieved by a variety of reimbursement and benefit cutbacks and other reforms. The rest of the financing would come from a combination of revenue expections from employer and individual mandates (an estimated $200 billion over 10 years) and a surtax on the richest 1.5 percent of Americans. The surtax is 1 percent on income between $350,000 and $500,000; 1.5 percent on income between $500,000 and $1,000,000; and 5.4 percent in income above $1,000,000. The House Bill permits the amount of this surtax to vary if the bill is less or more expensive than initially anticipated.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


CMS Hospital Compare Website Seeks To Help Consumers Evaluate Hospital Quality & Make More Informed Healthcare Choices

July 14, 2009

CMS Hospital Compare Website Seeks To Help Consumers Evaluate Hospital Quality & Make More Informed Healthcare Choices

Employers, health plans and other patient empowerment advocates should review and communicate to employees and others within the patient community newly expanded health care quality outcome data recently included on the Hospital Compare Website, a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) internet resource providing various hospital quality data on more than 4000 U.S. hospitals.  

By sharing data through Hospital Compare, CMS joints the efforts of many employers, health plans and others in seeking to empower conumers with hospital and other quality data.  The initiative is one of many government and private efforts to promote quality and reduce costs by tapping the power of health care consumers.

According to CMS, Hospital Compare now provides “better” data on the previously posted mortality rates for individual hospitals, as well as new data on 30-day readmissions for heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia.  Previously, Hospital Compare had provided only mortality rates for these three conditions.

The Hospital Compare Web site will show a hospital’s mortality or readmissions rate is “Better than,” “No different from,” or “Worse than” the U.S. national rate. This data information includes each hospital’s risk-standardized mortality rate (RSMR), an estimate of the rate’s certainty (also known as the interval estimate), and the number of eligible cases for each hospital.  By posting hospital RSMRs, interval estimates, and the number of eligible cases, CMS is giving consumers and communities additional insight into the performance of their local hospitals in hopes that this will prompt all hospitals to work toward achieving the level of the top-performing hospitals in the country.

Reducing the rate of hospital readmissions to improve quality and achieve savings are key components of President Obama’s health care reform agenda.  Administration officials indicate that hospital readmissions are reducing the quality of health care while increasing hospital costs.  CMS officials hope posting of this expanded health care outcome data will help consumers make more informed health care choices.

According to CMS data, on average 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries who are discharged from a hospital today will re-enter the hospital within a month. Hospital Compare data show that for patients admitted to a hospital for heart attack treatment, 19.9 percent of them will return to the hospital within 30 days, 24.5 percent of patients admitted for heart failure will return to the hospital within 30 days, and 18.2 percent of patients admitted for pneumonia will return to the hospital within 30 days.  Both the mortality and the readmissions measures have been endorsed by the National Quality Forum (NQF) and are supported by the Hospital Quality Alliance (HQA).  CMS says both sets of measures are risk-adjusted and take into account previous health problems to “level the playing field” among hospitals and to help ensure accuracy in performance reporting.

“Providing readmission rates by hospital will give consumers even better information with which to compare local providers,” said Charlene Frizzera, CMS Acting Administrator.  “Readmission rates will help consumers identify those providers in the community who are furnishing high-value healthcare with the best results.”

CMS has been tracking selected hospital outcomes data since 2007, when Hospital Compare debuted 30-day mortality rates for heart attack and heart failure. Thirty-day mortality rates for pneumonia were added to the Website in 2008.  Hospital Compare also includes 10 measures that capture patient satisfaction with hospital care, 25 process of care measures, and two children’s asthma care measures.  The site also features information about the number of selected elective hospital procedures provided to patients and what Medicare pays for those services.

According to CMS, public reporting of these and other measures is intended to empower patients and their families with information they need to engage their local hospitals and physicians in active discussions about quality of care.  CMS officials assert that all hospitals, regardless of their readmission and mortality rates, should use the data available in these free, detailed reports to find ways to continually improve the care they deliver.”

This year, CMS has changed the way it calculates the mortality data to provide even better information to consumers.  In 2007 and 2008, Medicare used only one year of claims data to compute mortality, while  the rates added to the Web site today encompass three full years of claims data (from July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2008).  Although this means that consumers cannot compare data from last year’s rate with this year’s rate, CMS officials believe the expanded data set should provide a clearer picture of how well hospitals are performing.

Using the three-year data method, CMS estimates that the national 30-day mortality rate for patients originally admitted for heart attack care is 16.6 percent.  For heart failure patients, the national 30-day mortality rate is 11.1 percent, and for pneumonia patients the national rate is 11.5 percent.

According to CMS, Hospital Compare readmissions and mortality measures are risk-adjusted measures and were developed by a team of clinical and statistical experts from Yale and Harvard Universities under the direction of CMS and are endorsed by the NQF. The model CMS uses to assess hospital readmissions and mortality rates is based on claims data and has been validated by models based on clinical data. It takes into account medical care received during the year prior to each patient’s hospital admission, as well as the number of admissions at each hospital. The model uses this information to adjust for differences in each hospital’s patient mix, so that hospitals that care for older, sicker patients are on a “level playing field” with those whose patients would be expected to be at less risk of dying within 30 days of admission.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and payers establish, administer health care quality assurance and other programs.  Former Chair of the American Bar Association Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer advises and represents health care payers and providers with a diverse array of quality assurance and other legal and operational risk management initiatives and writes and speaks extensively on these issues.  Her many publications and presentations on managed care and other health plan and health care quality matters include “Practical Solutions for Achieving Clinical Quality & Financial Efficiency in an Evolving Health Care Arena,” “Building Your Patient Empowerment Toolkit,” “Selected Thoughts About Medical Judgment-Based Coverage Decisions Under ERISA-Covered Health Plans After Davila” and numerous other quality improvement and patient empowerment workshops for employee and patient groups, health plans, health care providers, medical societies, government officials, community organizations others. You can get more information about her experience here.  

If you need assistance with patient empowerment and consumer directed health care, health care quality and utilization and other health benefit and health education concerns,  wish to inquire about arranging for patient empowerment, HIPAA or other compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in reviewing one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update publication available here, registering to receive those updates , or both. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law HR & Benefits Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Ms. Stamer, her experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials here.

For important information concerning this communication click here.  If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.


Washington Attorney Phyllis Borzi Unanimously Confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration

July 11, 2009

The U.S. Senate today (July 10, 2009) unanimously confirmed the nomination of attorney Phyllis Borzi as Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration

Highly respected by both union and non-union employee benefit plan practitioners and leaders, Ms. Borzi brings key policy and regulatory knowledge, practical industry and political experience and strong leadership and administrative skills to her post. 

Ms.  Borzi comes to her new role with an extensive resume of employee benefit experience including extensive governmental and private practice experience as well as employee benefit leadership in the American Bar Association and numerous other professional organizations.   Her private practice employee benefit experience has encompassed extensive representation of union and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries and others. 

In addition to her extensive private sector experience, Ms. Borzi also has extensive Congressional and other governmental experience.  Until January 1995, Ms. Borzi served as pension and employee benefit counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Labor-Management Relations of the Committee on Education and Labor.  She was on the Committee staff for 16 years. 

In 1993, in connection with the Presidential Task Force on Health Care Reform, chaired by former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ms. Borzi served on working groups dealing with insurance reform, workers’ compensation and employer coverage.  She holds a Master of Arts degree in English from Syracuse University and received her law degree from Catholic University Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the law review.  

Ms. Borzi is a charter member and a former President of the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel; she served as a member of its Board of Governors from 2000-2008.  Ms. Borzi has served as a member of the Advisory Board of the BNA Pension & Benefits Reporter (and a former co-chair of the Board) and a former member of the Advisory Committee of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. 

Ms. Borzi also has served on the Advisory Board of the Pension Research Council, The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Board of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER). 

In 2008, Ms. Borzi was appointed by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to serve as a public member of the Administrative Committee for the Goodyear VEBA, an entity that was judicially established pursuant to a negotiated settlement agreement between the company, the Steelworkers and class representatives for the Steelworkers retirees.

Ms. Borzi has published numerous articles on ERISA, health care law and policy and retirement security issues and is a frequent speaker on programs sponsored by legal, professional, business, consumer and state and local governmental organizations. 

An active member of the American Bar Association throughout her career, Ms. Borzi surrenders her post as chair of the ABA’s Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (representing the Health Law Section).

Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP has extensive experience advising employer and other plan sponsors, benefit plans and their fiduciaries about a diverse range of domestic and international health and managed care, pension, deferred compensation and other ERISA and employee benefit and employment compliance, administration, operational and public policy matters.  A member of the Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (representing the Real Property, Trusts and Estates Section), Ms. Stamer is the current Vice-Chair and 2009-2010 Chair Elect of the RPTE Employee Benefits and Compensation Committee. 

If your organization needs assistance with employee benefits and ERISA, compensation, managed care or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit concerns or regulations, please contact Ms. Stamer here, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of the Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here or e-mailing this information to Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our HR & Employee Benefits Update distributions here. Also stay abreast of emerging internal controls and compliance challenges by registering for our Corporate Compliance, Risk Management & Internal Controls distributions. For important information concerning this communication click here.    If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 499 other followers