Mid-Atlantic Health Law TOPICS
Did You Know? Fall 2004
Retirement Assets Protected: Did you know that creditors cannot reach the qualified retirement plan assets of a solo practitioner? ERISA, the federal law that governs employer sponsored benefit plans, prevents creditors from reaching retirement plan assets. In Yates v. Hendon, Dr. Yates' creditors tried to reach his retirement plan assets, arguing that an owner of a medical practice should not be entitled to ERISA protection because he is the employer, and not an employee. The United States Supreme Court disagreed, and held that, if the plan covers at least one employee other than the business owner and his or her spouse, then the working owner is entitled to ERISA's protections. Warning - the protections only apply to bona fide, properly administered retirement plans. For example, if plan assets are used for business purposes, or if the owner improperly borrows money from the plan, the protections may be lost.
Children Liable for Necessary Medical Services: Did you know that a child may be liable for the costs of necessary medical procedures? In Yale Diagnostic Radiology v. Estate of Harun Fountain, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that a minor child was contractually obligated to pay for the cost of necessary medical services. Under traditional contract law, minor children are not usually liable for contractual agreements. However, children may be liable for contracts for goods or services that are necessary to their health or sustenance. The Connecticut Supreme Court held that necessary medical services fell into this category, and allowed the estate of a minor child to be held liable for medical costs associated with attempting to save the child's life after he had been shot by a playmate.
Resident Match: Did you know that Congress recently provided a broad exemption from the antitrust laws to the resident match program, and the hospitals and organizations that participate in the match? The exemption provisions, which were tucked away in the Pension Funding Equity Act of 2004, were in response to two lawsuits brought against the match and several hospitals and professional organizations, alleging that the defendants conspired to fix resident salaries and working conditions, in violation of the antitrust laws. While simple agreements to fix prices or salaries are still subject to the antitrust laws, the new law specifically provides that sponsoring, conducting or participating in a graduate education residency matching program does not violate the antitrust laws. As a result, the plaintiffs' claims were dismissed in August, and the match will go on.
September 22, 2004