Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day Weekend Update

Happy Labor Day!  The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has posted an updated witness list for tomorrow's hearing that will address, among other important topics, the Postal Service's ill-advised proposal to withdraw from the FEHB Program. The first panel now includes the OPM Director John Berry, a GAO representative, the Segal Group's chief actuary, and the Postmaster General.  The second panel includes the American Postal Workers Union's President Cliff Guffey, the National Association of Postal Supervisors :President Louis Atkins, and two mailer representatives. The hearing starts at 2 pm ET and can be viewed on the Committee's website. A New York Times article previewed the hearing.

When the FEHBlog read last week that the Justice Department had filed an anti-trust action to block the merger of two large cell phone companies, AT&T and T-Mobile, his first thought was whether this aggressive action dooms the pending Express Scripts acquistion of Medco. Bloomberg reports that Express Scripts is continuing to trumpet the competitive benefits of the acquisition. However, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal report that the Federal Trade Commission;"has asked for more input from the companies, issuing what is known as a second request for information, according to a filing by Express. The request doesn't indicate that the government will necessarily challenge a deal, but it suggests there are substantive antitrust issues that warrant further investigation. Around 4% of transactions received a second request in 2010, according to figures from the antitrust agencies."

The Wall Street Journal reports that United Healthcare's Optum unit is purchasing the management arm of Monarch Healthcare, a multi-specialty medical group with 2300 physician members located in Southern California. This is Optum's third acquistion of a Southern California medical group's management arm. According to the article, "Through various structures, Optum owns a physician group in Nevada and holds stakes in others elsewhere in the country. Optum, a fast-growing arm of United that provides services such as pharmacy-benefit management and data services to help improve care, is separate from United's own health-insurance operation." The Optum groups contract with "an array of insurers," not exclusively United Healthcare.

The AMA News features an interesting article on Medicare's new bundled payment initiative.
Under the initiative, created by the health system reform law, physicians and hospitals would come up with a plan and submit a bid to participate. Two of the bundled payment models focus on inpatient stays, a third involves postdischarge services only, and a fourth combines inpatient and postdischarge services. The earliest a group submitting a winning bid could get started with the first inpatient-only model is January 2012, said Richard Gilfillan, MD, acting director of the CMS Innovation Center.
The AMA is studying the initiative.

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