Midweek update

Photo by Manasvita S on Unsplash

The Federal Times and Govexec.com report that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee postponed voting this morning on John Gibbs’ nomination to be Office of Personnel Management Director. Federal employee organizations have publicly opposed his nomination.

It occurs to the FEHBlog that OPM has not had a long acting director since Ambassador John Berry who served in that role for President Obama’s entire first term. Before Mr. Berry the OPM Directors usually lasted one Presidential term. So for the past eight years OPM has mirrored the Washington Football Team’s approach to head coaches and quarterbacks.

Healthcare Dive reports that

Cigna is rebranding its growing health services segment, including pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, as Evernorth, the Connecticut-based payer announced Wednesday. The new umbrella brand will encompass Express Scripts, specialty pharmacy Accredo, medical benefit manager Evicore and Cigna’s other health service product lines starting in the third quarter. The rebranding, which has been in the works for months pre-pandemic, is the next evolution of the Cigna-Express Scripts tie-up completed in late 2018, as the combined entity looks to spur more interest in its products from third parties in the industry.

The late U.S. Navy Admiral and Arctic explorer Robert Peary would be pleased.

Healthcare Dive also reports that

  • “CVS Health has struck a deal with Apple to give temporary free access for the health giant’s clients, customers and employees to Apple’s new subscription fitness service.
  • Beneficiaries enrolled in Aetna’s commercial or CVS Caremark’s prescription plans will be offered a free one-year subscription to the feature, called Apple Fitness+. A free two-month subscription will be offered to CVS Pharmacy ExtraCare members and all CVS employees after the service is launched, per Tuesday {September 15]’s release.
  • The announcement coincided with Apple’s unveiling of the subscription service, which offers virtual fitness classes. The tech giant on Tuesday also released the latest model of its Apple Watch, which includes a new blood oxygen level tracker.”

The National Committee for Quality Assurance released yesterday the final report of its Task Force on Telehealth. Here are the task force’s recommendations:

Policymakers should make permanent the following specific COVID-19 policy changes:

Lifting geographic restrictions and limitations on originating sites. Allowing telehealth for various types of clinicians and conditions. Acknowledging, as many states now do, that telehealth visits can meet requirements for establishing a clinician/patient relationship if the encounter meets appropriate care standards or unless careful analysis demonstrates that, in specific situations, a previous in-person relationship is necessary. Eliminating unnecessary restrictions on telehealth across state lines.

Policymakers should look closely at the effect of expanding prescribing authority to telehealth, as authorized by the PHE. They should evaluate what policies and guidelines could be applied to virtual prescribing to ensure patient safety and avoid adverse outcomes.

Policymakers should fully reinstate enforcement of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) patient privacy protections that was suspended at the start of the public health emergency.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Department announced their COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy today.

The strategic overview lays out four tasks necessary for the COVID-19 vaccine program:

  • Engage with state, tribal, territorial, and local partners, other stakeholders, and the public to communicate public health information around the vaccine and promote vaccine confidence and uptake.
  • Distribute vaccines immediately upon granting of Emergency Use Authorization/ Biologics License Application, using a transparently developed, phased allocation methodology and CDC has made vaccine recommendations.
  • Ensure safe administration of the vaccine and availability of administration supplies.
  • Monitor necessary data from the vaccination program through an information technology (IT) system capable of supporting and tracking distribution, administration, and other necessary data.

Federal News Network helpfully has created an online payroll deferral calculator for this federal employees and military members who are subject to this COVID-19 relief action.

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