Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Update

It's about three weeks until the current continuing resolution ("CR") funding the federal government, including the FEHB Program, expires on March 4.  The current CR is based on the appropriations approved for the previous FY 2010 fiscal year. On Friday, according to this report, the House majority leadership introduced a new CR that would cut $100 billion in funding (as compared to the President's Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal) for the remainder of the current fiscal year which ends September 30, 2011. OPM's appropriations would be cut by $5.2 million according to this House Appropriations Committee chart. (OPM's FEHB program operations are funded from the FEHB trust fund in the U.S. Treasury rather than general government appropriations. There is a 1% surcharge on FEHB premiums to fund OPM's administration operations. However, Congress typically appropriates one-quarter of that surcharge for OPM use. The balance winds up being allocated to plan reserves.)  The House is expected to approve the Appropriations Committee's bill. Then the Senate, where the Democrats have a 57-43 seat majority (including the two independents who caucus with them) will begin work on the CR. That's when the fun begins.

Tomorrow, the President sends his FY 2012 budget proposal up to Capitol Hill. The House Ways and Means and Budget Committees will be holding hearings on the proposal later this week. So it's a two front battle. 

Business Insurance reports that House and Senate Republicans have introduced a bill to eliminate the $2500 cap on health care flexible spending accounts which the Affordable Care Act ("ACA") imposed effective in 2013 and the ACA's restrictions on reimbursement of over the counter drugs that took effect this year. However, as FSA funding counts toward the ACA's Cadillac or high cost health plan tax, I expect a sharp reduction in FSA offerings in 2018 even if this bill is enacted.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services launched "a new web portal providing important health and health care indicator data to support innovations in information technology."
The Health Indicators Warehouse is a collection of health indicators from a wide array of HHS data sources that are maintained to support researchers, technology developers and policymakers. Health indicators are measurable characteristics that describe the health of a population (e.g., life expectancy, mortality, disease incidence or prevalence, or other health states); determinants of health (e.g., health behaviors, health risk factors, physical environments, and socioeconomic environments); and health care access, cost, quality, and use. Depending on the measure, a health indicator may be defined for a specific population, place, political jurisdiction, or geographic area. Currently, the Health Indicators Warehouse includes nearly 1200 health indicators derived from over 170 different data sources, with all being downloadable via APIs.
Pretty cool.

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