Tuesday’s Tidbits

Govexec.com reports that the OPM Inspector General has advised OPM to create a formal contingency plan for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program because the market has shifted since the Program was created 2000.

“In 2000, there were 125 insurers in the long-term care insurance marketplace,” auditors wrote. “By 2014, there were only 12 insurers that were issuing at least 2,500 individual policies and only five insurers sold group policies.”

Additionally, only one firm still offers a group plan in the mold of FLTCIP. John Hancock discontinued the sale of new group policies in 2010, and it shuttered new individual long-term care plan sales in 2016. Instead, many insurance companies now offer a hybrid product that provides long-term care insurance along with either life insurance or an annuity.

The Inspector General’s advice makes sense to the FEHBlog but OPM asserts that it has the situation under control via regular contacts with John Hancock. Congress needs to take a look at this Program.

Today, the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee announced a bipartisan bill (S. 2680) including a series of forty measures to address the opioid crisis. The measures are described in this summary of the bill.  Some form of legislation directed at this crisis is bound to pass Congress before the August recess.  As this is an election year, there won’t be many legislative days left for Congressional action after the August recess.

Becker’s Hospital Review discusses Amazon Business’s decision to shelve its plan to become a major pharmaceutical distribution to major hospitals and other large heath care facilities. Instead, “the e-commerce giant will focus on beefing up its less sensitive medical supply offerings to smaller hospitals and clinics, sources familiar with the matter told CNBC.” The FEHBlog thinks that more competition at the distribution level could help control health care costs.

Health Data Management reports that CVS Health is moving full steam ahead with its strategy.

CVS Health is hiring a senior executive from a startup that specializes in primary-care clinics, a sign that the drugstore chain is serious about providing more medical services directly to consumers as it moves toward acquiring health insurer Aetna. 

Marc-David Munk will become CVS’s chief medical officer for its MinuteClinics and will oversee “expanded healthcare services across the CVS Health enterprise,” the pharmacy and drug-benefits manager said in a statement Friday. Munk was previously chief medical officer at Iora Health, a startup that operates about two dozen physician practices. 

In a 2015 blog post, Munk wrote about what he called “primary care 2.0” that should be “consumer-focused, well-managed and with a move toward higher-acuity, in-clinic diagnostics and treatment. Delivered by people you know, in a system you know.”

Forbes reports on an important advance in chemotherapy.

Adding Merck’s Keytruda to a standard chemotherapy regimen halved the odds that previously untreated patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer would die, meaning that at the end of 21 months an extra 2 patients out of every 10 were still alive. 

The results set the stage for Keytruda to become a standard treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer, and herald another advance for the field of cancer immunotherapy, which uses drugs like Keytruda to harness the immune system to attack tumors. 

“I do think that improvement of overall survival is quite striking,” says Alice Shaw, a Harvard professor who has done leading research in lung cancer.

Healthcare Finance News tells us about a recent AHIP survey finding that the number of enrollees in high deductible health plans coupled with health savings accounts jumped 8% last year.  The article also discusses a number of pending bills in Congress intended to improve this arrangement. The FEHBlog who is enrolled in such an arrangement thinks it’s pretty, pretty good already. OPM did a good deed in the most recent call letter by permitting FEHBP carriers who offer these arrangements to make a higher contribution to the HSA for enrollees.

Finally Health IT Analytics reports that the American Medical Association and Google are holding a competition open to “technology developers who offer streamlined tools and standards-based methodologies to import, extract, and transfer patient-generated health data between mobile devices and clinical interfaces.”

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