Happy Washington’s Birthday

Thanks to the American Hospital Association News, the FEHBlog learned that the federal district court in DC posted Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s opinion (slightly redacted) blocking the Anthem / Cigna merger.  Anthem has appealed Judge Jackson’s decision to the D.C. Circuit.  The D.C. Circuit granted Anthem’s motion to expedite the appeal. A three member panel of D.C. Circuit judges will hear the appeal on March 24 (the second day of the OPM / AHIP FEHBP carrier conference). That means that an appellate decision could breathe new life into the merger before the agreement lapses on April 30.  It’s an odd situation because Cigna has filed a lawsuit in the Delaware chancery court seeking to be released from the agreement and damages from Anthem.  The Delaware court is waiting for the D.C. Circuit’s decision at this point.

Here are a couple of articles on the HIMSS’s conference:

  • Fierce Healthcare reports on a discussion among federal official about improving patient access to electronic medical records and interoperability of those records. Those officials should have put more thought into those issue before releasing over $30 billion of taxpayer funds to help doctors and hospitals “invest” in electronic medical records that lack these features.  
  • Medpage reports that 

The office dealing with health privacy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expects to have proposed regulations by the end of the year on compensating people whose healthcare privacy has been breached, an official said here Monday.

A provision in HITECH (the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) requires HHS to come up with a way to give people who are harmed by violations of HIPAA a percentage of any civil monetary penalties or settlements collected, explained Deven McGraw, JD, MPH, deputy director for health information privacy at HHS’s Office for Civil Rights, at the the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual meeting.

The article delves into the serious legal issues that have delay this rule.  This development is just another headache for HIPAA covered entities and business associates that advantages the plaintiff’s bar.

Healthcare Dive discusses Healthgrades latest list of top hospitals in the U.S.  The FEHBlog does not understand the methodology behind this list which excludes outstanding tertiary hospitals like the Washington Hospital Center in DC, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, among others.

Fedweek features an article by a former OPM official Reg Jones who identifies three key features of our beloved FEHBP.

The Federal Employees Health Benefits program is one of the best benefits offered by the government. And it’s open to almost all federal and postal service employees.Three key features include the flexibility of the annual open season, the opportunity to change enrollment due to certain life events and the opportunity to carry coverage into retirement.

These valuable aspects of the FEHBP were baked into the original legislation in 1959.  It’s too bad that Congress did not take the same approach with Medicare six years later.