Mid-week update

Tomorrow at 10 am the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the President’s nomination of Beth Cobert to serve as permanent OPM Director. Ms. Cobert currently is the acting Director.  Roll Call is reporting that Sen. David Vitter (R MI) may exercise his privilege to place a hold on Ms. Cobert’s nomination until the agency furnishes him requested information about the OPM rule permitting members of Congress and their staffs to enroll for DC SHOP coverage with a government contribution.

Federal News Radio reports that yesterday OPM’s long standing Inspector General Patrick McFarland announced his retirement as of February 19.  His deputy Norbert Vint will serve as acting OPM Inspector General after that date.  Inspector Generals are nominated by the President.

Yesterday as the Hill reports the House of Representatives was unable to achieve the 2/3s majority vote required to override the President’s veto of the reconciliation measure repealing key parts of the ACA.  Repeal now becomes an issue for the Presidential election.

On the health care cost front, the Altarum Institute released its monthly health care sector report for January 2016

Health care prices grew by 1.1% in 2015, the slowest annual rate ever in our historical series going back to 1990
• The historically low 1.1% growth in health care prices in 2015 was heavily influenced by physician prices, which actually fell by 1%; and more generally by economy-wide inflation, which, at 1.0% in 2015 (as measured by the gross domestic product deflator), barely exceeds the 0.8% rate seen in 2009, the last year of the recession.
• Prescription drug prices grew by 4.6% overall in 2015, but the rate of growth declined over the course of the year, from a peak of 5.5% in Q1 to a low of 3.2% in Q4 2015.

As part of the FEHBlog’s ongoing efforts to place the Zika virus in perspective, here’s a link to an article about the particular mosquito which spreads the virus as well as Yellow Fever and dengue fever. It’s a bad mammer jammer. Just don’t leave any standing water if you live along the Eastern Seaboard (up to NYC or so).