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Moukawsher & Walsh, LLC
Pension and Employee Benefit Law


SPD's for FEHB

Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan


Federal Employees Health Benefits Program
FEHB Plan Brochures


Links to Plan Brochures for 2003


Links to Plan Brochures for 2004


Federal Employees Health Benefits Program



SPD's for NJ State


for employees and retirees

January 2003 (pdf)


U.S. Healthcare Crisis Turnaround?

U.S. A.

Drs. & Hospitals Employers

$1.0 Trillion / Year

$$$ ERISA $$$

50% Savings

The Only Company with Compliant Solutions for All of You

Rx-1  $$$$$$$$$ERISA"Health Insurance Challenges: Buyer Beware" 3-3-04
Hearing, Senate Committee on Finance
$$$$$$$$$$  Rx-2
US Supreme Court Visits

at 11:57:03 AM on Friday, November 21, 2003

New Federal Health Claims & Appeals Laws & Regulations

for 193 Million Americans

Effective 09-23-2010

©2010, Jin Zhou,

Photo of President Gerald R. Ford signing Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974

President Obama Signing Health Bill on 03/23/2010

President Gerald R. Ford Signing ERISA on 09/02/1974

New Webinars, Seminars & Certification Classes Announced for New Federal Health Claim Appeals Regulations on July 22, 2010 from HHS, DOL & IRS, Effective On Sept. 23, 2010 for 193 Million Americans

DOL Seal - Link to DOL Home Page



(Links to DOL) ©2010, Jin Zhou,

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Statutory Laws [PDF] [PDF]



Employee Retirement Income Security Act — ERISA


Webinars, Seminars & Certification Classes for New Federal Health Claim Appeals Regulations - Free Webinars - New Federal Claims & Appeals Regulations, Effective Sept. 23, 2010, for 193 Million Americans Seminars - 2010 Two-day Basic ERISA Appeal Seminars - Denials and Overpayment Appeals - 2010 PPACA & ERISA Claim Specialist Certification Programs in Chicago, Illinois  Create An Appeal Department for Your Hospital or Practice (In-house, onsite ERISA Claim Specialist Certification Programs)




ERISA Question of the Week


ERISA or PPO? About Money!

 © 2004  Jin Zhou,



Many members have asked a similar question, how can a provider become an authorized representative under ERISA to appeal on members behalf, does this provider have to be a participating provider with a PPO contract or HMO contract with the plan, network or TPA?


This is a very popular question and mostly misunderstood, as many providers mistakenly believed that as a participating provider with a managed-care contracting with a TPA, a network or the plan directly, such provider will be automatically eligible or recognized as an authorized representative under ERISA to appeal, if a provider is not contracting with the payor, or network, this provider cannot appeal under ERISA on behalf of the patient even with ERISA recognized authorized representative designation form.


This is completely wrong.


1. Whether a claim is governed by ERISA is determined by the plan sponsor and type of the plan under federal law. In general, if your patient obtained health-insurance/benefits from employment in private sector, this claim will be ERISA claim. In this regard, ERISA law equally applies to both self-insured  plan or fully-insured plan where the employer purchased an insurance policy from an insurance company


2. A traditional assignment of benefits form used by most of us in past 30 years across USA, and a PPO participation do not grant an authority to the provider to appeal on patient behalf under ERISA, except for receiving benefits directly from the plan, if they're coming. (DOL FAQ B2)


3. A PPO participation or contracting has nothing to do with ERISA authorized representative practice, except for such PPO contracting will create a contractual right between the provider and PPO network, but not between provider and an ERISA plan, which may establish some rights for provider to dispute with plan payment of PPO discount only, but and unless


4. Unless or until entitlement of an ERISA benefits claim or denial is completely resolved, or there is no genuine dispute over benefits claim, a provider PPO contracting right can not be triggered, because any dispute or lawsuit concerning remedy of benefits denial from an ERISA regulated, private employer-sponsored health plan falls completely under ERISA, and your PPO dispute or state law claim is completely preempted by ERISA, according to US Supreme Court unanimous ruling on 06/20/2004 in Aetna v. Davila.


5. In a simple explanation, if your dispute is about money, or ultimately about money, claim payment from an ERISA plan, you are disputing under ERISA, not PPO, or anything else but ERISA.


6. Regardless if you are participating or nonparticipating, even there is no benefits or coverage, under ERISA new claim regulation, a patient may freely designate his/her authorized representative to appeal a claim denial, while an ERISA plan may verify such designation and authorization, but may not interfere or prohibit such free designation from an ERISA participant or beneficiary.


7. Although as a past industry practice for some insurers not to send payment checks to nonparticipating provider, and prior to ERISA claim regulation taking into effect on January 1, 2003, a plan must recognize, and may not prohibit, regardless of benefits coverage or provider participation, a patient, plan participant or beneficiary from freely designating health-care provider as his/her authorized representative under ERISA to appeal, again even there is no benefits coverage at all (it's called colorable claim under ERISA), or provider nonparticipating in the network. § 2560.503-1(b)(4).


8. Once a provider has appropriately obtained sufficient authorization to become an authorized representative on behalf of a patient, the plan must treat such representative as if the patient is appealing, as good as patient, for whatever the patient is legally entitled to, such as receiving payments, plan coverage information, notification and appealing, for the purpose of ERISA claim regulation. DOL FAQ B3.


9. It is important to understand that ERISA, as a federal law, completely governs and regulates any dispute or lawsuit as long as you want money from an ERISA plan, health-insurance/benefits from employment in private sector, and ERISA supersedes and invalidates any state laws, PPO contracts HMO contracts and any third-party contracts, as long as your dispute is about money from an ERISA plan, according to US Supreme Court unanimous ruling on June 20, 2004, Aetna v. Davila, and as recent as a California class-action lawsuit Ninth Circuit ruling regarding California state law in reference to ERISA plan, CLEGHORN V BLUE SHIELD OF CALIFORNIA.



10. If a provider or his billing company, disputes money payment with and from an ERISA plan, regardless of its shape, PPO, HMO, POS, EPO or P4P (Pay for Performance), despite provider's participation, the provider must understand ERISA regulation and become an authorized representative under ERISA. However if your dispute is only about PPO discount or HMO capitation, and there is no ERISA dispute at all, your PPO and HMO contracts will be the governing document, and your applicable state law will be the choice of law for your dispute. (PASCACK VALLEY HOSPITAL, INC. v  LOCAL 464A UFCW WELFARE REIMBURSEMENT PLAN (3rd Cir. 11/01/2004)


For more additional information in the subject, please visit






Jin Zhou




Over-payment Refund Request,

ERISA Again?

 © 2004  Jin Zhou,




Question: We have received many overpayment refund requests from insurance companies and managed-care plans, most of them are for medical necessity and policy noncoverage, from the employer-sponsored plans. What rights do we have as participating providers or non-participating providers under ERISA?



Answer: In general, if overpayment requests are concerning benefits payment, instead of PPO discount, regardless if these requests are based on policy exclusion or medical necessity, or computer errors, these requests or disputes are governed by ERISA if your patients obtained health insurance/benefits from employment in private sector, because these disputes are ultimately concerning money, benefits denial, retrospectively, fall completely under ERISA.


If your patients obtained health insurance/benefits from governmental plans, individual policies, and religious entity owned or governmental affiliated school plans, ERISA regulation will not be applicable to your overpayment disputes.


If the overpayment requests were based on provider discount, duplicate payments, mistaken identity or payments to wrong party, your dispute will not be governed under ERISA, as there is no ERISA question of facts and law, or there's no party from an ERISA plan involved.


Every entity must comply with ERISA claim regulation in requesting overpayment refund, overpayment recoupment and appeals, if ERISA jurisdiction is triggered. For more information on specific steps to be taken under ERISA to appeal overpayment request dispute, please visit - "Overpayment" Refund Request Response & Appeals <>




Jin Zhou




NO PPO, No Pay Checks! ERISA Again?

 © 2004  Jin Zhou,




Question: We have had a lot of bad news lately with our reimbursement, first we were told we cannot appeal claim denials because of ERISA, then we've had a lots of overpayment refund request from many insurance companies and employer-sponsored plans, now we are told they won't send any payment checks to us anymore because we are not participating with the network, which usually reduce our bills for more than 60% or no payment at all for longtime. We were told they can do this because of ERISA.


Do we have any rights or protections under ERISA to receive reimbursement payment checks if we're not participating providers?


We would really appreciate your help on this, because for those health-care plans we are participating, our reimbursement has gone down beyond breaking point, that's why we quit some of those networks. Now we won't get any checks at all, it is a disaster.


Please help!"


Answer: Sorry to hear your bad news, your question and experience are very popular nowadays in managed-care industry.


I have bad news and good news for you too.


Bad news is that it is true that under ERISA, prior to the new ERISA claim regulation taking to effect January 1, 2003, ERISA law does not have a clear standard on this issue of assignment of benefits, and federal courts have had different rulings on this issue of assignment and anti-assignment as well as enforceability of assignment of benefits payment, therefore a plan may have anti-assignment provision in the plan document and such anti-assignment provision could be enforceable.


Good news:


However, new ERISA claim regulation, went into effect January 1, 2003, has changed all of this for all ERISA plans. New regulation clarifies for the first time on whether or not the plan can have a provision prohibiting assignment of benefit, and clarified or revised ERISA claim regulation to prohibit any plan from any anti-assignment practice, to allow claimants freely designate health-care providers to be their representative for the purpose of ERISA claim regulation, while the plan may verify, but not interfere or prohibit claimants from such free designation of authorized representative. [ERISA Final Regulation, page 70255]


To be more specific and clearer on whether ERISA regulation provides a specific protection and answer to your questions, DOL issued enforcement and compliance guidance/FAQ B2 and B3 to clarify whether you can receive reimbursement checks and appeal as well as notification of claim adjudication:


"B-2: Does an assignment of benefits by a claimant to a health care provider constitute the designation of an authorized representative?

No. An assignment of benefits by a claimant is generally limited to assignment of the claimant’s right to receive a benefit payment under the terms of the plan. Typically, assignments are not a grant of authority to act on a claimant’s behalf in pursuing and appealing a benefit determination under a plan. In addition, the validity of a designation of an authorized representative will depend on whether the designation has been made in accordance with the procedures established by the plan, if any.


B-3: When a claimant has properly authorized a representative to act on his or her behalf, is the plan required to provide benefit determinations and other notifications to the authorized representative, the claimant, or both?


Nothing in the regulation precludes a plan from communicating with both the claimant and the claimant’s authorized representative. However, it is the view of the department that, for purposes of the claims procedure rules, when a claimant clearly designates an authorized representative to act and receive notices on his or her behalf with respect to a claim, the plan should, in the absence of a contrary direction from the claimant, direct all information and notifications to which the claimant is otherwise entitled to the representative authorized to act on the claimant’s behalf with respect to that aspect of the claim (e.g., initial determination, request for documents, appeal, etc.). In this regard, it is important that both claimants and plans understand and make clear the extent to which an authorized representative will be acting on behalf of the claimant." (Underlined added)


Clearly, DOL FAQ B2 says your traditional assignment will allow you to receive the paychecks, but no authority or rights to appeal, if the checks are not coming, or coming short or late, you cannot dispute or appeal. DOL FAQ B3 says if you have a good assignment, you are as good as patient in receiving paychecks and appealing/protection regardless if you're participating or nonparticipating with networks.


No PPO or HMO contracts may create rights between provider and ERISA plan, any state laws, PPO contracts, other than direct designation from an ERISA plan participant and beneficiary under ERISA may modify or eliminate ERISA benefits designation under ERISA, if PPO contracts or any other state laws designed or attempted to interfere or modify such ERISA designation of beneficiary and representative, they will be preempted by ERISA as impermissible connection to ERISA plan. (US Supreme Court, Egelhoff v. Egelhoff )


As a practical matter, a traditional assignment of the benefit form used by health-care providers in the past 30 years across USA will not satisfy the requirements under new regulation, and they will need to be coming into compliance if health-care providers want to become authorized representatives, regardless if they are participating or nonparticipating providers.


More importantly, in accordance with US Supreme Court unanimous ruling on June 20, 2004 in Aetna v. Davila, anything has to do with money from or with an employer-sponsored, ERISA regulated health plan, ERISA controls and regulates everything, and your PPO contracts or state laws will be completely superseded and invalidated, or preempted by ERISA, if your dispute, cause of action from state laws sought to remedy denial of benefits from an ERISA plan, or ultimately for money from an ERISA plan.


DOL FAQ has been evaluated and affirmed by US Supreme Court "for . . . operating claims processing systems consistent with the prudent administration of a plan....Deference is due that view." (Bold and underline added) Black & Decker Disability Plan v. Nord U.S. Supreme Court, Decided 05/27/2003.


This would be very good news for you, clearly ERISA regulation protects you from being excluded by anyone and any ERISA plan to become an authorized representative on behalf of your patient to receive benefits payment directly, to receive notification of claim adjudication and to appeal claim denials and delays, if you are clearly and correctly designated by your patient as an authorized representative on the ERISA.


For more information on this subject, please visit our web site and a monthly seminar pages.






Jin Zhou



OIG: Special Advisory Bulletin: Practices of Business Consultants [PDF] []
The Office of Inspector General (OIG), Department of Health and Human Services
, June, 2001


Fraud Health Care Cards

"New Strike Force"

Medical Fraud Every Day?

Appeal or Re-Bill After Denial?


No Re-Billing!!!

Claim Appeal or Sentencing Appeal?

Your Choice


The Root of U. S. Healthcare Crisis

Jin Zhou,

The Hearing at Senate Committee on Finance on 3-3-04, [View Video "Health Insurance Challenges: Buyer Beware" 3-3-04
Hearing, Senate Committee on Finance
or Transcript (PDF) (]  revealed the mechanism, nature and extent of ERISA failure and nonenforcement as the reasons for "Growth in Bogus Health Insurance Plans Targeting Desperate Small Business Owners", as being concluded as "No the results are not good. It’s a tragedy." by Ann Combs, assistant secretary of DOL. The mechanism, nature and extent of ERISA failure and nonenforcement as presented at the Hearing are universally true and applicable to all health care claim denials and delays in managed care environment from all employer sponsored health plans as the root of U. S. healthcare crisis.


This is a 911 call on "healthcare 9/11 disaster"!






    Due to the recent demand from the ERISA plans and TPA's, we're pleased to announce that we also provide educational and consulting services to the ERISA plans, TPA's and managed care organizations on New Federal Claim/ERISA Regulations and Compliance, however we do not provide any services involving actual claim dispute or legal advice for any legal matter or disputes.


Payments Go Under a Microscope (

January 12, 2004

"CareFirst officials said the audit of 2,800 doctors was triggered by an earlier examination of several thousand claims that found 9 of every 10 were inaccurate. "The doctors, we're not saying we don't trust them," said Jeff Valentine, a CareFirst spokesman. "But as President Reagan said a number of years ago: 'Trust, but verify.' "


"The largest insurer of all, the federal government, recently estimated that the Medicare program overpaid doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers by $11.6 billion in 2002, according to an audit of 128,000 claims. The audit found many providers submitted insufficient documentation (45 percent), billed for medically unnecessary services (22 percent) and used incorrect codes to describe patient visits (12 percent)."


"A larger audit is planned this year. "The digging now is much deeper," said Leslie V. Norwalk, chief operating officer of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the government agency known as CMS. "Any dollar overpaid is a dollar too much."


"MAMSI and CareFirst recoup overpayments to doctors by making deductions from future reimbursements. Doctors can appeal insurers' decisions. But, in the end, they usually pay up, doctors and insurers agree."

Associations for Physicians, Hospitals, Health-care Providers

We are willing to work with any associations with your co-sponsorship and significant discount for tuitions and reference books. You may e-mail or telephone for more details.


A New Diagnosis & Solution:

ERISA Failure, Noncompliance and Nonenforcement of ERISA SPD and Claims Procedure Rules, Is the Damaged or Missing Foam on U.S. Healthcare Wings!

HMO Crisis Is Really An ERISA Crisis!

HMO & PPO Managed Care Contracting to 
Disregard & Substitute
ERISA SPD & Claims Procedure
Is The Primary & Inevitable Cause of Medical Inflation

Costly Managed Care & Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
American Job Export!


ERISA Failure Damages Are Greater Than
9/11 and Pearl Harbor Tragedies Combined


(ERISA Failure + Managed-Care) Destroyed US Healthcare
(ERISA Failure + Managed-Care + HSA) Invite US Federal Budget Deficit & Social Security Disasters = 100X 9/11 Attacks


Only practical solution is to cut the skyrocketing healthcare care costs and increase the healthcare coverage and benefits at the same time without having to go to Congress to reinvent another new "Mars Project" or "Universal Uninsured Bill of Right".


DOL Compliance Assistance for Health Plans




Statutes (United States Code) 
ERISA - Title 29, Chapter 18. 

        Selected links:

Sec. 1002.

Sec. 1003.

Sec. 1022.
Summary plan description
Sec. 1104.
Fiduciary duties

Sec. 1140.
Interference with protected rights

Sec. 1141.
Coercive interference

part 7
group health plan requirements



Code of Federal Regulations

Codified in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations:


        Selected links:

2520.102-3 Contents of summary plan description.

Claims procedure.


ERISA Laws/Rules

ERISA in the United States Code: Cross-reference table, table of contents





New HIPAA Privacy and ERISA Claims Review Rules: 10 Reasons To Comply (Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels L.L.P.)

Group Health Plan Compliance with ERISA and HIPAA: Navigating the Legal and Administrative Maze (PDF) (Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels L.L.P.)

72 pages. A 'Question and Answer Resource Guide."



Report of the ERISA Advisory Council's Working Group on Fiduciary Education and Training (U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration)

Excerpt: "We strongly urge anyone interested in the issue of fiduciary education to read through the transcripts of our work group's hearings ..."


Fact Sheet - What To Do If Your Health Coverage Can No Longer Pay Benefits


Questions and Answers: Recent Changes in Health Care Law (PDF)


Continuation of Health Coverage – COBRA


HIPAA Nondiscrimination Requirements Frequently Asked Questions



National Correct Coding Initiative Edits - Version 11

National Correct Coding Edits for the Hospital Outpatient PPS - Version 10.3

2003 Improper Medicare Fee-for-Service Payments Report


CMS Announces Revisions to Payment for Drugs and Physician Fee Schedule Payments for Calendar Year 2004


Medicare Announces 2004 Physician Fee Schedule and Payment Policy Changes

CMS Files for Download for Medicare Payment Systems


CMS Finalizes Appeals Process for Medicare Coverage Decisions


2003.12.10: HHS Announces Immediate Steps to Make Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Card Programs Available Next Spring


42 CFR Parts 403 and 408
Medicare Program; Medicare Prescription
Drug Discount Card; Interim Rule and Notice (pdf) (89 pages)


Regional Offices Link

2004 Medicare Payment Information Available from CD-Rom (WPS, WI,MI,IL, MN)




AMNews through  AMA

Health plans subject to new federal appeals rules
Much-postponed regulations offer patients and doctors fairer and faster review, plus new rights, Dept. of Labor says.


ERISA Not Insurance

Aetna Video Shows ERISA Patients Mistreated


"According to the video, when faced with claims for identical medical problems, Aetna separates the claims where no damages are available - those subject to the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA - from non-ERISA claims, where consumers can sue.1 2"


Aetna Reaches Agreement with Physicians, May 22, 2003 (



Managed Care and Patients' Rights
(JAMA Editorial)


$10,600 ERISA Claim

Recent Federal Court Ruling in a Case with $10,600 medical claim, insurance Co. refused to pay, provider made numerous demand for payment in almost one year, but no appeals filed, the court dismissed the lawsuit because provider failed to exhaust administrative remedy, as required under ERISA, by filing ERISA claim appeals.  This situation is so popular in health-care community.



$37,350 ERISA Claim

Health-care provider alleged medical claims submitted to Aetna for reimbursement, Aetna asserted no receipt of medical claims, no written denials.  Health-care provider failed to present proof of claim submission, claim denial and ERISA claim appeals. This case was dismissed. ERISA health-care claims are handled in federal court, state law is generally not applicable.





"requesting payment of benefits and/or to discuss the matter in further detail" by hospitals are wasting time and money



One Employee, One Shareholder, But ERISA Plan

(Name of the Game for 80 Percent of Health-care Claims in U.S.)

Gilbert v. Alta Health & Life Insurance Co. (11th Cir. No. 01-10829,12/27/01).


NHPF Publications  


NHPF Publications  


NHPF Publications  



2002 Employee Health Benefits Survey (Kaiser Family Foundation)


Survey: Employee Benefits in Private Industry (2000) (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Government Survey: Employee Benefits in Private Industry, 2003 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Are more workers covered by traditional fee-for-service plans, HMOs, or PPOs?


Definitions of Health Insurance Plans and Other Terms (Federal Government’s Interdepartmental Committee)





DOL Secretary Testifies to Committee About ERISA Enforcement, Compliance Assistance (U.S. Department of Labor, Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration)



Study: Health Insurance Premiums Rose More Than 30 Percent Between 1996 and 2000 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)







Opinion: Cutting Costs in Half Through Better Management is Fantasy But Health Care Debate Is Real (The Hartford Courant)
Excerpt: "If a talk on economics can have a $650 billion throwaway line, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill delivered it.... "


"O'Neill insists the problem is not with people, but systems - systems that invite medical errors, systems that penalize health care professionals for making honest mistakes, systems that create the mind-numbing complexity of reimbursement for providers, systems that reward too much treatment and punish efficiency."

 Health Cost Trends Shift

"The study said managed care probably has squeezed out all the savings it can from the nation's health care system and that employers are turning to other familiar devices such as increasing premiums and co-payments to trim their costs"



Independent Medical Review Experiences in California (California HealthCare Foundation)



Health Care Issues Stymie Congress (The Hartford Courant)







Kinder and Gentler: Physicians and Managed Care, 1997-2001 (Center for Studying Health System Change)







Employer Spending on Health Care: 1987-2000 (Employee Benefit Research Institute)


Office for Civil Rights - HIPAA

OCR Guidance Explaining Significant Aspects of the Privacy Rule- December 4, 2002



Health Care Spending Rose 8.7% in 2001, the Fastest Rate in 10 Years, Government Statistics Say


In Largest Increase in 12 Years, Health Care Spending Rose 7% in 2000 ...




Employer Health Benefits: 2002 Annual Survey.(pdf)
Accessibility verified January 30, 2003



National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in Private Industry in the United States, 2000 (PDF) (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)


Government Survey: Employee Benefits in Private Industry, 2003 (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)



Data Provide Details on Characteristics of Health Insurance of U.S. Workers (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)



GAO Report: Improvements to Retirement Income Data Needed (U.S. General Accounting Office)

"What GAO Recommends:

The Congress should consider directing Labor to obtain from plan administrators electronic filings of SPDs and summaries of material

modifications and make them publicly available."





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