Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend Update

We start off with a little housekeeping. OPM has posted an updated organization chart on its website. Last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee identified the members of its subcommittee with FEHBP oversight responsibility:

The Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and Labor Policy
  • Republicans
    • Chair: Rep. Dennis Ross (FL-12)
    • Vice Chair: Rep. Justin Amash (MI-3)
    • Jim Jordan (OH-4)
    • Jason Chaffetz (UT-3)
    • Connie Mack (FL-14)
    • Tim Walberg (MI-7)
    • Trey Gowdy (SC-4)
  • Democrats
    • Stephen Lynch, Ranking Member
    • Eleanor Holmes Norton
    • Gerald E. Connolly
    • Danny Davis
Rep. Darrell Issa (R Calif) is the full Committee chairman and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D Md) is the the full Committee's ranking minority member.

The Senate committee with FEHBP oversight responsibility is the Homeland Security and Govermental Affairs Committee which is chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I Conn.). Sen. Lieberman announced earlier this month that he will be retiring from the Senate at the end of his current term which expires in January 2013. Sen. Susan Collins (D Maine) is the Committee's ranking minority member. The FEHBlog notes that the Committee's ad hoc subcommittee on federal contracting oversight will be holding a hearing on improving contract audits on Tuesday February 1 at 2 pm. reports that OPM announced in last Friday's Federal Register that the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program will be holding an open enrollment season from April 4 through May 27, 2010. This will be the first opportunity for same sex domestic partners of federal enrollees to enroll in this employee pay all program. explains that
According to OPM, active federal employees, their spouses and same-sex domestic partners who currently are not enrolled can apply under abbreviated underwriting rules and will have to provide only limited health information. Retirees and other qualified relatives will undergo a longer review of medical and health history in the application process.
The AMA News featured an article on health insurer's use of social media -- a topic discussed at the 2010 OPM-AHIP FEHBP carrier conference. The article explains that health plans typically use social media to address the concerns of members, not doctors. "If there is a common use for social media among the big health plans, it is making sure that no gripe goes unanswered."

Tomorrow NCQA will release new standards for its patient centered medical home certification program. "The new standards call on medical practices to be more patient-centered, and reinforce federal “meaningful use” incentives for primary care practices to adopt health information technology."

Finally, a little point - counterpoint. Last week HHS released a report contending that the Affordable Care Act is making health insurance more affordable.  AHIP President Karen Ignani responded that
“The new law will expand coverage to millions of Americans, but fails to address the health care cost crisis. Reducing health care cost growth is one of the most important economic challenges facing the nation. 
“Premiums are rising because medical costs continue to soar, younger and healthier people are dropping coverage in a weak economy, and the cost of new benefit mandates. Focusing solely on premiums while failing to rein in underlying medical costs will not make coverage more affordable for individuals, families and employers.
“The document released today overstates the cost savings associated with certain provisions of the new law and ignores major provisions that will raise premiums, including the new premium tax, age rating restrictions that impact younger workers, and benefit mandates that exceed the coverage that many purchase today.
“While tax credits are important to help people pay for coverage, tax credits do not bring down the growth of medical costs or reduce health insurance premiums.” 
 Ms. Ignani's response linked to several convincing facts which are worth reviewing

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