Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Update

The Federal Benefits Open Season starts tomorrow and ends on December 12.  During the Open Season, federal and postal employees and annuitants can switch their FEHB plans for 2012 without concern of for pre-existing conditions.

While surveying OPM's Open Season web page, the FEHBlog ran across OPM's annual report on the use of health information technology in the FEHBP. OPM finds robust use.

In an odd twist on the government's efforts to incent the use of electronic health information technology ("HIT"), particularly by health care providers, the U.S. Institute of Medicine issued a report last week recommending that Congress create an independent agency similar to the National Transportation Safety Board that would investigate and attempt to curb patient safety problems created by HIT. According to the Federal Times, "The  [IOM} study cites reports of patient deaths and injuries due to "medication dosing errors, failure to detect fatal illnesses and treatment delays due to poor human-computer interactions or loss of data." Modern Healthcare provides the HIT industry's reaction to this study.

Congress is making progress on the appropriations bills for the current federal fiscal year. There is a House - Senate conference committee which is expected to complete work on a "minibus" appropriations bill "covering NASA and the Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development departments, along with a number of smaller agencies" according to the Federal Times.  This bill will include an extension of the continuing resolution for the rest of the government and the moratorium on the Postal Service's $5.5 billion pre-retirement health care funding obligation until mid-December.

We are ten days away from the deadline for the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction a/k/a the Super (Duper?) Committee to submit its deficit reduction package to Congress. According to this Washington Post report, Committee members remain hopeful for a compromise that leads to submission of such a package.

On Tuesday morning, November 15, the Federal Workforce subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold hearing titled "Back to Basics: Is OPM Fulfilling its Mission?" OPM's Director and the agency's Inspector General will testify. Joe Davidson from the Washington Post provided background on the hearing in a column last Thursday.

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