Weekend Update / Miscellany

  • The President’s veto of the compromise SCHIP reauthorization bill was sustained last Thursday as the House of Representative’s override vote fell short by 13 votes. Meanwhile, Congress is not making much progress in bringing its 12 appropriations bills for the current federal government fiscal year to the President’s desk. According to Govexec.com, the Congressional leadership plans to present the President first with a Labor- HHS appropriation bill that the President has vowed to veto. We are less than one month (Nov. 16) from a likely showdown between these two branches of government.
  • OPM issued a benefits administration letter establishing the ground rules for the Federal Benefits Open Season to be held next month.
  • Perhaps in reaction to the FEHBlog entry on preventive health care, OPM issued an FEHBP carrier letter on that topic.
  • OPM also issued an interesting report on the FEHB Program’s compliance with the President’s August 2006 Executive Order on health information technology and health care pricing and quality transparency. It is evident from the report that FEHB plans have made great progress in implementing the four cornerstones of the Executive Order. Personal health records are available to 90% of the federal and postal employees and annuitants enrolled in the FEHB Program. However, according to OPM less than 5% of FEHB Program enrollees have taken advantage of this opportunity. As over 4 million people are enrolled in the FEHB Program, 5% of the enrollment is 200,000 people. Nevertheless, that is a surprising statistic that OPM and carriers are sure to investigate.
  • Also this week a Coalition for Patient Privacy urged Congress to incorporate greater privacy protections in any health information technology legislation. Ironically, Microsoft, whose products are afflicted by security issues, joined in the letter as a member of the Coalition. Of course, Microsoft just released its Health Vault product. Google announced this week that its health initiative will be launched early in 2008.
  • New York State Attorney General Cuomo is questioning the efforts of New York health insurers to rank the performance of doctors. The American Medical Association is applauding his efforts, according to Modern Healthcare.com.
  • The Federal Times reports that according to a study by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, the average age of a new federal employee is 33.