Tuesday Tidbits

Yesterday, the Government Accountability Office released its report on the Postal Service’s plan to withdraw from the FEHBP.  The GAO recognizes that the Postal Service plans to reduce its own employee health benefit costs by shifting expenses onto the already rickety Medicare program. GAO also notes the reaction of OPM officials that  “any time a large change occurs in the [FEHB] program there can be unintended and unforeseen issues that arise. FEHBP has not experienced a reduction in enrollment of this size in the past.”  Based on the FEHBlog’s 30 years of experience with the FEHBP, he could not agree more. The Washington Post, the Federal Times, and Govexec.com all have written about the GAO report. Tomorrow at 10 am Federal News Radio will discuss the GAO report and OPM’s proposal to add a self and one option to the FEHBP.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends recommends with a “B” rating that “women whose family history is associated with an increased risk for deleterious mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes be referred for genetic counseling and evaluation for BRCA testing.”  The ACA regulators in ACA FAQ XII decided that when the medical counselor recommends BRAC testing, the plan must cover the test with no cost sharing when performed in-network. Now Cigna is changing its policy to require genetic counseling before the health insurer pays for extensive testing to determine if the [member] have genes associated with breast cancer [the BRAC test], ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer or a heart condition called Long QT syndrome” according to the Hartford Courant.  Bloomberg discusses the impact of the policy change on the manufacturer of the BRAC test.  In the FEHBlog’s view, Cigna’s approach reflects common sense.

A few business days ago, Standard & Poors released its latest health care cost indices:

Eight of the nine S&P Healthcare Economic Indices showed higher annual growth rates for June 2013 compared to May 2013. As measured by the S&P Healthcare Economic Commercial Index, healthcare costs covered by commercial insurance plans rose by 4.14% in June, up from 4.09% reported in May. Annual growth rates in Medicare costs increased by 1.27% in June, according to the S&P Healthcare Economic Medicare Index, up from a 1.22% rate recorded last month.
The Hospital Index’s growth rate posted 2.05% in June, up from 1.97% reported in May. The Hospital Medicare Index recorded a 2.17% annual rate in June, up from 2.09% posted last month. The Hospital Commercial annual growth rate posted 1.95% in June, up from 1.85% recorded last month.
The Professional Services Index annual growth rate was 3.86% in June, marginally up from the 3.85% May value. The Professional Services Commercial Index accelerated to 6.08% in June, up from 6.06% reported last month. The Professional Services Medicare annual growth rate hit a new low of -0.39% in June, down from -0.38% recorded in May.

Cost curve up!