Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weekend Update

The Federal Benefits Open Season is scheduled to end tomorrow, December 13, and we will wish good bye to OPM's Federal Benefits Open Season Facebook page for another 11 months.

Congress continues its lame duck session this week, and while national attention is focused on the Congressional debate over the Bush tax cut issues, the FEHBlog focuses its attention on what Congress will do with the continuing resolution funding the federal government which runs through Saturday December 18.

The New York Times featured an interesting interview with Aetna's retiring CEO Ronald A. Williams.
One of Mr. William’s major concerns is that many of the newly insured will still have a hard time finding a doctor to treat them. “I don’t see the system creating an adequate supply of primary care doctors in that amount of time,” he said.
Instead, he said, states and the federal government need to be creative about allowing the expanded use of other health care professionals like nurses and physician assistants.
Still, Mr. Williams is also a staunch defender of his company and the industry. “Health care would cost a lot more if we did not exist,” he said, “and the quality of health care is a lot better than it would be.”
During the debate, Mr. Williams frequently emphasized the need to control the underlying costs of medical care that he said were fueling the increase in insurance premiums. “He was very important in capturing the importance of cost,” said Karen Ignagni, the chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade association.
Mr. Williams makes excellent points in the FEHBlog's view. AHIP now has a useful website "intended to share information about health care costs – what’s contributing to them and what can be done to put them back on a sustainable path."

Mr. Williams expresses concern about Congress repealing the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. Insurers understandably concerned that the Affordable Care Act's elimination of pre-existing condition limitations in 2014 will wreak financial havoc on insurers without the individual mandate. The Washington Post reports that a federal district judge in Alexandria VA is expected to rule tomorrow on Commonwealth of Virginia's Constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. Of course, even if the Judge strikes down the mandate, nothing will happen until the Supreme Court hears the case which is bound to happen. There are about two dozen cases raising a constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The key cases are in the ones brought by State attorney generals pending in Virginia and Florida.

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