Mid-week update

Following up on the weekend post, OPM postponed its Google hangout on Open Season topics one week to Monday, November 24th from 11:00 AM to noon EST.

OPM has released its FY 2014 financial report. You can find some interesting FEHB tidbits by searching for FEHB when you open the document in Adobe Acrobat. If there were any earth shattering items, the FEHBlog would have mentioned them.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a confirmation hearing yesterday for the President’s nominee for OPM Deputy Director, Retired Navy Read Admiral Earl L. Gay. Here’s a link to the hearing on the Committee’s website.

In other Congressional News, the House of Representatives Republic Caucus named Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R Utah) as chair of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee which has oversight responsibility over our beloved FEHBP. Mr. Chaffetz succeeds Rep. Darrell Issa (R Calif) who had reached his chairmanship term limit. Federal News Radio highlights this and other House chair changes. The other significant change is that Rep. Paul Ryan (R Wisc.) will take the helm of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

The FEHBlog was overjoyed to read in Modern Healthcare that the eHealth Initiative, which includes the American Medical Association, BCBSA, and United Healthcare, among others, has developed a private sector roadmap to connect disparate electronic medical record systems.

Efforts to encourage greater IT use would need to include a boost from private health plans, said Dr. Sam Ho, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare. New value-based payment models will inevitably encourage sharing and collaboration, Ho said, which will in turn encourage increased technology adoption and interoperability.
The insurers in the eHealth Initiative are specifically considering including extra payments for technology adoption, including electronic data transfer and collaborative care plans. “Really this is about what the private sector can do to take health IT to a new level,” Ho said. “It needs to help doctors help practice more consistent, more evidence-based medicine.”
The group’s road map would reach technologies and healthcare professionals not covered by meaningful use. John Glaser, CEO of health services at Siemens Healthcare, noted that meaningful use did not include many types of professionals, such as behavioral health providers. Nor does it cover many types of technologies, and there should be an increased emphasis on connected devices like sensors, Glaser said. 

Interoperability will solve a lot of problems that health plans — other than integrated plans like Kaiser — currently face in collecting quality information from health care providers.

Speaking of healthcare quality, Healthdata Management reports that

Based on 2013 data, an annual report from the Joint Commission on hospitals’ performance to increase the safety and quality of care finds 1,224 hospitals were top performers in 2014. That is an 11 percent increase from last year

That’s certainly good news.

And here are a few more tidbits:

  • NPR explains why reports of a looming national shortage of doctors may be overblown. 
  • Drug Channels reports that retail generic drug price inflation “is alive and well.”
  • HHS and the National Institutes of Health are taking regulatory steps to improve the transparency of clinical trials results.