Lots going on

Today, OPM posted on the Federal Register’s public inspection list a final rule that would assign to the lowest cost nationwide FEHB plan (excluding high deductible plans and plans that charge associate member dues) any enrollee who fails to select a replacement plan after his or her FEHB plan leaves the FEHBP.  Currently, this protection is ohttp://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-27/walgreens-agrees-to-acquire-rite-aid-for-9-42-billion-in-cashnly afforded to annuitant enrollees.  If a plan terminates one of several options, the enrollees in the terminated option would default into the lowest cost remaining option in that plan.

Details about the budget deal have been reported in the Washington Post and elsewhere. As noted yesterday, the deal does address the Medicare Part B premium problem for 2016. As this Washington Post article explains, the deal does not simply extend the hold harmless protection to all Medicare beneficiaries. Instead for those 15 million Medicare beneficiaries whose Medicare Part B premium is paid from a  source other than Social Security, e.g., many CSRS annuitants,  “Medicare’s Part B premiums * * * will increase from the current rate of $104.90 per month to $120 per month next year, plus a $3 surcharge. After holding level since 2013, the monthly premiums for these people would have soared to nearly $160 without the legislative adjustment.” The deal also limits the projected Part B deductible increase.

The budget deal also will repeal an Affordable Care Act provision that requires employers with more than 200 employees to auto enroll their new employees in their health benefits program. This provision which amended the Fair Labor Standards Act, which applies to the federal government and the Postal Service, included no effective date. The Labor Department advised employers back in 2010 that the provision would take effect when it said so. So far, it hasn’t.  The House is scheduled to vote on the budget deal tomorrow and the Senate on Thursday. The President is prepared to sign it.

Finally, this afternoon, Walgreen’s, the second largest U.S. pharmacy chain,  announced an agreement to acquire the third largest chain Rite Aid according to this Bloomberg report.  That reports notes significantly that “the Rite Aid deal gives Walgreens its first foray into the business of managing drug benefits for insurers and employers, an area where rival CVS is a leader. Rite Aid entered that business by acquiring Envision Pharmaceutical Services Inc. for about $2 billion this year.” The combined company would have 12,800 locations, which exceeds CVS.  The deal is subject, of course, to anti-trust review.

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