Business Briefs
Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire



Anesthesiologists sign HMSA deal

The Anesthesia Medical Group Inc., the state's largest anesthesia specialty group with more than 25 doctors, has resolved its dispute with Hawaii Medical Service Association and signed a new agreement with the insurer, which takes effect today.

The anesthesiologists withdrew from participating with HMSA in March 2001, citing inadequate reimbursements, particularly from HMSA's most popular preferred provider plan. The group also said it had difficulty recruiting and retaining anesthesiologists, especially those assigned to the neighbor islands, given exhaustive working conditions and inadequate reimbursements.

The consequences of the move were particularly felt on the Big Island and Maui. At one time, no anesthesiologists in Hilo participated with HMSA, while on Maui only one participated on a limited basis.

The dispute also meant that HMSA members incurred higher out-of-pocket costs for anesthesia services when they underwent surgery.

State minimum wage increases

Some Hawaii workers have an extra reason to celebrate the new year -- more money in their paychecks.

Beginning today, the state's minimum wage increases by 50 cents an hour, to $6.25 an hour from $5.75 an hour.

About 3 percent of Hawaii's work force earns the minimum wage, according to the state Labor Department. The wage translates into about $13,000 a year under the new minimum, based on 40-hour work weeks.

The Legislature in 2001 passed legislation increasing the state's minimum wage to $5.75 from $5.25 on Jan. 1, 2002, then to the current rate starting today.

Funds declare distributions

Bishop Street Capital Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of First Hawaiian Bank, has declared distribution dates for three of its funds.

The Bishop Street Hawaii Municipal Bond Fund's A class and institutional class both made annual capital gain distributions of .04448 a share payable yesterday to shareholders of record on Dec. 27. The fund went ex-dividend Monday.

The Bishop Street Equity Fund institutional class made a quarterly ordinary income distribution of .0243 a share payable yesterday to shareholders of record on Dec. 27. The fund went ex-dividend Monday.

The Bishop Street Tax Managed Equity Fund institutional class, which is a large-cap growth fund that opened Nov. 13, made a quarterly ordinary income distribution of .0132 a share that will be payable tomorrow to shareholders of record Monday. The stock went ex-dividend yesterday.

The ex-dividend date is the first day the fund is traded without the buyer being entitled to the upcoming payment.

Year is new, but taxes still here

As 2003 dawns, the state Department of Taxation wants to remind Hawaii taxpayers that forms and instruction pamphlets will be mailed this month. The state tax filing deadline is April 20. Since that day is a Sunday, returns filed April 21 will allowed.

Euro rides strong rally to mark first birthday

FRANKFURT, Germany >> As its first birthday in cash form approached, the euro rode a strong rally that has seen the 12-country European currency rise nearly 16 percent against the U.S. dollar in 2002.

The euro edged near $1.05 on in midday European trading yesterday before falling back to $1.0478 in late European dealings, up from $1.0450 on Monday.

The late European price capped an increase of nearly 16 percent against the dollar since last New Year's when it began trading at 90.38 cents, and represented a 22 percent climb since its 2002 low point at around 86 cents in February.

Mutual fund firms may snoop on drug dealers

WASHINGTON >> Mutual fund companies would have to file reports on suspicious financial transactions as part of an effort to catch drug dealers, terrorists and others who launder money, federal regulators recommended yesterday.

If implemented, the recommendation by the Treasury Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve would bring mutual fund companies more in line with banks, securities firms, money-service businesses and other companies that are required to file similar reports with the government.

Reverse mortgages growing in popularity

WASHINGTON >> Reverse mortgages have been available for years but didn't really gain popularity until the early 1990s. Essentially a mirror image of traditional mortgages, they let homeowners borrow against the equity they've built up without having to pay the money back until they either move or die.

Today, reverse mortgages are increasingly a salvation for seniors with mounting health and retirement incomes that have fallen in tandem with the stock market and interest rates.

The National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association reported that for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, lenders closed a record 13,049 reverse mortgages -- a 63 percent increase over the previous record of 7,982 in 1999.

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