Weekend Update

Happy Fathers Day all.  Congress is in session this week. There are three hearings scheduled on the OPM data breach – Senate Appropriations subcommittee with OPM oversight responsibility, Tuesday at 10 am; full House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday at 10 am and the full Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday at 9:30 am. The House committee held a hearing following by a confidential session last week. The New York Times provided more background on both sessions this morning.  Here’s a snippet from the article that caught the FEHBlog’s eye:

“This [referring to the data breach] was classic espionage, just on a scale we’ve never seen before from a traditional adversary,” one senior administration official said. “And it’s not a satisfactory answer to say, ‘We found it and stopped it,’ when we should have seen it coming years ago.”

The FEHBlog reads we in the context of this snippet to mean the U.S. government, not just OPM. This breach like the Anthem, Premera, and Sony breaches present national security issues.  The country has to pull together to stop further breaches. What steps should be taken in the meanti”me?

Note — In a June 12 post, the FEHBlog referenced a Wall Street Journal story reporting that one of the OPM breaches may been discovered in the course of a sales presentation by CyTech. OPM asserts according to Fortune that the CyTech assertion is inaccurate.

In 2009, the FEHBlog attended a NASCAR race with a friend. It was the last regular season race before the Chase, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. needed to finish in the top five and several contenders needed to not cross the finish line in order for Junior to make the Chase. Junior’s hood was adorned with a sketch of Elvis. Who could not be pulling for Junior. Late in the race when Junior was in the top five and the drivers required to DNF were in the garage, a fan in my row screamed (and you had to scream it was so loud) that “It was happening.” Of course, less than five minutes later Junior crashed and the hopefully DNF drivers got back on the track. So you shouldn’t count your chickens before they hatch. Similarly. the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Anthem had made a public bid — directly to the shareholders — to acquire Cigna and that Aetna had made a proposal to the Humana board, which after all is soliciting proposals. Here is a link to a more detailed AP article from the Hartford Courant. The Wall Street Journal reported within the hour that the CIGNA Board rejected Anthem’s latest offer but held the door open for further discussions. Who knows how this will end up?, but certainly something is happening.

Finally, the FEHBlog ran across two stories about doctors doing good deeds:

  • The New York Times ran a monster story this morning about how U.S. hospitals have collaborated for the good of their patients to vastly accelerate heart attack care with impressive results. 

“With no new medical discoveries, no new technologies, no payment incentives — and little public notice — hospitals in recent years have slashed the time it takes to clear a blockage in a patient’s arteries and get blood flowing again to the heart. The changes have been driven by a detailed analysis of the holdups in treating patients and a nationwide campaign led by the American College of Cardiology, a professional society for specialists in heart disease, and the American Heart Association. Hospitals across the country have adopted common-sense steps that include having paramedics transmit electrocardiogram readings directly from ambulances to emergency rooms and summoning medical teams with a single call that sets off all beepers at once.”

  • The FEHBlog noted that at the ASCO conference earlier this month, a leading oncologist from Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital publicly complained about the high cost of oncology drugs. The Wall Street Journal discusses how another physician from this hospital developed a Drug Abacus tool “that compares the cost of more than 50 cancer drugs with what the prices would be if they were tied to factors such as the side effects the drugs produce, and the amount of extra life they give patients. In many cases, the website calculates a price that is lower than the drug’s market price.” Kudos all around.