News with clear eyes. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

Starr International Company Inc. is expanding its efforts to make its accident and health business a global operation.

Starr, New York, is part of a family of companies led by Maurice Greenberg, the former chairman of American International Group Inc., New York (NYSE:AIG).

Earlier this year,  Starr announced it had hired Edward Navarro, who previously was global head of accident and health at Zurich Financial Services, Zurich, to help the company’s group benefits unit do more business in Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Starr now has acquired Assist-Card International Holdings S.A. (Assist-Card), a travel and emergency services firm that was founded in 1972.

The company has service providers in 107 countries and sells its services to about 7 million travelers per year.

Assist-Card recently organized the rescue of Ignacio Javier Lucero, an Argentinean mountain climber, who suffered a heart attack while climbing the Himalayas in Nepal. Assist-Card helped get Lucero to Katmandu for medical treatment.

Starr is not saying how much it is paying for Assist-Card, but it says Alexia Keglevich will continue to be the firm’s chief executive officer.

PLAIN VANILLA GETS COMPLICATED

The Employers Council of Flexible Compensation, Washington, will hold a Web seminar Jan. 11 on the effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (2010) health coverage reporting requirements on the 2011 Form W-2 tax form.

Speakers will also talk about what the 2012 W-2 might look like.

The cost is $200 for members and $300 for non-members, which just goes to show how nervous employers and their plan advisors are about the W-2 reporting requirements.

The Internal Revenue Service is requiring employers to report benefits expenditures on W-2 in preparation for implementation of PPACA provisions that could impose excise taxes on health benefits packages with costs that exceed a specified level.

AHIP MAKES A WISH

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Washington, is hoping the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will help health insurers do something about state legislatures’ efforts to impose benefits mandates.

AHIP has expressed that wish in a reaction to the recent HHS release of general essential health benefits (EHB) package guidelines.

PPACA requires HHS to create an EHB package, to keep health insurers from using skimpy benefits to out-sell plans with solid benefits or use skimpy benefits to scare off consumers with health problems.

AHIP President Karen Ignagni notes in a statement that the HHS officials who drafted the guidelines, like panel members at the Institute of Medicine, Washington, who recently gave HHS EHB recommendations, that the EHB package should balance comprehensiveness, affordability and state flexibility.

“As the Institute of Medicine (IOM) made clear in its recent report, ‘state mandates are not typically subjected to a rigorous evidence-based review or cost analysis,’ an issue that should be addressed to ensure affordability for individuals, working families and small employers,” Ignagni says.