Mid week update

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management today in accordance with a Presidential Memorandum extended various fringe benefits to same sex domestic partners of federal employees. OPM explains that

While the Presidential Memorandum directs agencies to provide benefits to federal employees’ same sex domestic partners to the extent permitted by law, there are a number of important employment benefits that cannot be extended without legislative changes such as those being proposed in the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act, which is supported by the President. These include health insurance benefits under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, as well as retirement benefits.

Business Insurance reports that the Department of Health and Human Services has posted a draft application for benefits available to employers under the new Early Retiree Retiree Insurance Program. This program, however, is not open to FEHB plan carriers according to HHS’s implementing regulations. The final version of the application is scheduled to be posted by the end of this month.Business Insurance also reports that “Richard Popper, a former Maryland health insurance official, has been named to run [this very same] federal program created by the health insurance reform law that will provide claims reimbursement to employers that offer early retiree health insurance coverage.” It is anticipated that this program will run out of its $5 billion of funding very quickly so if you are an eligible employer don’t tarry with your claims submissions.Finally, HHS announced today that

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Institute of Medicine President Harvey Fineberg [have] launched a national initiative to share a wealth of new community health data that will drive innovation and lead to the creation of new applications and tools to improve the health of Americans.To help citizens, clinicians and local leaders use data to improve health and value of health care, the Community Health Data Initiative (CHDI) is turning to Web application developers, mobile phone applications, social media, and other cutting-edge information technologies to “put our public health data to work.” * * *At the heart of the Initiative, increasing amounts of federally generated community health data will be made publicly available, in easily accessible and useful formats. Secretary Sebelius announced that by the end of 2010, a new HHS Health Indicators Warehouse will be deployed online, providing currently available and new HHS data on national, state, regional, and county health performance – on indicators such as rates of smoking, obesity, diabetes, access to healthy food, utilization of health care services, etc. – in an easy-to-use “one stop data shop.” The Warehouse will also include information on proven ways to improve performance on particular indicators. Users will be able to explore all of this data on the Warehouse Web site, download any and all of it for free, and integrate it easily into their own Web sites and applications.