Friday, January 13, 2012

No good deed ...

Effective at the beginning of 2011, OPM mandated that FEHB plans cover nicotine patches, gum and other therapies to help federal and postal employees and annuitants quit smoking. Earlier this week, the LA Times and other news outlets reported about a new study which "finds that nicotine patches and other nicotine replacement products aren't effective at preventing former smokers from relapsing in real-world conditions." The NPR Health Blog reported on an interview with a Yale University substance abuse researcher that puts the new study in perspective. That interview is well worth reading.

OPM also has encouraged FEHB plans to offer discounts on fitness center membership. The Washington Post this morning reports about a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine finding that Medicare Advantage plan members who take advantage of similar programs were in better health than those who don't. But there's always a catch, the researchers express concern that the fitness programs can create adverse selection.

Finally, Federal News Radio reports on OPM's efforts to expand the FEHBP to Indian tribal employees as required by the Affordable Care Act.  According to the article,
At most, 350,000 employees of tribes or tribal organizations could join FEHB. "The population that we're bringing into the FEHB is young and relatively healthy," said National Congress of American Indians Policy Director Ahniwake Rose. But with more than 8 million people already in the federal healthcare program, it "is probably not going to have any measurable impact one way or the other," on existing participants, [OPM Healthcare and Insurance Director John] O'Brien said. He expects about 25,000 employees of tribes to join the plan this year. They should have insurance cards by May 1, he said.

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