Federal News Radio reports that Senator Ron Johnson (R Wisc), who chairs the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, “has renewed his effort to find out from the Office of Personnel Management why members of Congress and their staff continue to receive an employer contribution toward their health coverage.” Back in 2013, the FEHBlog was quoted in the New York Times as doubting that OPM had the authority to do what it wound up doing — issuing “an agency rule that has let members of Congress and their staff buy health insurance on the Small Business Health Options Plan (SHOP) exchange since 2014” with the FEHBP government contribution. In the FEHBlog’s view in 2013 and now, the straightforward approach would be for Congress to appropriate funding for the required coverage. The ACA is a whacky law.
In the no good deed goes unpunished department, the American Medical Association is criticizing the prescription benefit manager Express Scripts for putting tighter controls on dispensing opioids, according to the Washington Examiner.
Under the new [Express Scripts] plan, first-time opioid users will not be able to receive more than seven days of prescription painkillers, even if the doctor requests a longer prescription. Snezana Mahon, Express Script’s vice president of clinical product development, told the Associated Press that a study the company conducted showed opioid prescriptions are written for an average of 22 days.
Most doctors also prescribe long-acting opioids, but the new plan will limit prescriptions to short-acting drugs and limit the dosage. Express Scripts plans to monitor prescribing data to see if patients are “pill shopping,” meaning going to different doctors’ offices to stock up on the same medication.
The program is similar to one by its competitor CVS Caremark, which limits opioids to a 10-day supply and restricts the dosage.
Makes sense to me but the FEHBlog is a JD, not an MD.
The Boston Globe’s STAT reports on a federal government settlement with Mylan over an Epipen pricing issue. The key point is that it’s a Medicaid settlement which does not directly benefit the FEHBP.
Prof. Tim Jost’s ACA blog on Health Affairs tell us the latest on the federal court lawsuit over the ACA’s non-discrimination rule, PHSA Sec. 1557:
On August 16, 2017, Judge Reed O’Connor entered an order in the Franciscan Alliance case requiring the government to file a status report on or before October 16, 2017 and every 60 days thereafter. The Franciscan Alliance and several other plaintiffs, including several states, have sued challenging a HHS regulation promulgated under section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or termination of pregnancy.
Late in 2016, Judge O’Connor, a federal district court judge in Texas, entered a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the rule. On July 10, 2017, Judge O’Connor remanded the issue to HHS to reconsider its rule. HHS stated in an August 4 status report that it has submitted a draft proposed rule amendment to the Justice Department for review. Following that review, the rule will be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency clearance, after which it will be published for comment as a proposed rule. Until then, HHS will continue to comply with the injunction against enforcement of the challenged provisions of the rule. The court will continue to monitor the rulemaking process.
Finally, the Wall Street Journal’s Numbers columnist weighs in on the government’s new computer password guidance, which the FEHBlog noted a few weeks ago.
The new guidelines issued in June by the National Institute of Standards and Technology suggest that a string of random words—warning: song lyrics and the like aren’t random—will be harder to guess than “princess” and easier to remember than “fKB%397x^tyM0dc.”
“The advantage to a passphrase is it’s longer,” said Matt Bishop, co-director of the Computer Security Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, who advised thinking of a passphrase, then sprinkling it with special characters, as in “correct=horse+battery&staple!”
“That’s by no means unguessable,” he said, “but it increases the number of guesses an attacker would have to make.” To make it even harder to guess (but also harder to remember) he said he might misspell or alter the words.