Weekend Update

Congress remains on the campaign trail. Of course, the mid-term election day is tomorrow. Congress’ lame duck session begins about a week or so following the election. The continuing resolution funding the federal government in the current fiscal year which began on October 1 (H. J. Res. 124) will expire after December 11, 2014. Extension of the CR and foreign affairs items clearly are on the lame duck agenda.

The Federal Benefits Open Season starts a week from today November 10.  OPM will post its Open Season website later this week.

The Washington Post took its own look at FEHBP coverage of gender reassignment surgery over the weekend. The Post notes that

Interestingly, employers who have added transition-related coverage report very low costs tied to the these benefits, according to a 2013 study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. Very few have actually used the benefit, the researchers found.

The Pittsburgh Star Ledger reported on the expanded use of high quality specialist networks by large insurers. The FEHBlog thinks that these networks are jim dandy. The article expresses a concern that these networks will reduce choice and represent a return to old school gatekeeper HMOs. The first point is true. The FEHBlog is not so sure about the second point because the old school gatekeeper system focused on directly lowering costs (cheaper specialists) while the new networks focus on improving quality as a means to improved health and lower costs. What’s more the government, including OPM, is pushing for the use of these new networks.