Midweek update

Yesterday, the President signed the CRomnibus (HR 83) into law.  Here’s a link to a Government Health IT article that reviews the ACA changes in the law, none of which impact the FEHBP.  Here’s a link to an Ihealthbear article that reviews the CRomnibus’s provisions with health information techniology implications. Perhaps the health IT aspect of the CRomnibus that got the most press was the fact that it did not include a further delay of the ICD-10 code set deadline which is October 1, 2015. The FEHBlog noted with interest that the new law does include electronic medical record interoperability provisions:

[T]he package includes language directing ONC [the Health IT Czar] to decertify electronic health record systems that prevent the electronic exchange of health information. The new law states, “ONC should take steps to decertify products that proactively block the sharing of information because those practices frustrate congressional intent, devalue taxpayer investments in (certified EHR technology) and make CEHRT less valuable and more burdensome for eligible hospitals and eligible providers to use.”

The law also includes a coupe of provisions requiring reports to Congress.  My money is riding on the private sector to fix this pressing problem. Ihealthbeat further notes that 257,000 eligible healthcare professionals will get smacked with meaningful use penalties starting January 1, 2015. Of course, the cost of those penalties ultimately will be shifted onto private sector payers.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that Congress also passed the ABLE Act which will allow for the creation of tax free savings accounts for disabled people.

The ABLE Act helps people with disabilities save for health-care costs, housing, lifelong education, and other needs. Under current law, a child diagnosed with a disability can’t have assets worth more than $2,000 or earn more than $680 per month without forfeiting eligibility for government programs like Medicaid. The ABLE Act would allow a tax-free savings account up to $100,000 to pay for disability-related expenses.

In Monday’s Federal Register OPM announced a proposed rule for a new performance assessment system for FEHBP carriers.  Federal News Radio provides an overview of the proposed rule. The comment period for the proposed rule ends on January 14, 2015.  When contemplating carrier performance, the important facts to bear in mind are that the FEHB Act requires carriers to compete and also bear the insurance risk. That’s plenty of motivation for good performance and as the FEHBlog noted earlier this month a recent Morning Consult survey of 500 federal employees found that federal employees genuinely appreciate their plans.

The Drug Channels blog offers highlights of CVS Health’s latest specialty market forecasts here. Reuters reports that a new specialty infusion drug from Amgen that treats a rare leukemia called acute lyphoblastic leukemia. Price tag — $178,000 per treatment.

Because it’s the holiday season, let’s wrap things up with this day brightener article from Fierce Health Payer about how Aetna is using technology “to connect members who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer to members who have already survived the disease. The insurer aims to help its members address the emotional impacts of cancer in addition to all the physical issues.”