Weekend Update / Miscellany

  • OPM Director Linda Springer issued a public letter about the upcoming Open Season which offers 2008 open enrollment for the FEHB Program, the Federal employees supplemental dental and vision program and the Federal employees flexible spending account program.
  • Congressional leaders plan an October 18 over-ride vote on the President’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill. The federal government is operating under a continuing resolution which expires on November 16. The President has issued veto warnings against many appropriations bills, none of which has been sent to the President yet. I wonder if we will see another federal government shutdown similar to the one that occurred in 1995, which would interfere with the Open Season.
  • The health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a manager’s amendment to the House version of the mental health parity act (HR 1424). The Energy and Commerce Committee is the last of three House committees that must consider the legislation before it is referred to the Rules Committee. The original version of the House bill defined the scope of covered mental health services by reference to the Blue Cross Federal Employees Plan standard option. The manager’s amendment instead refers to the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV.
  • The AHIMA and e-Health Initiative conferences included discussions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the interrelationship between privacy/security and the National Health Information Network. Speaking at the e-HI conference, former CMS administrator Mark McClellan noted that

    The committee report accompanying the 2008 HHS appropriations bill in the House asked for a “privacy and security framework that will establish trust among consumers and users of electronic personal health information and will govern all efforts to advance electronic health information exchange.” The report specifies elements it wants to see in the framework, such as “allowing individuals to have a say in who and how their information is used” and maintaining data integrity.

    Other speakers predicted that a health information technology bill, like the Wired for Health Care Act, would pass Congress in 2008.

  • Krogers, which operates food stores and pharmacies, in the Mid-West and New Mexico is now joining Target and Wal-Mart pharmacies in offering a variety of generic drugs for a $4 copayment.