Mid-week update

It’s another lovely day on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Federal Times reports that today the House Appropriations Committee will consider the Financial Services and General Government spending bill that funds the FEHBP.  Govexec.com reports that signs point toward a 1% pay raise for federal employees next year. The FEHBlog took a look at the bill under consideration. He found that it includes the traditional FEHBP related provisions — a prohibition against full Cost Accounting Standards coverage, a contraception coverage mandate (except for faith based plans), and an abortion coverage restriction.

The Federal Times reports that OPM Director Katherine Archuleta recently issued a memorandum encouraging agencies to discuss available mental health resources with their employees. Those resources include employee assistance programs and of course FEHB plans. It would be nice if OPM arranged for better communication between the EAPs and the FEHB plans, in the FEHBlog’s opinion.

Modern Healthcare featured a fascinating report on hospital profit margins.

Modern Healthcare’s analysis found that the average operating margin in 2013 was 3.1%, down from 3.6% in 2012 based on data available for 179 health systems, which included acute-care, post-acute care, rehabilitation as well as specialty hospital groups and some stand-alone hospitals. A total of 61.3% of organizations in Modern Healthcare’s analysis saw their operating margins deteriorate over the previous year.

One tool that hospitals use to boost their profit margins is providing for their own doctors known as hospitalists to care for their acute care patients. Bloomberg reports that the Justice Department recently intervened in a False Claims Act lawsuit against a hospitalist company based on an upcoding charge.  But the FEHBlog has been thinking about hospitalists since his own (trusted) internist told him that hospitals frequently do not tell him about his patient’s admission in order to allow their hospitalists to care for his patients while confined to the hospital. These are often patients with chronic illnesses that my doctor regularly sees. That lack of coordination is appalling to the FEHBlog.