Monday Update

The FEHBlog was visiting NYC this weekend so it’s another Monday update this week. Congress remains out of town until the week after Labor Day.

A recurring theme of the FEHBlog is “cost curve up.”  Columnist Robert Samuelson put this theme into perspective over the weekend

[T]he Center for Sustainable Health Spending in Ann Arbor, Mich., * * * compares health spending to the economy’s total output, gross domestic product (GDP). From December 2007 to June 2013, health spending rose a respectable 14.7 percent. Meanwhile, GDP grew a lowly 4.6 percent. Exclude health spending from GDP, and its growth is only 2.7 percent.


In its recent proposed rule, OPM agreed to provide the FEHBP contribution toward healthcare exchange coverage for members of Congress and their official staffs in 2014. A fly in the ointment is that the exchanges are not designed for people aged 65 and older. No doubt there are members of Congress and official staff members in this golden age group.  USA Today reports today that

While the Obama administration is encouraging uninsured Americans to enroll in health coverage on the new online insurance marketplaces, federal officials are planning a campaign to persuade millions of seniors to please stay away — don’t call and don’t sign up.

Presumably OPM will address this issue in the final rule, perhaps by offering reimbursement for Medicare Part B, Medicare Advantage or Medigap coverage for the exiting FEHBP enrollees aged 65 and older.

The AMA News (how the FEHBlog will miss it) reports that doctors are up in arms about paying service charges on credit card payments from the Veterans Administration and health insurers.

The AMA is urging CMS, which regulates electronic billing transactions, to prohibit insurers from paying physicians less than contracted rates when using electronic payment methods. The agency also should encourage payers to adopt new electronic funds transfer standards that promote the White House’s administrative simplification efforts before a Jan. 1, 2014, deadline, the letter stated.

The cost of an automated clearing house transaction to move a $2,500 payment is 34 cents. A same-day wire transfer would cost $10.73. A virtual [credit] card transaction would cost the most at $75.10, which accounts for a 3% interchange fee and a 10-cent transaction fee.

Good point. Presumably the AMA is not upset over the debit cards which flexible spending account plans hand out to their members as the debit cards carry a lower fee.