Tuesday Tidbits

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

The Hill reports “progress but not breakthroughs” as yet in the negotiation to achieve bipartisan agreement on a pre-election COVID-19 relief bill. The Speaker has agreed to continue negotiations past the 48 hour deadline that she set over the week. So both sides have set and withdrawn deadlines. That may be the clearest sign that progress is being made.

Federal News Network takes a deeper dive into last week’s FEHBP Open Season announcement from OPM. To recap “non-postal FEHBP participants will pay in 2021.

  • Self-only coverage: $4.67 more per biweekly pay period,
  • Self-plus-one coverage: $10.90 more per biweekly pay period,
  • Family coverage: $10.94 more per biweekly pay period.

It is interesting that the two other than self only options increased at the same level. This illustrates the small family size in the FEHBP. Furthermore,

[OPM Acting Director for Healthcare and Insurance Laurie] Bodenheimer described the premium rates OPM announced Wednesday as a “snapshot in time.” “These numbers are based on premiums for next year, along with what plans people are enrolled in right now,” she said. “It’s well known that during the open season people do choose different plans and coverage based on benefits or premiums or whatever is important to them. The end result is often that the overall premium increase is less than what we’re announcing today.”

That, my friend, is the benefit of FEHBP competition. The FEHBP/FEDVIP/FSAFeds Open Season runs from November 9 through December 14.

The open season for the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace begins on November 1. HHS released yesterday

a report showing the trend of lower premiums and increased issuer participation for HealthCare.gov will continue for 2021 year. The average premium for the second lowest cost silver plan (also called the benchmark plan) dropped by 2% for the 2021 coverage year and, when looking at states that are using HealthCare.gov in both 2020 and 2021, 22 more issuers will offer coverage in 2021, for a total of 181 issuers delivering more choice and competition for consumers.

The FEHBlog is happy to see that marketplace continues to mature and improve without the individual mandate.

On the COVID 19 front —

  • Healthcare Dive reports “About 20% of hospital executives surveyed by Kaufman Hall recently said they were ‘extremely concerned’ about their financial viability until an effective vaccine or treatment is available.”
  • A friend of the FEHBlog pointed out this helpful New York Times COVID-19 vaccination tracker.
  • NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins reports in his Director’s Blog that “findings [from two new studies] show that people who survive a COVID-19 infection continue to produce protective antibodies against key parts of the virus for at least three to four months after developing their first symptoms. In contrast, some other antibody types decline more quickly. The findings offer hope that people infected with the virus will have some lasting antibody protection against re-infection, though for how long still remains to be determined.”
  • NPR informs us that “Two new peer-reviewed studies are showing a sharp drop in mortality among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drop is seen in all groups, including older patients and those with underlying conditions, suggesting that physicians are getting better at helping patients survive their illness.” That has been the FEHBlog’s operating assumption. The principal researcher remarks that “”I do think this is good news, “but it does not make the coronavirus a benign illness.” No doubt about that.