Weekend Update – Miscellany

  • On April 2, OPM Director Linda Springer testified about her agency’s fiscal year 2009 budget before a House appropriations subcommittee. Director Springer had the following remarks about the FEHB Program:

    As the administrator of the FEHBP, OPM will continue to negotiate and contract with private insurance companies that offer a broad range of health insurance benefits, including high-deductible health plans with Health Savings Accounts and consumer-driven health plan options. As such, OPM will spend $26 million in FY 2009 to ensure the viability of the Program’s 283 health care plans covering over 8 million people. As usual, OPM will continue to carry out tough negotiations with health carriers to contain premium hikes. Over the years these negotiations have resulted in employee premiums that are substantially lower than those of the private sector while maintaining benefit levels, and continuing to provide, improve, and expand tools so customers can make informed health insurance decisions. In fact, the FEHBP increase for 2008 was 2.1 percent, compared to an average 8.7 percent increase for the private sector and a 6.3 percent increase for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System during that same year.

  • The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus (D Mont) reportedly plans to send Medicare legislation directly to the Senate floor without a Committee markup. This is the bill that would avoid a 10% cut in Medicare reimbursement to physicians currently scheduled for July 1, 2008. The bill would not rely on Medicare Advantage payment cuts to cover bill’s costs according to ModernHealthcare.com.
  • The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has released its 2008 Medical Cost Reference Guide.
  • The press has picked up on a debate over the level of charity care provided by non-profit hospitals here and here.
  • The Burlington Free Press reports that the Vermont legislature is planning to tax health plan claim payments — 0.12 percent of the medical claims paid by a health insurer in a quarter — in order to provide electronic health record implementation grants to doctors. The FEHB Act, 5 USC § 8909(f), preempts the imposition of such taxes, fees, etc. on FEHB plans.