This and that

Tammy Flanagan writing in discusses changes on the federal benefits horizon here. separate reports that earlier this week

At a civil service reform town hall hosted by the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon defended the Trump administration’s plan to freeze the pay of all civilian federal employees in 2019 as needed to “collect data” on compensation and as a chance to “right-size” the pay for different government occupations.

Dr. Pon also defended his agency’s legislative proposal to cut federal employee retirement benefits. And of course, OPM has proposed to cut the government contribution for popular FEHB plans with average quality scores based on OPM’s plan performance system.

Speaking of cuts, BNA reports on the state of health insurer “struggles” to control benefit costs and improve quality of health care.

Healthcare Dive more specifically informs us that

A new Health Care Pricing Project study on employer-based health insurance and hospital pricing found that insurers are paying “substantially different prices for the same services.” Health spending on the privately insured varies by a factor of three across the country, with half of the variation caused by hospital pricing differences and half by quantity.

After all, healthcare is local, as they say.

Beckers Hospital Review reports that

[This week] Bay Area Regional Medical Center in Webster, Texas [which is located outside Houston] * * * officially closed its doors, laid off about 700 employees and plans to seek bankruptcy protection. Also, a lawsuit filed against Bay Area Regional Medical Center this week by a lab testing company revealed the hospital may owe Cigna and Aetna a combined $43 million.


Let’s close with a couple quirky points:

  • Health IT Security reports that last Tuesday the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a hearing on the topic of aligning privacy protection for certain substance use disorder patients with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Hopefully that bill will pass Congress this year as the specialized rules, which pre-date HIPAA by 30 years, are unnecessarily complicated for providers and payers. 
  • reports that “Malicious crypto-miners have supplanted ransomware as the top healthcare cybersecurity threat.” Que? Here’s a link to a Malwarebytes Labs piece on the #1 threat.