Sunday, August 03, 2008

Weekend Update / Miscellany

  • Congress is now in its August recess. Congress recessed without taking further action on mental health parity or health information technology legislation. The House of Representatives did pass a bill (HR 2851) "to ensure that dependent students who take a medically necessary leave of absence do not lose health insurance coverage." The bill would not affect the FEHB Program whose dependent children coverage does not extends until age 22 whether or not the child is a student (5 USC Sec. 8901(5)). The House returns on September 6 and its target adjournment date is September 26. The Senate returns on Sept. 6 but it has not yet set a target adjournment date.
  • Senators Kent Conrad (D ND), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Max Baucus (D. Mont.), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced a bill called "The Comparative Effectiveness Research Act of 2008 [which would] establish the Health Care Comparative Effectiveness Research Institute to gather and produce data on what works best when it comes to how diseases, disorders, and other health conditions are treated." AHIP, the managed care industry's trade association, promptly endorsed this initiative. The AHIP Board of Directors previously released a statement supporting comparative effectiveness research.
  • Senator Baucus's Finance Committee held a hearing last Thursday on the role of the tax code in the health care system.
  • The federal district court in New Jersey approved a class action settlement under which Health Net has agreed, without conceding liability, to pay $255 million and change its out of network reimbursement methodology. According to an AIS report, "[t]he suits charge Health Net and several regional subsidiaries with using a flawed database produced by Ingenix, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, to 'improperly reimburse' its members for insurance claims for out-of-network medical treatment. The class period extends back to 1997 and involves more than 2 million people in several states." The AP quotes that plaintiffs' lead counsel as reflecting ""We feel that the settlement has
    significant implications for the health insurance industry because
    they're all using the Ingenix database or a form of it for this kind of
  • The AP reported on growing consumer use of retail clinics (which I get) and medical tourism (which I don't get).
  • The Leapfrog Group is now offering consumers a hospital comparison tool on its website.

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