Weekend update

The Week in Congress discusses last week’s activities on Capitol Hill which included Senate passage of a bill to substantially repeal the Affordable Care Act.  This will be the first time that an ACA repeal bill actually reaches the President’s desk (for a veto).  The intriguing angle is the Hill report that as part of this process the Senate voted 90-10 to approve an amendment to this bill that would repeal the 40% excise tax on high cost employer sponsored health coverage.

Congress continues its work this coming week with a focus on federal government appropriations. The current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires on Friday December 11.  
The Federal Benefits Open Season ends a week from tomorrow on December 14.  Federal News Radio brings us up to date on Open Season discussions which included an OPM Twitter party.  
Last week, as Modern Healthcare reports, Kaiser Permanante, the large staff model HMO, joined the merger and acquisition party by announcing a deal to purchase “Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative, expanding Kaiser’s geographic reach and boosting its health plan membership by 6%.”   Both Kaiser and Group Health participate in the FEHB Program. Modern Healthcare observes

That [staff] model [HMO] —a single organization that combines health plans, hospitals and physicians—is one being pursued by more healthcare organizations that have historically operated in one or two sectors.
“We’re seeing a collision of all three of those elements,” said Kit Kamholz, an expert in healthcare transactions and a managing director for healthcare consultants Kaufman Hall. How that shakes out, he said, will “determine who is going to be controlling the healthcare dollar.”
Some of the nation’s largest hospital operators have steadily acquired medical groups and expanded into health insurance in recent years, including Catholic Health Initiatives, Englewood, Colo., and Ascension Health, St. Louis. 

Speaking of hospitals, the Leapfrog Group released its 2015 lists of top hospitals last week and Modern Healthcare reports that hospital based health systems are rapidly adopting telehealth.  Finally, Drug Channels updates us on prescription benefit plan formulary exclusion lists for 2016.