Weekend update

Congress is in session for one more week until it takes time off for the Independence Day holiday. The U.S. Supreme Court ends its October 2017 term this week.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on prescription drug costs on Tuesday morning June 26. The scheduled witness is the HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

A few weeks ago, the FEHBlog called readers attention to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers analysis of medical cost trends. The FEHBlog noticed an interesting Health Payer Intelligence article that pulled a couple of nuggets out of that report.  To wit,

Health plans with narrower, high performance networks (HPNs) can help generate cost savings by focusing on improvements in care quality and member satisfaction. HPNs allow payers to invest greater financial resources in a limited number of providers in order to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of provider care. HPNs also hold providers accountable by measuring their performance with quality measures.


Payers and employers are also using health advocates to assist high deductible health plan (HDHP) members with accessing effective and affordable healthcare services. 

HDHPs are a popular employer-sponsored plan offering that can contain costs by shifting greater financial responsibility to health plan members. However, that greater financial responsibility sometimes discourages HDHP members from seeking needed services in order to cut back on personal costs. 

Health advocates are gaining popularity within the employer-sponsored market because they can effectively help HDHP beneficiaries to use affordable healthcare services. 

The New York Times reported today on the journey of a  young primary care provider in her efforts to understand her patients suffering from opioid addiction.  

Opioid overdoses are killing so many Americans that demographers say they are likely behind a striking drop in life expectancy. Yet most of the more than two million people addicted to opioid painkillers, heroin and synthetic fentanyl get no treatment. Dr. Gastala, 33, is trying to help by folding addiction treatment into her everyday family medicine practice. She is one of a small cadre of primary care doctors who regularly prescribe buprenorphine, a medication that helps suppress the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that plague people addicted to opioids. If the country is really going to curb the opioid epidemic, many public health experts say, it will need a lot more Dr. Gastalas.

Amen to that sentiment.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that

Some current and former federal government employees are taking a look at their credit activity after the Justice Department said this week that data stolen by suspected Chinese hackers in 2014 cyberattacks at the Office of Personnel Management may have been used to commit identity fraud.

Federal prosecutors on Monday said a Maryland couple had pleaded guilty to using information stolen in the OPM breach to set up fraudulent car-loan applications with a Langley, Va., credit union.

Here’s a link to the U.S. Attorney’s office press release. It’s clear that two days later U.S. Attorney’s office walked back from the statement that the information had beens stolen in the OPM breach. Here’s the qualification:

As stated in the Statement of Facts for defendants Cross and McKnight, numerous victims of the LFCU identity theft fraud also identified themselves to DOJ as victims of the OPM Data Breach. The Government continues to investigate the ultimate source of the PII used by the defendants and how this PII was obtained.

Time will tell.