Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekend Update

The FEHBlog hopes that everyone enjoyed the Thanksgiving weekend.

As we head into the fourth week of the Federal Benefits Open Season, which ends on December 13, reports on the choices available to Medicare eligible annuitants who participate in the FEHB Program, a very large cadre.

Congress resumes its lame duck session this week. Congress is staring down the barrel of the expiration of the Medicare Part B physician reimbursement patch on Tuesday December 30 and the continuing resolution funding federal government operations on Friday December 3. The AMA News brings us up to date on the Medicare patch issues. It's up to the House to adopt the month long extension that the Senate passed just before the Thanksgiving break. On the appropriations front, The Hill reports that
Democrats have not given up on moving an omnibus spending bill in the lame-duck session despite steep odds.
To keep the possibility alive, the House and Senate are expected to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) next week to keep the government running beyond Dec. 3, when the last continuing resolution expires, several staffers said. The shorter resolution would last either one or two weeks.
The idea is to give Democrats and Republicans time to negotiate an omnibus.
Modern Healthcare reports that "A new study examining safety practices at 10 hospitals found no reduction in patient harm attributable to medical care over a five-year period."  Not good.

Modern Healthcare also reports that "As the National Committee for Quality Assurance ponders precisely how a well-run accountable care organization ought to function, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores is urging policymakers to remember the role of pharmacists in care coordination and cost control. * * * In comments (PDF) to the NCQA, the association said model ACOs should include pharmacists on its list of key stakeholders, governing body members and patient-care teams. The association also urged the organization to declare medication therapy management as a core element of cost savings in ACOs." The FEHBlog recalls a PBM pharmacist telling him at least 10 years ago that health plans could generate cost saving by reimbursing retail pharmacists for advising customers and taking routine tests, such as blood pressure testing. She pointed out that plan members have the most day to day contact with their pharmacists.

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