Friday, July 15, 2016


The FEHBlog wishes Congress well under they return to Capitol Hill on September 6.  Here's a link to the Week in Congress's report on the current week's activities on Capitol Hill, which included, as reported in NPR Shots, the passage of a bill to combat opioid abuse in our country.

Two more ACA health benefits co-ops bit the dust this week -- one in Oregon and the other in Illinois. That leaves less than half of the original 24 co-ops in operation. Kaiser Health News reports on survival efforts being undertaken by the remaining co-ops.  What a foreseeable and colossal waste of taxpayer funds.

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning the prescription drugmakers power to raise prices remains strong (as the FEHBlog has previously noted). "More than two-thirds of the 20 largest​pharmaceutical companies said price increases boosted sales of some or most of their biggest ​products in the first quarter, according to a Wall Street Journal review of corporate filings and conference-call transcripts."  David Howard, MD wisely suggests in the Health Affairs blog that policymakers need to back off and let insurers and PBMs to do their jobs.

Speaking of the Health Affairs blog, Dr. Timothy Jost writes about a recently proposed Labor Department rule that would impose a new ERISA reporting obligation on small employers and expand ERISA reporting for all group health plans (but not FEHB plans which already do plenty of reporting.)

Also on the reporting front, Thomson Reuters announces that the Internal Revenue Service has released draft 2016 1095-B and - C forms for public comment. These are the forms that health plans and employers use to document compliance with the ACA's individual and employer shared responsibility mandates.

CMS came out with its annual projection of health care costs over the next decade.  This projection covers 2015-2025.  Fierce Healthcare cheerfully adds that
Healthcare spending will comprise 20 percent of the U.S. economy by the middle of next decade, according to new data from the Office of the Actuary of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and published in Health Affairs.
Expenditures on healthcare services will grow at an average rate of 5.8 percent per year between 2015 and 2025, about 1.3 percent higher than projected annual growth in the U.S. gross domestic product, CMS concluded. By 2025, healthcare spending will comprise 20.1 percent of the U.S. economy, up from 17.5 percent in 2014. Expenditures totaled $3.2 trillion last year.
A commenter expressed concern about the Postal reform bill's Medicare integration provisions discussed in the mid-week post. FedSmith offers a rather bleak view here. On the bright side, the bill would subsidize Part B premiums for a few years. The FEHBlog does expect that full Medicare integration will control Postal Service Health Benefit plan premiums, and that PSHB plans may offer health reimbursement accounts that would help pay for Medicare Part B premiums. The full integration will help the Postal Service.

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