Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend update

The House and the Senate are both in session this week. Last year an effort was made to make structural changes to the FEHBP through appropriations legislation. Tuesday March 20 is the deadline for submission of House member suggested programmatic and language submissions for the House financial services appropriations bill.  This is the bill that funds the FEHBP. The suggestions must be made to the Financial Services subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

Business Week reports that at least five large states --Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and California -- are considering filing lawsuits to challenge the Express Scripts / Medco merger if the Federal Trade Commission approves the deal, presumably with required changes.
Two pharmacy groups opposing the acquisition said last week the FTC asked them to suggest ways to revise the deal so it wouldn’t harm competition. The request may indicate the agency will approve the deal with conditions, said Jeffrey Schmidt, a former director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. 
The states could seek a temporary delay in the acquisition’s close and a court order to permanently prevent the deal’s consummation, said Billy Vigdor, an antitrust lawyer with Vinson & Elkins LLP in Washington who represents investors with an interest in the deal.
The article notes that 25 states plus the FTC are scruntizing the deal.

Last week, Standard and Poors that its monthly healthcare economic composite index  (covering both commercial insurance and Medicare) increased by 5.21% in January 2012, which as a decline from the 5.30% growth rate in December 2011. The gap between the increase in commercial insurance vs. Medicare costs is striking, as usual.
As measured by the S&P Healthcare Economic Commercial Index, healthcare costs covered by commercial insurance plans increased by 7.05% over the year ending January 2012, down from the +7.11% reported for December 2011. Growth rates in Medicare claim costs rose by 2.40%, as measured by the S&P Healthcare Economic Medicare Index, down from the +2.52% reported for December. 
Looking at the narrower sub-indices, the Professional Services Medicare Index hit a two-year low of +3.32% in January 2012, down from +3.73% in December 2011. The Hospital Medicare annual growth rate increased in January at +1.56%, it was up from its +1.48% December level. The Professional Services Commercial Index decelerated to +6.02% in January from +6.15% in December; and the Hospital Commercial Index marginally decreased to +7.84% in January from +7.85% in the previous month.

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