Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekend Update / Miscellany

The Senate decided last night on a straight party line 60-39 vote to proceed to debate Majority Leader Reid's health care reform bill (H.R. 3590). The debate will begin on November 30 following the Thanksgiving holiday break. The debate is expected to last at least three weeks, and the Majority Leader will need 60 votes to cut off debate and bring the measure to a vote. Abortion coverage restrictions, overall cost, and public option remain hot topics.

The economic recovery act that Congress passed in February 2009 provided significant funding for the expansion of electronic health records. The House passed a bill (H.R. 3014) this week that would create a small business loan program for electronic health record technology. Reuters reports about an American Journal of Medicine report by Harvard Medical School researchers who concluded that so far the savings from electronic health records at hospitals have not materialized. Researcher David Himmelstein warned that "Claims that health IT will slash costs and help pay for the reforms being debated in Congress are wishful thinking." reports on the impact that the 2008 federal mental health parity act will have on FEHB Program coverage next year. Throughout this decade, FEHB Program participants have enjoyed cost sharing parity between mental health and medical/surgical benefits for services rendered by in-network providers. The new law requires cost sharing parity for services rendered by out-of-network providers if the plan offers out of network coverage. The article also notes that
[S]everal health plans are expanding coverage for childhood obesity preventative care. BCBS plans offer four free nutritional counseling sessions with a preferred provider for qualified children in the Jump 4 Health education program. Both the Rural Carrier and Mail Handler plans cover an annual body mass index testing for enrollees ages 2 to 21.

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