Mid-week update

The FEHBlog got back from Denver last night. Denver is a beautiful city with great weather. His youngest kid is now attending the University of Denver. One of the speakers at the parent orientation was an author Helen E. Johnson. She made an interesting point that’s relevant to OPM’s efforts to get federal employees to quit smoking.

Ms. Johnson explained that the brain has two periods of development — from birth to age five and then from age 15 to age 25.  The number of synapses in the brain’s cerebral cortex starts out at around 2,500, explodes to 15,000 at age 3, and then settles at around 7,000 in adulthood.  Our experiences cause us to strengthen and prune synapses from age 3 to age 25. For this reason, people are more prone to addition before age 26 and it’s harder to shake an addiction that arose before age 26. More background on brain plasticity is available here. (Perhaps Congress was onto something when it set age 26 as the end date for child coverage under health plans.)

The West Virginia Register Herald reports on a Highmark Blue Cross CEO discussion with that state’s Chamber of Commerce about how to address these addictive behaviors that are creating “unsustainable” costs.

From the sublime to the whatever. The ACA regulators came out with ACA FAQs XVII yesterday.  Not much of importance there to FEHB plan carriers or members.

Well, the FEHBlog just collapsed on his fainting couch. Modern Healthcare reports that “Bargaining leverage, not the cost of providing complex care, is the main reason why some hospitals can demand prices twice as high as their competitors’ and still get contracts to treat privately insured patients, according to a new study” by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

Healthcare IT News reports that healthcare information technology spending in the U.S. is expected to top $35.5 billion next year due in large part to (gasp!) regulatory mandates such as the ICD-10 conversion. The FEHBlog agrees with the AMA that the ICD-10 conversion is a waste of money, but that train has left the station.

Speaking of more IT costs, the IRS just released a proposed rule and additional guidance on IRC § 6055 a major new reporting burden on health insurers that has been delayed until 2015 by the Administration’s one year suspension of the employer mandate. The IRS is planning on holding a public hearing on November 19, 2013.

Finally, HHS has a released a list of the 33 healthcare related apps that it has sponsored. Physician’s Briefing.com identifies ten healthcare apps that doctors are likely to recommend to their patients.

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