Tuesday Tidbits

The Washington Post reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D Nev) will be bringing several pending nominations to the floor later this week, including Katherine Archuleta’s nomination as OPM Director. Bloomberg reports that Senator Lindsay Graham (R SC) plans an effort to block these nominations until lawmakers hear from survivors of the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Ms. Archuleta’s nomination cleared the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee in late July 2013. Sen. Tom Coburn (R Okla) put a hold on floor consideration of her nomination because of the Congressional coverage kerfuffle. He removed that hold in early August after OPM issued its proposed rule. Under OPM’s rule (now finalized) members of Congress and their official staffs will receive coverage via the DC SHOP exchange next year. Politico reports that OPM has allowed members of Congress until this Thursday to designate their official staffs who will be booted out of the FEHBP (until retirement).  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R Ky) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (R Tex), among others, have designated all of their staff members as official staff.

Federal News Radio offered a couple of additional viewpoints on House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa’s bill to extend the FEHBP to non-federal employees.

In recent carriers letters OPM has encouraged FEHBP carriers to adopt the Blue Button program and the Choosing Wisely campaign.

  • The Blue Button program is a Veterans Affairs initiative to create a downloadable personal health records from electronic medical and/or claim records. Government Health IT reports that “The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) announced
    on Monday that it will embark on a campaign to encourage its Component
    State Associations and members to actively support the Blue Button
    Initiative to promote access to personal health records (PHRs).” Here’s a link to the Blue Button pledge page. Here’s the healthit.gov page on the Blue Button movement. If you are an FEHBP enrollee, check your plan’s website for the Blue Button.
  • Choosing Wisely is a campaign “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.”  The campaign arranges for medical societies to create and update lists of Things Physicians and Patients Should Question.” Here is the list of dates when medical socities will be releasing their recommendations. Most recently, the American Academy of Dermatology, the American College of Chest Physicians and American Thoracic Society (Pulmonary), and the American College of Rheumatology (Pediatric Rheumatology) released their recommendations which are available on the campaign’s website.
Speaking of technology, a huge healthcare technology change is looming on October 1, 2014, when health care providers, health plans, and health care clearinghouses must start using the much more complex ICD-10 diagnosis and hospital procedure codes in lieu of the long-standing ICD-9 code. (The ICD-10 code has one more digit than the ICD-9 code).  FiercehealthIT reports that Coders participating in an ICD-10 test by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) achieved an average accuracy rate of just 63 percent, according to a new report. Uh, oh. The report (which is oriented toward providers entering the codes) is full of results and recommendations. 

The FEHBlog also ran across today an article at fiercehealthpayer.com concerning the Blue Zones program. “In Blue Zones communities, citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores and community leaders join forces and promote well-being.” Blue Zone communities are operational in California, Minnesota, and Iowa. The article reports that the state of Hawaii and Fort Worth Texas. Cost curve down.