Weekend update

The House and Senate return for the second session of the current Congress this week according to the Hill’ Floor Action blog. The January 15 deadline for finalizing appropriations bills is about ten days away. Congress is expected to hit this deadline thereby avoiding another partial government shutdown.

Speaking of Congress, the Hill also reports that Sen. Ron Johnson (R WI) plans to announce today a lawsuit challenging the legality of OPM’s decision to fund exchange plans for members of Congress and their official staffs through the FEHBP.

Federal News Radio reports on two recently proposed OPM regulations that would align the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program enrollment change rules with the FEHBP’s and restore a Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program enrollment opportunity that was deleted in 2010 — the ability to elect FEGLI Options B and C upon reaching age 65.

Finally, Kaiser Health News reports on CMS’s release of all cause readmission rates for U.S. hospitals. Since 2008, CMS has been releasing readmission rate data on a three common diagnoses or causes — heart failure, heart attack, and pneumonia.  The article explains that

The all-cause readmission rates are particularly significant because the
Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), which advises Congress, has encouraged lawmakers
to use this measure when determining financial penalties for hospitals
in the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program. Medicare is currently fining 2,225 hospitals for excess readmissions for heart failure, heart attack and pneumonia patients. 

OPM also has expressed concern about the need to reduce hospital readmissions in the FEHBP.   The hsopital industry argues that the readmission rates are not adequately nuanced, and a quick review of the hospitals with relatively high readmission rates indicates that many well known, big city hospitals serving low income populations are listed there.