Weekend update

The FEHBlog has been away for a few days attending a friend’s wedding and enjoying time with his grandson. He’s currently on the Vamoose bus traveling from New York City to Bethesda, MD.

What has been happening since last Tuesday?

  • Earlier this year, a group of twenty state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the federal government alleging that Congress’s decision to zero out the ACA’s individual mandate penalty effective next year rendered the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The FEHBlog having been around this block a few times did not take the bait.  However, a group of States lead by California intervened as defendants to support the law. Last week, the federal government of course represented by the Justice Department filed its opening brief. Hysteria ensued as documented in this Healthcare Dive article.  The Justice Department argued based on the Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius and the federal government’s position in that case that the zeroing out of the individual mandate renders the individual mandate and the interrelated guaranteed issue and community rating provision unconstitutional. The other parts of the law including the employer mandate and the Medicaid expansion provisions are severable and unaffected by the zeroing out of the individual mandate, As a lawyer, the FEHBlog understands the government’s position. The FEHBlog thinks its bad policy because the ACA marketplace has been open for business for five years with the individual mandate in force. If people don’t understand the value of health insurance coverage by now, it’s not happening. The FEHBlog reflects on the fact from its inception in 1960 the FEHBP has been offered on a guaranteed issue basis — no pre-existing condition basis — and premiums are reflect the cost of benefits provided to the entire group of enrollees — a basic health insurance approach. But the FEHBP like other employer sponsored coverage was doing OK before the ACA became law in 2010. The problem was the individual market and the ACA’s reforms have not been the cure. Congress needs to fix this problem. 
  • The Center for Disease Control issued a report on the growing problem of suicide in the U.S.  Read the press release.  Healthcare Data Management reports on an interesting VA project to reduce suicide among veterans using social determinants. 
  • The Office of Personnel Management according to FEDWeek is encouraging federal government agencies to offer wellness programs to their employees. OPM also requires FEHB plans to offer those programs. It would be helpful if OPM coordinated these efforts. 
  • In encouraging news, Govexec.com reports that postal stakeholders have been found their interactions with the President’s Task Force on Postal Service Reform to be productive. 
Looking forward, Congress remains in session on Capitol Hill this week. The FEHBlog had been puzzled that the Week in Congress had stopped publishing online. He received a message last week explaining that the one page overview will be returning to the internet soon. That’s good news.