Friday, January 20, 2012

Late week update

The FEHBlog is still experiencing internet difficulties at home.

OPM announced on Wednesday that it is requiring FEHB plans to offer "Blue Button" technology to their members in mid-March 2012. "Blue Button allows patients to see, download and keep their personal health data by clicking the 'Blue Button' on a secure Internet site." The Veterans Affairs healthcare system successfully has implemented the Blue Button for its patients. Although this strikes the FEHBlog as a good idea, the fly in the ointment is that while the VA delivers healthcare to patients, the FEHBP delivers benefit payments to enrollees. Now this is not black and white. Kaiser Permanente  is an example of a health care provider that participates in the FEHBP. It will be interesting to see how enrollees react to this new technology.

Standard and Poors reported yesterday that

The S&P Healthcare Economic Composite Index indicates that the average per capita cost of healthcare services covered by commercial insurance and Medicare programs increased by 5.13% over the 12-months ending November 2011. This is a decline from the +5.29% annual growth rate posted for October 2011.
As measured by the S&P Healthcare Economic Commercial Index, healthcare costs covered bycommercial insurance plans increased by 6.96% over the year ending November 2011, down from the +7.10% reported for October. Growth rates in Medicare claim costs rose by 2.37%, as measured by the S&P Healthcare Economic Medicare Index, down from the 2.55% reported for October.
The S&P Healthcare Economic Professional Services Medicare Index also dropped from +4.15% in the year ending October 2011 to +3.62% in November. The S&P Healthcare Economic Hospital Medicare Index increased slightly to +1.33% in November from its +1.28% October value.

That growth rate is somewhat higher than the CMS actuary report that health care costs increase about 3.9% in 2010.

In less than encouraging news related to this topic, Medscape reports that "Most Medicare demonstration projects aiming to reduce costs and improve the quality of care — prime goals of healthcare reform — miss their mark, according to a new study from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published online Wednesday." And the AMA News reports that medical specialists are hiring laid off drug representatives to sell their services to primary care physicians.

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