Tuesday’s Tidbits

Wow. Modern Healthcare reports that “Medical malpractice costs average about $55.6 billion annually, or 2.4% of annual healthcare spending, according to a Health Affairs analysis.”

Business Insurance reports that the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance today implementing the one of the Affordable Care Act’s limitations on flexible spending accounts, such as FSAFeds, health reimbursement accounts, and healthcare spending accounts, such as those offered by consumer driven FEHB plans. The IRS explains that 

Under the new standard, the cost of an over-the-counter medicine or drug cannot be reimbursed from the account unless a prescription is obtained. The change does not affect insulin, even if purchased without a prescription, or other health care expenses such as medical devices, eye glasses, contact lenses, co-pays and deductibles. The new standard applies only to purchases made on or after Jan. 1, 2011, so claims for medicines or drugs purchased without a prescription in 2010 can still be reimbursed in 2011, if allowed by the employer’s plan.

HHS’s Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight released official guidance to group health plans on how to obtain waivers from the Department’s restriction on annual limits imposed on essential health benefits under the Affordable Care Act. Given the fact that 2011 FEHB plan benefit and rates will be announced in the new few weeks, this guidance will likely be of little value to FEHB plans.

The Los Angeles Times reports that “After 40 years of continual declines, the smoking rate in the United States has stabilized for the last five years, with one in every five Americans still lighting up regularly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.”  At OPM’s request, FEHB plans will be offering enhanced smoking cessation programs next year.