Mid-week update

The OPM Inspector General’s retirement date is this coming Friday and he has thrown a grenade as he walks out the door.  The Washington Post is reporting today that the Inspector General has advised OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert that federal law required her to step down as acting director when the President nominated her as permanent director on November 10, 2015. According to the Inspector General’s letter, all of Ms. Cobert’s official actions since that date are null and void and cannot be ratified. The Post reports that

White House spokesman Frank Benenati said that Cobert was named acting director “consistent with the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Since 1999, presidents of both parties have relied upon the consistent guidance and interpretation of that act by the Department of Justice governing when individuals may serve in an acting capacity while their nominations are pending before the Senate, and the Administration continues to rely upon that guidance. We firmly believe that Acting Director Cobert is acting within the confines of the law,” he said in an email.

The FEHBlog does not see this dispute going anywhere. It’s an oddity.

Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that the agency in collaboration with health insurers and providers and the National Quality Forum has developed seven sets of quality standards which public and private payers will apply uniformly to providers.  “In the U.S. Health care system, where we are moving to measure and pay for quality, patients and care providers deserve a uniform approach to measure quality,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. “This agreement today will reduce unnecessary burden for physicians and accelerate the country’s movement to better quality.”

The Healthcare Leadership Council announced six steps toward more effective, patient centric healthcare according to Fierce Healthcare report. Here are the first two which the FEHBlog certainly supports —

  • Set a “firm date”–Dec. 31, 2018–to achieve health information interoperability everywhere in the U.S., with the private sector leading the way to help healthcare organizations share data. This parallels the goal set forth by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), the report notes.
  • Implement reforms to improve the Food and Drug Administration, including easing administrative burdens imposed on the agency and taking steps to more quickly deliver innovative treatments and technologies to patients. 
Speaking of electronic medical records, Health Day reports on a study finding that EMR generated advice to pediatricians is resulting in reduced anti-biotic use. Ah yes, some ROI on the $31 billion expended by taxpayers for the EMRs. 
Finally it’s worth noting this BBC story about an advance in blood cancer treatment.