Weekend update

Congress remains in session on Capitol Hill this week. The House of Representatives heads off on its August recess at the end of this week. The Senate will continue in session for a few more weeks after this one.

Last week the House of Representatives passed on basically a party line vote a “minibus” appropriations bill, H.R. 6147, for the Interior Department, EPA, and Financial Services and General Government in the 2019 fiscal year. The bill includes OPM and FEHBP appropriations. The bill includes the three routine FEHBP appropriations measures — the abortion coverage restriction, the prohibition on full cost accounting standards coverage, and the contraceptives coverage mandate. During deliberations on the bill held on July 19, the House passed an amendment (No. 947) to the bill that would “prohibit Federal Funds from being used by the Office of Personnel Management to administer the Multi-State Plan program. The bill also was amended to prohibit funding of the District of Columbia’s individual health mandate intended to take effect after the federal mandate zeroes out on January 1, 2019. This Senate could take up this bill before it goes on mid-August recess. The House and Senate already are holding a conference committee on the first FY 2019 minibus which includes military construction.

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits:

  • Business Insider features an interview with Cigna CEO David Cordani. Mr. Cordani favors employer sponsored health coverage. In the regard, the Wall Street Journal reports

“For the first time in six years, the share of U.S. workers offered health insurance through their employer has risen, a sign a tighter labor market is prompting businesses to offer more generous benefits. 

In March, 69% of private-sector employees were offered medical benefits from their employer, according to an annual survey the Labor Department released Friday. That’s up from 67% in 2017, and the first time the rate has increased since 2012.”

  •  Healthcare Dive reports on Humana study concluding that telehealth coverage is cost effective.

“Telemedicine visits were paid out at an average of $38 — a much lower price tag than the $114 cost of a face-to-face consultation, according to a yearlong study from Humana. Researchers used 2,740 patient pairs that were matched for diagnosis, profession, pharmacy coverage, age, net worth, location and other factors.”

    “As for prescribing practices, doctors who saw patients remotely prescribed antibiotics at a lower rate (36.1%) than doctors in-office (40.1%).”