Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend Update

The House of Representatives and the Senate remain in session this week as their leaders continue to meet with the Administration in an effort to raise the national debt limit by August 2. The Federal Times offers various perspectives on the impact of a default situation on federal employees and annuitants. The Washington Post reports that on July 15, the Federal Postal Coalition sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Director and the Treasury Secretary inquiring about the impact of a default on the continuity of government operations.  One of the Coalition's questions was

Will federal employees become subject to release through furloughs, and how will their wages and benefits be affected?
Good question.

A month or so ago, the FEHBlog noted that the Walgreen's pharmacy chain was squabbling with prescription benefits manager Express Scripts. Chicago Business provides an update on the squabble and interesting background on the pharmacy chain and its CEO Gregory Wasson. Meanwhile, Investor compares and contrasts Walgreen's with its competitor CVS which owns Caremark, one of the big three PBMs. (Caremark, Express Scripts, and Medco). CVS bought Caremark a few years ago, while Walgreen's sold its PBM unit to Catalyst Health Solutions earlier this year.

This year OPM required all FEHB plans to offer enhanced smoking cessation programs. The Washington Post reports today on the alternative approaches that some large employers are using to discourage smoking among their employees.
On July 1, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Macy’s began charging smokers $420 more a year in health coverage, something PepsiCo and Gannett already do (albeit at even steeper premiums). Last year, Whole Foods started giving non-smoking employees bigger discounts in their stores. And employers ranging from Scotts Miracle-Gro to the Cleveland Clinic to, now,Humana, are not hiring smokers at all, either company-wide or in certain states.
The article discusses the pros and cons of the carrot and stick approaches.

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