Tuesday Tibits

The FEHBlog looks forward to watching (in the comfort of his office) the confirmation hearing for the President’s nominees for OPM Director, Jeff T.H. Pon, and OPM Deputy Director, Michael Rigas.  The hearing begins at 10 am ET.  Roll Call reports that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Sen. Ron Johnson (R Wisc.) plans to ask Messrs. Pon and Rigas about their respective positions on OPM’s 2013 decision to provide an FEHBP government contribution to members of Congress and their staff members who were forced out of the FEHBP into the DC small business health insurance exchange or SHOP.

Speaking of nominations, Employee Benefits News reports that the President has nominated Preston Rutledge to be assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employee Benefits Security Administration which administers ERISA, the federal law governing private sector employee benefit plans. Mr. Rutledge Rutledge “currently serves as senior tax and benefits counsel for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).” This position also serves an important role in ACA administration. It requires Senate confirmation.

Following up on Sunday’s post, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (“HELP”) Committee chair Sen. Lamar Alexander (R. Tenn.) had reached a bipartisan agreement with the Committee’s ranking minority member Sen. Patty Murphy (D. Wash.) to extend the currently discontinued ACA cost reduction subsidies paid to ACA marketplace insurers for two years and allow States more flexibility in modifying ACA rules. The Hill reports that other Republicans see this initiative as a useful starting point for modifying the ACA. The FEHBlog will keep paying attention to these developments.

The Regulatory Affairs Professional Society reports that many questions were raised but few answers were provided at the Senate HELP Committee hearing today on prescription drug pricing. The FEHBlog found it interesting that the Committee chair Sen. Lamar Alexander asked whether ending the practice of drug rebates would simplify and lower pricing. The representatives of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the prescription benefit manager trade association, and PhARMA, the drug manufacturers trade association, supported the Chair’s approach.