Midweek update

The Washington Post reports that the House of Representatives this evening passed by a wide margin the 21st Century Cures bill.  The bill is focused on drug and device development and mental health reform.  The Post explains that “The final bill, running at close to 1,000 pages, contains a cornucopia of health-related provisions, including $1 billion for opioid abuse prevention.” The Senate is expected to approve the bill next  week and the President then is expect to sign it into law.

Federal News Radio reports that Congress continues to work on the National Defense Authorization Act which is a piece of must past legislation for the lame duck session. According to Federal News Radio, the conference report will include a 2.1% pay increase for the military and TRICARE reforms.

Congress also must pass an extension of the continuing resolution funding the federal government. The current continuing resolution expires Friday December 9. The FEHBlog has been reading that the debate concerns whether to extend funding to the end of March or May.  The FEHBlog anticipates that the lame duck session will end once that matter has been resolved.

OPM will be releasing two proposed rules in tomorrow’s Federal Register.  One creates a procedure for removing ineligible family members from a self and family or self plus one enrollment.  This rule sets the stage for implementing OPM’s long standing plan to conduct dependent eligibility audits in the FEHBP. The other, which surprised the FEHBlog, creates a procedure for cancelling the self and family enrollment of spouses and adult children who are financially independent of the enrollee.  “This proposed rule is in response to [presumably an avalanche of] enrollee requests to remove family members from
existing enrollments.”  The public comment period for both proposed rules will end on January 31, 2017.



Finally, in an interesting development, the Drug Channels blog discusses a recently announced deal between the OptumRx prescription benefit management company and CVS Pharmacies. Drug Channels explains that

The surprise announcement echoes the arrangement that OptumRx established with Walgreens. The new deal signals that CVS is starting to counter Walgreens’ aggressive partnering strategies. OptumRx customers also get to choose which chain will be their preferred 90-day at retail provider.

In contrast, customers of CVS’s own PBM, Caremark, only have a choice between CVS pharmacies and Caremark mail service for 90 day scripts of maintenance medications.  Drug Channels provides more background if you are interested.

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