Weekend Update

Congress of course is in session this week in the run up to the end of the current federal fiscal year on September 30. The Hill’s Floor Watch reports and the FEHBlog agrees that the chances of a government shutdown seem very remote — both parties have been down this road a few times in the last few years, and seem to strongly prefer avoiding a shutdown.  Particularly because deadline for increasing the debt limit also is approaching, we could still see some compromise on the Affordable Care Act, possibly a delay of the individual mandate until 2015 (just like the employer mandate — advocated by many Republicans) and/or overriding the OPM proposed rule providing a government contribution for members of Congress and their official staffs in the exchanges next year (advocated by Sen. David Vitter (R La.).

The FEHBlog expects that this week OPM will make its press release on 2014 FEHBP changes to the government contribution and premiums. Furthermore, with the October 1 date for rolling out the state health insurance programs rapidly approaching, OPM also should be announcing its multi-state program plan contractors who will be participating in at least 31 state health insurance exchanges next year.

In its most recent / March 2013 benefits and rates proposals call letter, OPM endorsed the Choosing Wisely campaign. According to the campaign’s website, “An initiative of the ABIM Foundation, Choosing Wisely is focused on encouraging physicians, patients and other health care stakeholders to think and talk about medical tests and procedures that may be unnecessary, and in some instances can cause harm. Bravo. Earlier this month, the Society of General Medicine, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, and the American College of Surgeons each made five new evidence based recommendations about medical procedures or tests that should be avoided. That’s how the cost curve can be pushed down.

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