Midweek update

The FEHBlog is pleased that his college UConn’s men’s and women’s basketball teams won their NCAA national championships earlier this week, repeating a feat first accomplished in 2014. Teams of destiny fulfilled.

The FEHBlog was not so pleased to read a Medpage article stating that OPM has mandated coverage of obesity medications. The article was based on an OPM carrier letter which encourages but nowhere mandates, FEHBP carriers to cover obesity drugs under appropriate limits.  The letter reads in relevant part

It has come to our attention that many FEHB carriers exclude coverage of weight loss medications. Accordingly, we want to clarify that excluding weight loss drugs from FEHB coverage on the basis that obesity is a “lifestyle” condition and not a medical one or that obesity treatment is “cosmetic”- is not permissible. In addition, there is no prohibition for carriers to extend coverage to this class of prescription drugs, provided that appropriate safeguards are implemented concurrently to ensure safe and effective use. 

The Medpage article latches onto the second sentence and ignores the final key sentence. OPM understandably does not want carriers to make knee jerk reactions to complicated coverage decisions like this one. This Science Daily article explains that the two drugs mentioned in the OPM letter — Belviq and Qsymia — are subject to ongoing post-FDA approval safety testing in the U.S. and have not been approved for marketing in Europe yet. 
Following up on Sunday’s post, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R Calif) announced at yesterday’s hearing that he soon will be marking up a revised version of this postal reform bill that will incorporate many ideas from the President’s FY 2015 budget proposal for the  Postal Service according to this Federal News Radio report
And today HHS released data on 2012 Medicare payments to doctors.  Here’s a link to the Wall Street Journal’s site that allows you to search the data, e.g., see how much Medicare paid your doctor in 2012. Here’s a link to Kaiser Health News’s round robin review of leading press accounts about this development. Here’s a link to the American Medical Association’s take on this development.