Weekend update

Federal News Radio provides a useful compendium of Congressional and federal employee union leaders to Friday’s news that OMB Deputy Director Beth Cobert is replacing Katherine Archuleta, on an interim basis, as OPM Director following Ms. Archuleta’s resignation.  The FEHBlog wants to share with you the reactions of the Congressman who first called for Ms. Archuleta’s resignation at a hearing last month, Rep. Ted Lieu (D Calif):

I appreciate Katherine Archuleta’s service to our nation.  With today’s news, it’s clear that OPM along with the rest of the federal government must immediately turn a page and make cyber security a top, urgent priority.  I came to Congress to find solutions to the foremost challenges facing our nation and I look forward to working with the Administration and the new Director at OPM to improve our cyber security.  The massive security clearance breach also shows that OPM is not the proper agency to protect the crown jewels of American intelligence.  OPM was never designed to be an intelligence or national security agency.  We should not be trying to fit a square into a round hole.  That’s why Congressman Steve Russell [(R. Okla.)] and I are working on legislation to move the security clearance system out of OPM.

and Rep. Will Hurd (R Tex.) who chairs of the Information Technology Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (Reps. Lieu and Russell sit on this subcommittee):

It’s too late for the 21 million Americans who had their personal information compromised due to her lack of action. Many of us in Congress have called on Director Archuleta to step down on multiple occasions and I believe that resigning is the right thing for her to do. The President should appoint a new director who truly understands the digital challenges we face and has the right experience to take the steps necessary to ensure we’re ready for the next cyber-attack.  These recent incidents should serve as a wake-up call to Congress that we must move swiftly to improve our cyber posture. The House has passed two information-sharing bills in this Congress. It’s time for the Senate to act and send these bills to President Obama’s desk.

Hear, hear.

Congress is in session again this coming week.  Here is a link to the Week in Congress which summarizes last week’s activities. The big news was Friday’s passage of the 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6) by a wide bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives. The bill’s objective is to reduce statutory and regulatory obstacles to medical breakthroughs.  The bill provides mandatory funding to the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health. Modern Healthcare’s report on the House action is here.  That publication explains:

The Senate is working on legislation that’s similar to the Cures Act, according to a staffer with the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The committee has held four hearings over the past year on drug and device innovation and plans to generate a bill by the end of the year.  Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the HELP Committee’s ranking member, praised the House for Friday’s vote and said she looks forward to working on legislation aimed at medical innovation with the leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which drafted the Cures Act.

Here is a link to the Obama Administration’s policy statement on the House bill.
Speaking of medical breakthroughs, here’s a link to an AIS article discussing how a specialty pharmacy called Burmans has discovered that a sizeable subclass of patients with Hepatitis C may be cured with an eight week course of Gilead Science’s Harvoni drug, rather than the typical twelve weeks.  

Paul Urick, president of Managed Markets & Industry Relations at Burmans. notes that “Burmans has been working hard to identify patients who may receive eight weeks of treatment in order to produce best clinical outcomes while saving patients and health insurers money. Each eight-week treatment cycle would cost $63,000 on a Wholesale Acquisition Cost [i.e., WAC] basis and save 33% per patient, or $31,500, versus 12-week treatment cycles.” “This is a great opportunity to make a difference to patients,” and it’s great for payers as well, he says.

Good work.