Midweek update

Yesterday, the Presidential Commission on Combating Drug Abuse and the Opioid Crisis issued its final recommendations to the President. Here’s a link to the USA Today report on this issuance.

The commission called for 56 specific policy changes, including:
*Creating uniform block grants for all federal opioid and substance abuse funding, making it easier for states to navigate the multiple grant programs currently available across several federal agencies.
*Requiring health-care providers to complete an educational program on opioids before they can renew their federal prescriber licenses.
*Requiring states to share data from their prescription drug monitoring systems as a condition of receiving certain federal money for those initiatives.
*Establishing federal drug courts in all 93 judicial districts across the country, so those arrested for possession can be diverted to treatment instead of prison.
*Giving the Department of Labor more power to crack down on insurance companies that discriminate against those with substance abuse disorders.
“Just spending money won’t be enough,” Christie said, adding that federal funding must be directed to programs that have been proven to be effective. “Now it’s incumbent upon Congress to step up” and give the administration the resources it needs to combat the epidemic, Christie added.  

Oh joy, more crackdowns on insurers.

Also yesterday, CMS issued a final Medicare rule which inflamed the hospital industry by making a huge cut for drugs sold by hospitals. Hospitals plan to challenge the rule in court according to Fierce Healthcare. Of course, the old standby is to shift Medicare losses onto private sector plans, including FEHB plans.

Today, CMS issued a final Medicare Part B physician payment rule for 2018. Of note —

To strengthen access to care, especially for those living in rural areas, CMS is transforming access to Medicare telehealth services by paying for more services and making it easier for providers to bill for these services. Improving access to telehealth services reflects CMS’s work to modernize Medicare payments to promote patient-centered innovations.

OPM announced today that is withdrawing a proposed rule concerning  FEHBP contributions for employees in leave without pay or other nonpay status. The rule had been proposed on August 31, 2016. OPM concluded that the rule was not necessary. Well done.

Drug Channels reports on the latest tidbits about Amazon’s planned entry into the pharmacy business, and CAQH CORE compliments three nationwide FEHB plans, APWU, GEHA, and NALC, for obtaining certification that their claim systems are compliant with HIPAA’s operating rules for electronic transactions.