Weekend update

Congress remains in session on Capitol Hill this week.

The Supreme Court issued a significant opinion last week striking down a federal law restricting sports gambling. Invoking a Constitutional law principle called “anti-commandeering,” the Court found the law defective because it sought to order around state governments, rather than U.S. citizens and residents (which is OK).   While recognizing that “The Constitution limits state sovereignty in several [significant] ways,” the Court remarked that

The legislative powers granted to Congress are sizable, but they are not unlimited. The Constitution confers on Congress not plenary legislative power but only certain enumerated powers. Therefore, all other legislative power is reserved for the States, as the Tenth Amendment [to the Constitution] con­firms. And conspicuously absent from the list of powers given to Congress is the power to issue direct orders to the governments of the States. The anti-commandeering doc­trine simply represents the recognition of this limit on congressional authority. 

You learn something new everyday. (The Court noted that the use of the term anti-commandeering doctrine did not crop up until the 1990s a decade or so after the FEHBlog graduated from law school.)

OPM Director Dr. Jeff Pon reminded us last Friday about a useful OPM website unlocktalent.gov  If you scroll down the home page you will find a lot of useful demographics information about federal employees. If you are a federal employee, you can register to log in and get more details.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association issued a Health of America report on major depression. Here are the key findings:

  • Major depression has a diagnosis rate of 4.4 percent in the United States, affecting more than 9 million commercially insured Americans.
  • Diagnoses of major depression have risen dramatically by 33 percent since 2013. This rate is rising even faster among millennials (up 47 percent) and adolescents (up 47 percent for boys and 65 percent for girls).
  • Women are diagnosed with major depression at higher rates than men (6 percent and nearly 3 percent, respectively).
  • People diagnosed with major depression are nearly 30 percent less healthy on average than those not diagnosed with major depression. This decrease in overall health translates to nearly 10 years of healthy life lost for both men and women.
  • A key reason for the lower overall health of those diagnosed with major depression is that they are likely to also suffer from other health conditions. Eighty-five percent of people who are diagnosed with major depression also have one or more additional serious chronic health conditions and nearly 30 percent have four or more other conditions.
  • People diagnosed with major depression use healthcare services more than other commercially insured Americans. This results in more than two times higher overall healthcare spending ($10,673 compared to $4,283).
It’s worthwhile reading.

The Hill reports that U.S. public health authorities are concerned about an ebola outbreak in the Congo.  The article reminded the FEHBlog that an Ebola vaccine has been developed.

“We are doing better at response, but not much better at rapid detection, which is important,” said Tom Frieden, a former CDC director who now runs the public health organization Resolve to Save Lives. “This was spreading for a while before [it was] recognized.” 

Aiding the response further is a new vaccine, finalized in the last days of the West Africa outbreak. About 4,000 doses of the vaccine are headed to the epicenter of the new outbreak, where they will be used in two ways: First, health-care workers, those most vulnerable to exposure, will be vaccinated. Then, those who have come into contact with anyone infected, and the contact’s contacts, will be vaccinated, a practice known as ring vaccination.