Weekend Update / Miscellany

  • Happy Veterans’ Day! The FEHB Program’s Open Season starts tomorrow, and the benefit mavens are offering their perspectives here and here, among other places.
  • There was a break in the appropriations logjam last week as Congress approved a Fiscal Year 2008 Defense appropriations bill (HR 3222) that the President plans to sign. This bill includes an extension of the current continuing resolution funding the federal government to December 14. Congress also sent the President a Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (HR 3043) that the President plans to veto. That bill currently lacks a veto proof majority. Thought is now being given to an omnibus appropriations bill according to the Hill. The Hill report, “The question ultimately remains whether either side will let the fight lead to a shutdown of the government, like the infamous standoff between the Clinton White House and the Republican-led Congress in 1995. Neither side seems to have much appetite for that scenario to repeat itself, but neither side is backing down.”
  • Rather than send the second SCHIP bill to the President for a certain veto, Congressional negotiators are trying to work out a veto-proof compromise bill according to the Hill, which also reported that “The core group of negotiators included Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), House Energy and Commerce panel Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.).”
  • Congress is also working to fix the 10.1% physician reimbursement cut built into the Medicare program for 2008. The prescription benefit manager’s (PBM) trade association, PCMA, is lobbying to include a Medicare e-prescribing mandate in this bill.
  • In an interesting footnote, a major PBM, CaremarkPCS, is suing the Walgreen’s pharmacy chain for Walgreen’s decision to terminate its provider contract with respect to four Chicago area health plans, none of which are FEHB plans. The PBM’s TRO motion hearing is set for November 13.