TGIF

It continues to be a busy week.  As Healthcare Dives reports, the Senate confirmed Alex Azar to be Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. Meanwhile, the President’s nominations to be OPM Director and OPM Deputy Director continue to cool their heels due to Sen. Ron Johnson’s hold. The FEHBlog can find no news about the status of those nominations. Mysterious and unfortunate in the FEHBlog’s view.

The FEHBlog recalls that about five years ago OPM was pushing a government initiative called Blue Button which would allow you to download your claims history into a spreadsheet. The initiative lost steam according to this government website. Never fear. Apple plans to permit hospitals and other healthcare providers to download your electronic medical record (more likely keys parts of it) into your phone. Becker’s Hospital Review discusses the Apple initiative which makes a lot of sense.

On the opioid crisis front, the Federal Trade Commission and HHS’s SAMHSA unit released a consumer factsheet yesterday with tips on how get the right help of opioid addiction.  Meanwhile and disturbingly, Beckers Hospital Review reports that

United States residents purchased nearly $800 million worth of fentanyl pills from China over the internet in two years [and delivered by the Postal Service], according to a Senate investigations report released Wednesday. The 104-page bipartisan report produced by the Senate Homeland Security Committee is the result of a yearlong Senate investigation.

Fentanyl is a dangerous synthetic opioid that you can’t just pick up at CVS. The report explains that

Commercial shippers like UPS and FedEx are required to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection with information about the origin and contents of the packages prior to their arrival. However, customs officials do not receive information on all packages shipped through the United States Postal Service. The volume of shipments and the limited information made available from certain foreign postal services make identifying packages containing illicit drugs difficult.

Loopholes as W.C. Fields remarked.  Opioid distribution, e.g., heroin, fentanyl, has returned to being principally a law enforcement issue. The fallout from opioids remains a key concern for providers and payers, in the FEHBlog’s view.

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