Weekend update

The Federal Benefits Open Season ends tomorrow December 11 at 11:59 pm. Joe Davidson from the Washington Post provides some closing observations for interested federal and postal employees and annuitants.

Congress remains in session this coming week. Here’s a link to the Week in Congress’s report on last week’s actions on Capitol Hill. The FEHBlog notes that on Thursday, December 14, at 10 am ET, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee will hold a hearing on the President’s nomination of John E. Dupuy to be Inspector General, Office of Personnel Management.

Healthcare Dive reports that two Catholic hospital chains Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health signed a merger agreement last week. “The deal would create a system with $28.4 billion in combined revenue across 139 hospitals operating in 28 states.” The Wall Street Journal reports today that two larger Catholic hospital chains

Ascension and Providence St. Joseph Health are talking about combining, according to people familiar with the discussions. A deal would create an entity of unprecedented reach, with 191 hospitals in 27 states and annual revenue of $44.8 billion, based on the most recent fiscal year. That would dethrone the nation’s largest pure hospital operator, HCA Healthcare Inc., which owns 177 hospitals and ended 2016 with $41.5 billion in revenue.

And so it goes.

The New York Times today had a front page story that began as follows– “Having health insurance is supposed to save you money on your prescriptions. But increasingly, consumers are finding that isn’t the case.”  Insurance is intended to protect you against unexpected risks. Requiring health insurance cover low dollar, common expenses, as the ACA does, adds to the price paid by the consumer.

A related article explains how it is possible to get a better deal on prescription drug costs by paying cash. That reflects good consumerism, no poor insurance coverage. The best piece of advice in the article for those in high deductible plans like the FEHBlog reads as follows:

Several large retailers, like Walmart and Costco, sell generics at discounted prices, like $4 a prescription, which may be less than your insurance is asking you to pay. Some grocery stores, like Publix and Meijer, even give away certain medications — like antibiotics — for free. Pharmacy chains like Rite Aid also offer discounted prices to people who sign up for savings clubs. 

GoodRx and Blink Health are two companies that offer discounted rates on generic drugs. GoodRx allows consumers to compare what local pharmacies are charging for a drug (it includes prices from discount stores like Walmart), while Blink Health quotes a single price that it has negotiated. GoodRx offers coupons that consumers bring to participating pharmacies, while Blink Health requires users to pay upfront, then collect their prescription at a nearby pharmacy