Tuesday Tidbits

On June 28th, the FEHBlog wrote — “As the FEHBlog and many others expected, the Supreme Court did legalize same sex marriage nationwide last Friday. This decision affects OPM’s rule allowing federal employees residing in the states that were not licensing those marriages to enroll the children of same sex domestic partners in the FEHBP. Children enrolled under this rule will lose their coverage at the end of this year unless their parents marry before then.” Yesterday OPM caught up with the FEHBlog by announcing (as reported in the Washington Post) that effective immediately

agencies and/or retirement systems should no longer add children of same-sex domestic partners to FEHB enrollments as no new children are eligible. Stepchildren that are already covered under an enrollment for plan year 2015, based on a domestic partner certification, remain eligible family members only until the end of the plan year. For plan year 2016 and beyond, couples must be married in order to cover (or continue to cover) stepchildren under their FEHB and FEDVIP enrollment.

So you could have or did read it here first. The Washington Post tries to read more into the announcement but OPM is just enforcing its own rule.

The New York Times reports today that Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle are trying to fix the Medicare Part B premium mess. To recap, because inflation has been low, most CSRS annuitants will be socked with a big Medicare Part B premium and deductible increase next year simply because their Medicare Part B premiums are withheld from CSRS annuity checks not Social Security checks. (FERS annuitants have their Medicare Part B premiums withheld from their Social Security checks.)  The Times reports that

Medicare actuaries predicted in July that the standard premium for them would rise to $159 a month. The standard premium is now just under $105 a month, the same as in 2013 and 2014.
The actuaries also predicted an increase in the annual deductible — the amount that beneficiaries pay for health care before Medicare begins to pay. They estimated that the deductible would rise to $223 next year, from $147 in 2015.
Seventy national organizations, including AARP, labor unions and trade associations for health insurance companies, sent a letter to congressional leaders last week calling for swift action to “mitigate projected increases in Medicare premiums.”

This is a big bowl of wrong, and the FEHBlog is willing to predict that it will be fixed.  Higher income annuitants will be subjected to higher premiums under a separate federal law that will not be affected by this whirlwind action on Capitol Hill. The Medicare Open Season starts on October 15.

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article today on the pricing power of prescription drug manufacturers.

Attention has focused lately on new drugs with eye-popping prices and on a few whose price a new owner abruptly raised several-fold. But what many drug companies rely on for sales growth is a pattern of steady [price] increases, year in and year out, on older medicines [that remain under patent or otherwise lack competition]. Wholesale-price increases for the 30 drugs analyzed by the Journal averaged 76% over the five-year stretch from 2010 through 2014. That was more than eight times general inflation.
For 20 leading global drug companies last year, 80% of growth in net profits stemmed from price increases in the U.S., according to a May report by Credit Suisse.

As the article notes, health benefits coverage helps mask the increases from consumers.

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