Sunday, December 05, 2010

Weekend Update

We are heading into the final week of the Federal Benefits Open Season which ends a week from tomorrow on December 13. OPM has proposed a rule, which is not yet finalized, to move the Open Season so that it spans the month of November. This change likely is to occur next year. The change will help plans get new members their identification cards before their coverage takes effect in the following January.

Congress is continuing its lame duck session. Last week, it extended the Medicare Part B physician reimbursement patch until the end of this month. Absent Congressional action before then, Medicare Part B reimbursement to doctors will be cut by 25% based on a statutory formula known as the sustainable rate of growth formula. NPR reports that according to a MedPAC survey,
Medicare beneficiaries had fewer problems finding doctors and getting appointments than people with private coverage [in the age 50-64 age range].
Of those seeking a new primary care doctor, the vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries — 79 percent — still said they had no problem. And while 12 percent said they had a big problem finding a new physician, that was substantially less then the 19 percent of those with private insurance who reported a big problem finding a new caregiver.
The story with getting appointments was much the same: 75 percent of Medicare patients said they never had trouble getting a routine appointment, and 83 percent said they could always get in to see the doctor for an illness or injury, compared to 72 percent and 80 percent, respectively, for those with private coverage.
Congress passed an extension of the continuing resolution funding the federal government until Saturday December 18 (one week before Santa Claus passes through), according to CNN Money. reports that while a majority of the Presidential deficit reduction commission approved the report discussed in last Wednesday's FEHBlog, the vote was short of the supermajority which would have required Congress to vote on the commission's recommendations. Nevertheless, according to this report, the commission's recommendations will set the stage for next year's budget debate.

The Washington Post reports about privacy advocate and consumer group concerns over a new electronic database of FEHB Program claims that the Office of Personnel Management is creating. OPM is accepting public comments on this new system of records until December 15.

HHS announced last week its Health People 2020 initiative last week. This initiative, which began 30 years ago, sets "the Nation’s new 10-year goals and objectives for health promotion and disease prevention," and for the current decade includes “myHealthyPeople,” a new challenge for technology application developers."

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