Weekend update

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

The FEHBlog hopes that all of his readers are enjoying the Labor Day Weekend. The FEHBlog whose home state Maryland was removed from the COVID-19 travel ban list for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut last month skedaddled up to the Nutmeg State to visit family and friends. He is headed back to his Bethesda hacienda inside the Capital Beltway tomorrow morning.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have full committee schedules in the week ahead. The Senate will also engage in floor business this week while the House will not resume floor votes until next week.

The FEHBlog was pleased to read this Wall Street Journal report that

Several drug makers developing Covid-19 vaccines plan to issue a public pledge not to seek government approval until the shots have proven to be safe and effective, an unusual joint move among rivals that comes as they work to address concerns over a rush to mass vaccination.

A draft of the joint statement, still being finalized by companies including Pfizer Inc., PFE -0.11% Johnson & Johnson JNJ -0.64% and Moderna Inc. MRNA -3.45% and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, commits to making the safety and well-being of vaccinated people the companies’ priority. The vaccine makers would also pledge to adhere to high scientific and ethical standards in the conduct of clinical studies and in the manufacturing processes.

As President Reagan would say trust but verify.

Health Payer Intelligence provides a 2020 perspective on health plan network centers of excellence. Centers of excellence generally are payer designated facilities that have worthy track records in costly surgeries like transplants. The article explains how payers have branched out this approach to other medical specialties:

Payers can boost their quality of care by working with a COE with particular specialty care providers. For example, Premera Blue Cross recently expanded its own COE strategy in order to improve its quality of care for radiology. Previously, radiology was not part of Premera Blue Cross’s COE strategy, but the payer recognized the need for better quality of care around this service.

“Establishing COEs around the highest quality radiology practices ensures patients are on the most direct treatment path back to health and reduces the high costs associated with misdiagnoses, which are surprisingly common,” explained the press release. At least a third of MRIs and CT scans produce erroneous diagnoses, the release stated.

Healthcare Dive reports that MEDPAC, a nonpartisan legislative branch agency that provides the U.S. Congress with analysis and policy advice on the Medicare program, has concluded that COVID-19 cash from the federal government saved most hospitals from the bleakest financial forecasts made last April. MEDPAC “Commissioners at Thursday’s meeting commended the administration for the speed of getting loans and grants out the door to providers, but said it was time for an in-depth review to make sure the money went to where it was needed most.”

Federal News Network provides an update on the Administration’s plan on the President’s payroll tax deferral program.

All active-duty military members as well as federal civilian employees will be subject to the president’s upcoming payroll tax deferral, a senior administration official told Federal News Network Friday evening.

The president’s payroll tax deferral, which the administration said all payroll providers will launch in unison later this month, has left federal employees, their unions and members of Congress scrambling this week for more details about the policy and its impact on the workforce.

The changes in payroll tax deductions are temporary, and federal employees will have to pay back deferred taxes starting in January. They’ll have until April to do so before penalties and interest may accrue, the IRS has said.

The FEHBlog congratulates OPM’s “Human Resources Solutions because its “USA Staffing® Onboarding platform is the winner of the 2020 Igniting Innovation Awards, hosted by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC). The awards recognize groundbreaking technologies that enhance services for citizens and government operations. USA Staffing Onboarding won with 68% of the vote. * * * Designed to efficiently onboard new hires in ordinary times, this fully online, automated solution proved instrumental in helping Federal agencies adapt to COVID-19.”

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