Weekend Update

As Americans return to full work weeks following the holiday season, Congress begins the second session of the current 116th Congress here in the Nation’s capital.

On Friday, according to the Volokh Conspiracy, the intervenor defendant, appellant States and House of Representatives filed separate requests for expedited review of the Fifth Circuit’s decision in the Texas v. United States decision holding the Affordable Care Act’s individual shared responsibility provision / mandate unconstitutional.  As you will recall, the Fifth Circuit directed the lower court — Northern District of Texas — to carefully reevaluation its December 2018 decision that the ACA is inseverable from the unconstitutional individual shared responsibility responsibility. The petitioners seek to short circuit this step by taking the case to directly to the Supreme Court. For what it’s worth, the FEHBlog expects the Supreme Court to decline this request in order to allow the record to more mature before high court review.

Govexec.com reports that

In a report dated Dec. 19 and released on the Office of Personnel Management’s website last week, the President’s Pay Agent, which is a board comprised of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought and OPM Director Dale Cabaniss, greenlit a series of recommendations from the advisory Federal Salary Council. Chief among them were the creation of a new Des Moines, Iowa, locality pay area, and the addition of Imperial County, Calif., to the Los Angeles locality pay area.

The inclusion of these new regions is “subject to rulemaking,” meaning OPM must act over the course of the next year to finalize the additions. The pay agent also approved the salary council’s recommendation that officials should consider human capital indicators when weighing regions’ requests to be granted a locality pay area despite not meeting the established criteria for inclusion.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that while antibiotic manufacturers have adequate government funding to research superbug antibiotics, the commercial market for these drugs is insufficient to support manufacture.

Washington has taken notice of the problem, but near-term action remains unlikely. The Disarm Act, short for Developing an Innovative Strategy for Antimicrobial Resistant Microorganisms and introduced in Congress in 2019 (HR 4100 and S 1712), would have Medicare pay for certain antibiotics in full. Despite bipartisan support for the bill, executives worry its progress could be hindered by impeachment proceedings and the coming election.

Disappointing.

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