Weekend Update / Miscellany

  • U.S. Representative Jo Ann Davis (R VA), who chaired the House subcommittee with FEHB Program oversight responsibility at the time that Congress approved the federal employee supplemental dental and vision benefit law, died from breast cancer on October 6.
  • President Bush did veto the State Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill. The continuing resolution that funds the federal government temporarily also funds the SCHIP until November 16. In the meantime, the Congressional leadership will attempt to override the President’s veto, which requires a 2/3’s majority of both Houses.
  • There was a lot of health information technology news last week. Microsoft introduced its Health Vault product, which offers consumers and the health care providers the opportunity to upload their medical records to a secure web site. In a Washington Post article about the product release, privacy advocate Deborah Peel was quoted as supporting the Microsoft consumer oriented site over a health insurer sponsored site as follows: “You have to have lost your mind to give them [the health insurers] any more info about you than they already have.” Health Vault’s business model relies on advertising revenue generated by consumer searches. Consumers are not charged to use the service. Hitting a similar note, the AHIC quality workgroup is predicting that over the next three to five years health care quality programs will switch from using health care claims data to electronic clinical data according to Modern Healthcare.com. Also in that same vein, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) awarded contracts totaling $22.5 million to nine health information exchanges to begin trial implementations of the Nationwide Health Information Network, or NHIN according to Health IT Magazine. Finally, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, an HHS advisory body, sent HHS Secretary Leavitt a Sept. 26 letter urging upgrades to the HIPAA electronic transaction standards.
  • The press is reporting that the Bush Administration is proposing legislation to means test Medicare Part D prescription drug plan premiums similar to the current means testing for Medicare Part B premiums.