Weekend update

What an afternoon! My college team, the UConn Huskies, are in the Final Four of the men’s basketball tournament for the fifth time in the last fifteen years (three national championships so far).

From the sublime to the ridiculous, Congress is in session again this week as the Hill’s Floor Blog reports and the Senate will take up the temporary Medicare Part B fix bill tomorrow. The AMA is upset that Congress decided not to pass the bipartisan permanent fix this go around. The FEHBlog does expect the permanent fix to be enacted in the lame duck session that will follow the Congressional election in November.

As the FEHBlog noted on Friday, the Medicare Part B temporary fix bill will delay ICD-10 code implementation for at least another year. ihealthbeat reports that industry reaction to the delay is mixed. Health insurers and hospitals are frustrated and doctors are relieved. The FEHBlog understands the frustration but the October 1, 2014, ICD-10 compliance date was shaping up to be a train wreck because so many medical practices are unprepared. What’s more moving to the ICD-10 code won’t improve the speed of claims processing which was HIPAA’s goal now almost 20 years ago. In the FEHBlog’s view, it is time to repeal the electronic transaction and code set provisions of HIPAA. Let the industry handle it. Technology standards should not be embedded in law.

The large prescription benefit manager, CVS Caremark, announced last week that it received a three year renewal of its contract to manage the Blue Cross Federal Employees Program’s retail, specialty, and mail order prescription drug benefits. “The new agreement, which runs through 2017, brings the relationship between CVS Caremark and FEP to more than 20 years.”

Finally, following up the FEHBlog’s comments on the worthy Million Hearts campaign last Friday, Modern Healthcare reports that “Nearly 6 million Americans diagnosed as needing high blood pressure medication may no longer need to take it, and another 13.5 million previously classified as having uncontrolled blood pressure would now meet healthy blood pressure targets, a new Journal of the American Medical Association analysis finds.” The study generally affects people aged 60 and older whose systolic blood pressure reading is between 140 and 150, which is consider a gray area. This could be relevant to NCQA HEDIS standard on blood pressure control.  But from a big picture perspective, the FEHBlog believes that the article illustrates the fact that practice of medicine remains as much an art as it is a science.