Weekend update

The House is in session this week while the Senate is out of town.  Here is a link to The Week in Congress’s account of last week’s actions on Capitol Hill.

Interesting Congressional Budget Office (CBO) developments for the coming week:

CBO plans to release its updated 10-year baseline projections of federal spending, revenues, and budget deficits on Thursday, March 24 [at 2 pm ET on cbo.gov). At the same time, CBO will release a separate document detailing its updated estimates of the budgetary effects of the insurance coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act and of enrollment through health insurance marketplaces (sometimes called exchanges). 

Following up on the TGIF post about Walgreen’s deal with OptumRX, Crain’s Chicago reports that Walgreen’s also is investing

nearly $1.2 billion to build its stake in AmerisourceBergen, a pharmaceutical wholesaler that supplies its drugstores, mail order and specialty pharmaceutical businesses. The nation’s largest drugstore chain says it will own a 15 percent stake after exercising warrants to purchase 22.7 million shares.  Walgreens Boots Alliance started building that stake in 2013, when the companies entered a 10-year supply agreement. Deerfield-based Walgreens still holds warrants to buy another 22.7 million shares in AmerisourceBergen.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released “a new interactive map to increase understanding of geographic disparities in chronic disease among Medicare beneficiaries. The Mapping Medicare Disparities (MMD) Tool identifies disparities in health outcomes, utilization, and spending by race and ethnicity and geographic location.  Understanding geographic differences in disparities is important to informing policy decisions and efficiently targeting populations and geographies for interventions.”  This tool may be helpful to FEHBP carriers which cover large cadres of annuitants.

A law school professor warned us against signing petititions or submitting letters to the editor. I generally have followed this advice since 1978.  Today however the FEHBlog signed a petition sponsored by AHIMA which encourages the Obama Administration to

Remove the federal budget ban that prohibits the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from participating in efforts to find a patient identification solution. We support a voluntary patient safety identifier. Accurate patient identification is critical in providing safe care but the sharing of electronic health information is being compromised because of patient identification issues.

This budget item should have been removed when Congress decided to spend $31 billion on electronic medical records, but better late than never.  The FEHBlog is signature #64.  You can sign on here.  

In other healthcare IT news,  Health Data Management reports that last week HHS named 21 members to its healthcare cybersecurity task force which was created the last December’s omnibus appropriations act.  “Six of the members represent providers or health insurers, with the rest representing a range of information technology, governance and security expertise, as well as representatives of HHS, DHS and NIST.” The taskforce is expecte to report to Congress before its charter expires one year from now.