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Getting a Second Opinion of What Ails You

A new employee perk may help you figure out if your doctor's diagnosis and treatment plans are the best option.

In the past year, companies such as Genzyme (GENZ), J.B. Hunt (JBHT), and EMC (EMC ) have begun providing second opinion and medical intervention services to workers through Boston-based Best Doctors.

After you get a diagnosis or treatment plan, you send your records to Best Doctors. A team of medical experts, chosen by their peers, evaluate recommendations. When Best Doctors gets involved, it says the diagnosis is changed 20% of the time, treatment changed 60% of the time, and costs fall by $21,000 per case when incomplete or incorrect opinions are addressed. (Some 80% of cases are cancer- or heart-related, or neurological.) You can accept the recommendation or not.

Fewer than 4% of companies with 5,000 or more employees offer the perk, but the number of heath-care companies adopting it is growing, says benefits consultant Watson Wyatt (WW). The cost is $2 to $3 per employee per month, paid by employers.

Funds That Are Part Bull and Part Bear

It's supposed to be a better mousetrap. For every $100 a mutual fund manager invests, he sells "short" $30 worth of stocks on which he's bearish. The manager of such a "130/30" fund then invests the proceeds from the short sales in his bullish picks, which should help him beat the broad stock market benchmarks.

In the past two years mutual fund companies have rolled out several such offerings, which are a new type of long/short fund. While these funds have yet to amass the multiyear track records that disciplined investors rely on, they have gotten off to a lackluster start. "We haven't found them to be that compelling," says Marta Norton, an analyst at Morningstar (MORN). According to Norton's data, the two dozen 130/30 mutual funds on the market lost 8.82% so far this year, vs. a decline of 9.05% for the Standard & Poor's (MHP) 500-stock index. Over the past year the average 130/30 fund dropped 8.44%, surpassing the S&P's 3.60% decline.

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