Corrections or additions?
COBRA Strikes Again
These articles by Melinda Sherwood and Barbara Fox were published
in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 5, 1999. All rights reserved.
You may need a snake charmer to handle COBRA. The most
recent attempt by the IRS and Department of Labor to clarify the
federal plan for continued health coverage (officially known as the
Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act) arrived in the form of a
44-page document this February. With dozens of new rules and
COBRA may leave business owners and human resource managers literally
swamped, says Colleen Clearwater, senior vice president of Cobra
Compliance Systems Inc. "The IRS came up-to-date with many
to the 1987 program, but there are still more gray areas," she
Clearwater will outline the 1999 final COBRA regulations and
proposed regulations at the COBRA Alert! seminar sponsored by the
Tribus Companies on Thursday, May 13, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at
the Sheraton at Woodbridge Place in Iselin. For $175 registration,
including meals, call 800-726-1989. In addition to providing a
background on the program, Clearwater will focus on problem areas:
loss coverage, willful neglect versus reasonable cause, and changes
in duration of coverage, deductibles and alternative coverage.
Clearwater was an investment representative in the insurance industry
prior to joining COBRA Compliance Systems, a Michigan-based company
that handles COBRA administration for nearly 7,000 businesses. She
joined the company 13 years ago.
The overlap of state law and federal adds to confusion in COBRA
Clearwater says, but the law regarding this matter was never all that
definitive in the first place. "Not everything was made clear,
and it was changed many times in the past 12 years."
Many of those changes were the result of nearly 1,000 law suits
in part from vague terminology. The most recent revisions don’t appear
to be any less difficult to decipher, unfortunately. One new
is devoted exclusively to substitution of the term "working
with "typical business days," as though the word
holds up well in court.
All that aside, employers will have a lot of work ahead of them to
implement changes in procedure and notification by January 1, 2000.
"There are about 50 provisions that are either clarified, revised
or changed, so what employers need to do is understand how it
it is, and then they need to understand the new rules."
Some of those changes, Clearwater says, may actually lighten the load
for employers. COBRA beneficiaries receive the same benefits as active
employees . Under current regulations, COBRA beneficiaries can elect
core or non-core coverage. Part-time employees will be counted as
a fraction of an employee instead of one employee. Currently,
and full-time employees are each considered one full-time employee.
The IRS will hold a hearing this June to talk about proposed rules.
COBRA may be shedding its skin again soon.
— Melinda Sherwood
Outsourcing website development has become a standard
tactic for advertising agencies. Sell the client a website and design
it. Then have the wild ‘n crazy artist types partner with those who
are less technically challenged (don’t call them geeks) to construct
the technological bells and whistles.
The Mega Group of 4 Crossroads Drive in Robbinsville is following
that pattern but it isn’t partnering with just any group. It has the
prestige of Lucent Technologies at its beck and call. The Mega Group
and Lucent Technologies are prospecting for new joint clients by
a business web seminar on Thursday, May 13, from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
at the Holiday Inn on Route 1 South. It is free, but reservations
are necessary and places are limited. Call Bud Sylvester at
"We ally ourselves with ad agencies across the nation," says
Beth Collins, project director for Lucent Custom Web Site
in Kansas City (888-451-0851) (http://www.lucentdirect.com).
"When they create the look and feel for their clients’ websites
we provide the back-end technology, E-commerce, database integration,
and data warehousing. Advertising agencies that don’t have their focus
on that technology can still present a total website solution to their
Those who come to the seminars range from CEOs of major companies
to small vendors looking for a new way to compete against larger
"It is a great way to level the playing field," says Collins,
an alumna of Central Missouri State University, Class of 1973, with
a master’s degree from the University of Missouri in Kansas City.
At the bottom of Lucent’s product list are the template websites (a
home page and two subsequent pages designed and put on the web for
$1,025, not including hosting costs and domain registration). At the
top: $500,000 custom intranet sets. Soon Lucent will add an intranet
toolkit to its line.
The most frequently asked question from an uninformed client: "Why
should my company be involved in electronic commerce?"
The most frequent misconception: "The ease at which advertising
agencies and Lucent Technologies can provide an affordable electronic
solution." Other factors commonly underrated:
web page and what they will do when they get there.
"Make all of your technology functionally compatible with the
to the task, particularly if you are integrating your product database
with the website. "Victoria’s Secret did not anticipate the large
numbers of users, and their site crashed in very short order."
up as the standard by which all others will follow, but know that
other flavors will come on in short order. You can’t rest on your
laurels." RealAudio, Collins points out, set itself up as the
first to deliver audio on the Internet, but they kept coming out with
new and better versions to challenge the competition that ensued.
For example: Cameras that can be manipulated by individual viewers
are one of the hottest items on the "bell and whistle" list.
They can be used by primary and daycare centers so parents can check
on what their kids are doing; by animal hospitals, so owners can check
on their pets from remote locations; or for medical diagnostics, as
when a home care attendant wants to let a doctor know that someone
is in distress. "
The worst case scenario is for a company to jump in the deep end
being ready. "Our approach is to take a more conservative view.
Take your 10 or 20 most popular items and develop an online order
system around that." Says Collins: "We don’t want anyone to
buy a $5 million website and then go out of business."
Her biggest surprise: How strong and universal the global marketplace
can be. "We know of a construction company that developed a new
software package and tested its marketability on the web, thinking
5 or 10 orders from the Midwest would be good. Their first order was
Her biggest disappointment: the failure of the on-land delivery system
to deliver items ordered on the web by verifying identity. "If
I am a jeweler sending a $1,000 diamond ring, I do not want it
to an individual with no identification required. The majors are not
bellying up to the bar as they should." Here is an area on which
an enterprising technology company can capitalize.
— Barbara Fox
A brown bag lunch investment club is forming; it meets on first
from noon to 1 p.m., courtesy of Farida Mistry of Edward Jones
Investments in Lawrenceville. Members will pool the money from
"modest" monthly dues and buy shares of stock of companies
members have researched. Members may join or leave the club at any
time, taking their investments as well as any gains or losses.
Both novice and experience investors are welcome in the lunch club
as well as in two other clubs. But a club for daytraders is for
traders only. If you would like to meet other day traders in the area,
set aside fourth Mondays at 7 p.m. Call 609-895-1951 for information.
The Princeton YWCA is the location offering a new investment club
for women, led by Mistry on first Mondays at 6:30 p.m. in the library.
YWCA membership is required. Call 609-497-2100.
The Band-Aid . . . streptomycine . . . the birth control
pill . . . these are some of the landmark developments in health care
and medicine for which New Jersey companies can proudly take credit.
Heritage-hunting has become a popular pastime for many people, but
companies can benefit from digging up their roots too, says Karen
Reeds, curator of a new exhibit on the state’s long and impressive
contributions to medicine and health care. "History may be a
greatest asset," she says.
Reeds sifted through archives at area pharmaceutical companies and
dug up many artifacts to add to "State of Health: New Jersey’s
Medical Heritage," on display at the Rutgers University’s
Library at 169 College Avenue in New Brunswick from May 8 to August
14. The opening reception on Saturday, May 8, from 4 to 6 p.m., is
free and open to the public. Lou Storey, an independent exhibit
designer from Red Bank who designed exhibitions for the New York
Library, helped Reeds weave over 150 artifacts, plus photos, documents
and diaries spanning 400 years, into the exhibition. For information
on the exhibit call 732-932-7505.
This exhibit coincides with the American Association for the History
of Medicine annual meeting from Thursday through Sunday, May 6 through
9, at Rutgers. The meeting is also open to the public, but
is needed. Call Gerald Grob, event organizer, at 732-932-8377.
Another exhibit of medical history is the display of historic
of New Jersey hospitals at the New Jersey Hospital Association at
760 Alexander Road. Call 609-275-4000.
Reeds holds a BA in biology from Stanford, Class of 1968, and received
a PhD in the history of science from Harvard. One of the oldest
Reeds recovered for the exhibit is a stone mortar and pestle used
by the Lenape Indians to grind up roots for medicinal purposes. This,
she says, should remind us that it’s only in the past 100 years or
so that we’re using drugs rather than plants. "Pharmaceutical
companies are the ones who make it easier to tap into what plants
have been doing all along."
The development of vaccinations and drugs — antibiotic pills,
pain pills, birth control pills and chill pills — are also
in the exhibit. Valium, developed by Hoffman LaRoche, and ACE
hypertension treatment developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, both made
Reeds also wanted to tell the story of New Jersey’s healers —
the people who brought to the medical community limitless compassion
and new ideas that were often hard pills for contemporaries to
Dorothea Dix, founder of the first hospital for the mentally ill,
had to combat the contemporary belief that mental illness was not
a legitimate disease. Henry Kessler, a surgeon who hated the knife,
found the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. The list of
After exploring 400 years of medicinal history, Reeds is certain of
one thing: we’re much better off than we were 100 years ago. But,
she says, that’s no reason to relax. "We don’t have to worry much
about losing a child or friend an infectious disease, but we do have
to worry about losing them to violence. We’re apt to take medicine
for granted. AIDS taught us is that we can’t do that."
— Melinda Sherwood
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.