Sunday, February 06, 2011

Weekend update

Happy Super Sunday! reports that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D Hawaii) is predicting another short extension of the continuing resolution funding the federal government which now is scheduled to expire on March 4. The House was on recess last week, although the Budget Committee did issue a proposal for cuts to discretionary spending for the current Government fiscal year which the House Appropriations Committee will implement this week and the full House will take up during the week of February 14. That's the same week that the Administration will issue its budget proposal for the federal fiscal year that begins October 1, 2011. The Senate will be on break the week of February 21 and is not expected to rubber stamp the House bill. That brings us to another short extension of the current continuing resolution. 

The FEHBlog ran across this interesting commentary about the looming U.S. doctor shortage in the AMA News. The commentary notes that "The number of Medicare-funded residency programs was capped at about 100,000 by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997."  A Wall Street Journal op-ed in the Wall Street Journal seconds the point that "The doctor shortage was fostered in 1996 when Congress capped the number of new doctors Medicare would pay to train, a practice that continues to this day." The Affordable Care Act funds 889 new primary care residencies according to the AMA commentary. That's less than a 1% increase in the current cap. The shortage is expected to be 125,000 in 14 years. Puzzling.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services published a proposed rule which would require all Medicare participating providers to give Medicare beneficiaries written notice about their right to contact a Medicare Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) with concerns about the quality of care they receive under the Medicare program.  Currently, hospitals are subject to this obligation. The proposed rule would extend the requirement to doctors and other providers. This rule likely would not go into effect until 2012.

The Wall Street Journal published an article on the rapidly growing practice of employers offering wellness programs to their employees.
Employers spent an average $220 per worker on wellness incentive awards last year, up 35% from $163 in 2009, according to a survey of more than 1,200 employers from Buck Consultants, a benefits-consulting group based in New York. About 11% spent more than $500 per employee last year. Nearly three out of four North American employers have some sort of wellness program, according to the survey
OPM offers federal employees the healthierfeds program and it encourages FEHB plans to offer wellness programs. OPM's principal focus this year is on its stop smoking program.

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