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HEALTH SYSTEM REFORM LIKELY TO POSE FAR MORE COMPLEX LEGAL CHALLENGES TO LARGE COMPANIES THAN ANY PREVIOUS FEDERAL LAW

 Companies May Spend Years Rewriting Benefits Plans
 NEW YORK, April 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Health system reform proposals to


be unveiled by the White House in May or June to restructure the nation's health system may require years of legal analysis to bring corporate benefits now covered under current federal laws into compliance, according to experts in corporate benefits laws. The health reform proposals, which may clear Congress this year or next, may require extensive benefits changes far exceeding those required by the landmark Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) passed by Congress in 1972, regarded by many legal experts as one of the most complex federal laws ever passed.
 A major policy issue before the Clinton Health Task Force is how large employers which self-insure for their employees' health care (the majority of large U.S. companies) will be handled under the managed competition approach favored by the White House. Under managed competition, these companies may be required to conform to new requirements of local or regional health insurance purchasing cooperatives (HIPC) and a new national federal benefits board. The task force may also be considering combining workers' compensation insurance coverage into a basic benefits plan.
 "Much of the case law which decides what employers' responsibilities are under ERISA and other statutes for health benefits took at least a decade to work its way through the courts and major companies are still incorporating changes into their benefits," said Ron Green, senior partner with national law firm Epstein, Becker & Green, which advises more than half the Fortune 500 companies on employee benefits issues. "The sweeping scope of health system reform now under consideration may well require an entire rewriting of many companies' benefits plans for U.S. employees.
 "We are responding to a flood of inquiries from employers and are coordinating our labor law responses with our health law department, which has many specialists in the numerous health laws which also will be affected," said Green. "We have also been joined by one of the nation's leading experts in ERISA law, Howard Pianko, who will assist us with advising domestic and multi-national corporations whose U.S. employees will be affected by health system reform. Mr. Pianko chairs the firm's Multinational Employee Benefits Department." He previously was head of the employee benefits department at Hughes Hubbard and Read.
 "The extent to which current laws are affected by new federal legislation on health benefits could take the regulatory agencies and the courts years to resolve employer and employees rights and responsibilities," said Pianko. "In health care, employers now have a great deal of flexibility in contracting with local health providers selected by employers and preferred by employees. New legislation could affect just about all of these relationships and contracts," said Pianko.
 "Our large health clients will be affected on the employment side as well by health system reform," said Steven Epstein, a senior partner in the firm's Washington health law practice. "Health system reform willalso aff ec dozens of health laws. The sheer magnitude of the legal changes envisioned by health system reform may in time make ERISA look simple."
 "The uncertainties of what health reform may mean to existing contractual relationships has our health law department working long hours developing possible answers," said William Kopit, senior health partner in the Epstein, Becker & Green Washington office. "It's fair to say that the changes envisioned under health system reform are the single largest domestic policy transformation our country has ever undertaken. Once the rules and regulations are written, we are likely to have a new body of law which will dwarf all others.
 "Many of our clients around the country have spent years restructuring to respond to the health laws of the 1980s. Many are wondering if they will have to start all over to prepare for the 1990s," said Kopit.
 -0- 4/5/93
 /CONTACT: Howard Pianko, 212-351-4500, or Timothy Bell, 703-476-8060 or, after hours, 703-709-9449, both for Epstein, Becker & Green/


CO: Epstein, Becker & Green ST: New York IN: HEA SU:

MH-TW -- DC002 -- 2893 04/05/93 09:04 EDT
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Date:Apr 5, 1993
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