Tuesday’s Tidbits

While trolling the internet for tidbits to post, the FEHBlog noticed that the Obama Administration released its Spring 2013 unified regulatory agenda earlier this month. Of note is that OPM is working on the following proposed rules for the FEHB and FEDVIP programs:

FEHBP; Tribes and Tribal Organizations 3206-AM40
FEHBP; Disputed Claims and External Review Requirements 3206-AM42
FEHBP: Miscellaneous Changes Proposed by the Affordable Care Act 3206-AM46
Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program: Miscellaneous Changes 3206-AM57
FEHBP  Members of Congress and Congressional Staff 3206-AM85

OPM has been developing the second and third rules for several rotations of the unified agenda in the FEHBlog’s recollection.  The last rule is the eagerly anticipated rule explaining what happens when members of Congress and their personal staff members (about 10,000 people) are booted out of the FEHBP at the end of this year. OPM projects (and these projections are unreliable) that this rule will be published in October after the exchange open enrollment period begins.

OPM is preparing to finalize the following rules:

FEHBP Coverage for Certain Firefighters 3206-AM66
FEHBP Coverage for Certain Intermittent Employees 3206-AM74
FEHBP Eligibility Expansion to Certain Temporary and Seasonal Employees 3206-AM86
FEHBP and FEDVIP Coverage of Children Federal Flexible Benefits Plan: Pre-Tax Payment of Health Benefits Premiums 3206-AM55

The last rule is one proposed last year to extend coverage to the children of same sex domestic partners based on step child status. OPM projects that it will finalize that rule in September 2009.

The FEHBlog notes with interest that there is no rulemaking case at the proposed (or final) stage for extending coverage to employees who qualify as full time employees (work on average 30 hours or more per week). Although the employer mandate penalties have been postponed until 2015, the FEHBlog expected OPM to take the lead by extending coveragee to this group for 2014.  Evidently, that’s not the case.

Standard and Poor’s recently released its May 2013 healthcare cost indices.

All nine S&P Healthcare Economic Indices showed lower annual growth rates for May 2013 compared to April 2013. As measured by the S&P Healthcare Economic Commercial Index, healthcare costs covered by commercial insurance plans rose by 4.34% in May, down from +4.59% reported in April. Annual growth rates  in Medicare costs increased by 0.85% in May, according to the S&P Healthcare Economic Medicare Index, down from a +1.07% rate recorded last month.

Also of note, less than one month after the Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, a federal district court in Ohio has overridden Section 2 of that law in a temporary restraining order granted to a gay couple who had married in Maryland.  Maryland recognizes same sex marriage but Ohio doesn’t.. Section 2 provides that a state is not obligated to give full faith and credit to a same sex marriage officiated in another state. The Washington Post provides more details.  The FEHBlog bets the ranch that the Supreme Court will find Section 2 (the only remaining substantive provision of DOMA) unconstitutional when given the opportunity. Section 2 is particularly problematic because states have residency requirements for divorce (which was not the issue in this case).  While on the topic Business Insurance notes that OPM was first out of the gate in providing definitive guidance implementing the Supreme Court’s decision. Business Insurance reports that “The American Benefits Council has urged federal regulators to update employers on benefit plan changes they must make in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s partial overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act.”  Good for OPM.