Tuesday, February 02, 2010

FY 2011 Budget News

While ABC News reports that the Democratic leadership in Congress are attempting to resurrect the national healthcare bill, the AP reports that the President's FY 2011 budget includes a number of smaller scale initiatives "to squeeze savings, expand coverage and improve quality, but no ambitious change that launches the nation on a path to health care for all." Business Insurance reports that one of those initiatives is a proposal for Congress to extend the COBRA / TCC continuation coverage subsidy program to employees who are laid off from March 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2010, [who] would be eligible for the 65% premium subsidy for up to 12 months." Absent Congressional action the program will not be available to employees who are involuntarily terminated after February 28, 2010.

Congress also must address soon the Medicare Part B reimbursement formula for physicians, which will be cut by 21% on March 1, 2010. That cut will affect FEHB plans two ways as the FEHB Program covers millions of annuitants over age 65. If the annuitant has Medicare Part B coverage, the FEHB plan will pay more as secondary carrier whenever Medicare reimbursement drops. If the annuitant does not have Medicare Part B coverage, then the FEHB fee for service plan is entitled to use the lower Medicare reimburement rates to pay doctors (5 U.S.C. Sec. 8904(b)).

Govexec.com reports that the budget proposal "recommends a 1.4 percent pay raise for civilian and military employees."  Govexec.com further reports that the President's FY 2011 budget with respect to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management
proposed measuring the health of enrollees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to assess the program's effectiveness. It's not clear what health data the government would gather, or whether federal employees would be required to undergo screenings. But the administration is seeking funding for "new analytical capacity" so it can do more than simply evaluate FEHBP for fraud risks.
Obama also sought funding for wellness demonstration projects, similar to those OPM has set up in collaboration with neighboring agencies in downtown Washington.
Along the same lines, I noticed today that OPM has a web page about its new "Wolf Packs" which reads in relevant part:
President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget and Performance Plans established requirements for hiring reform and employee satisfaction and wellness. OPM Director John Berry has established cross-cutting “wolf packs” that bring stakeholders together in three areas: Hiring, Veterans Employment, and Work/Life.

Work/Life Balance
Led by Marie C. L'Etoile, Work/Life Group Manager & Janet Smith, Talent Management Group Manager, the Work/Life (W/L) Wolf Pack is developing policies and programs to improve life in the workplace and to assist employees in balancing their work with life responsibilities (e.g., dependent care, work schedule flexibilities). There is a separate facilities review team led by Deputy Associate Director Tina McGuire that is developing a plan to improve work spaces and shared facilities, The W/L Wolf Pack has adopted a systematic approach to identifying solutions through survey of the OPM population. Results will be used to improve current programs and shape future W/L initiatives to satisfy employee needs. These programs and policies will gradually be promoted governmentwide.
I also noticed today that OPM has posted a draft strategic plan for the 2010-2015 period on its website.

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