Friday, March 02, 2007


  • As I have been blogging about FEHBP contribution news, you may want to read this San Francisco Chronicle article about the Kaiser Health Plan's "steep" 2007 FEHB premium increase.
  • Next week is the OPM / AHIP FEHBP carrier conference. At last year's conference, the OPM Director shared with the attendees her experiences in shopping for LASIK treatment to correct her vision. Last month, Health Affairs published an article by two researchers from the Center for Studying Health System Change which concludes as follows:
    An analysis of the LASIK market revealedlimited shopping overall, despite the fact that patients paythe full cost. For other self-pay procedures, consumers shopeven less, for reasons ranging from urgency, to costs of obtainingprice quotes, to quality concerns that prompt many consumersto rely on word-of-mouth recommendations. Given that consumershopping is not prevalent in most self-pay markets, we expectthe extent of shopping to be even more limited for many servicescovered by insurance.
    It seems to me that the researchers are jumping the gun on their conclusion as time is required for consumers to change their habits.
  • In an accompanying article, the Center's President "cautions that simply giving consumers a price list of 'a la carte" services does little to help them make informed choices about which providers will cost less for an episode of care, let alone which providers offer the best value—or the optimal combination of the lowest cost and highest quality."
  • In a battle for Caremark follow-up, Express Scripts has appealed the Delaware Court's decision denying Express Script's an injunction against a Caremark shareholder vote on the CVS merger proposal. Express Scripts argues that Caremark has failed to provide its shareholders with the full disclosures about the CVS deal required by that court.
  • Florida Blue Cross has opened a "store" in Jacksonville, Florida, to sell health, dental, and life insurance and provide consumer seminars, which the organization describes as a "a new concept in retailing geared to assist consumers' navigation of the health insurance market.
  • Following up law that Congress passed in December 2006 modifying the health savings account (HSA) law (Internal Revenue Code § 223), the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance for employers to transition employees from health reimbursement arrangements ("HRA") and flexible spending arrangements ("FSA") to HSAs.
  • Finally, the New York Times reported on a CBS News / New York Times survey which finds health care to be the number one concern of Americans. According to this report, "Nearly two-thirds said the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans and half said they would be willing to pay as much as $500 more in taxes a year for universal coverage." If anyone believes that $500 in taxes will provide universal health coverage, I will offer them the Brooklyn Bridge. I attended an ABA Emerging Healthcare Issues conference last week where I heard a German lawyer explain that their universal healthcare system is funded with a 15% payroll tax (capped at $4600 per month). That's more than what U.S. taxpayers currently pay for Social Security and Medicare.

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