Happy Veterans Day

Thanks to Aaron Burden for sharing their work on Unsplash.

Fedweek reminds us that “With just about a third of federal employees having also served in [the U.S. military], today is an especially important day in our community. Thanks for your service.

Healthcare Dive cumulates its reporting on health insurer third quarter 2020 financial results.

In the third quarter, insurers saw a slight dampening from the record-high profits [which of course are constrained by the ACA MLR and OPM’s even stricter FEHB MLR] recorded in the previous quarter as medical utilization rebounded to about 95% of normal volumes for most major payers.

They warned, however, that tailwinds may not last as people seek previously deferred care in the fourth quarter and into next year. Another widespread halting of elective procedures is unlikely as providers have learned more about safely carrying out routine care despite COVID-19 surges.

But novel coronavirus case rates and hospitalizations have reached record levels nationwide this week and it’s unclear how safe people will feel returning to hospitals and doctor’s offices for non-emergent treatments.

Good point.

The Wall Street Journal warns that

Hospitals across the nation face an even bigger capacity problem from the resurgent spread of Covid-19 than they did during the virus’s earlier surges this year, pandemic preparedness experts said, as the number of U.S. hospitalizations reached a new high.

The number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients Tuesday reached 61,964, according to the Covid Tracking Project, passing the prior record of nearly 60,000 in April as the virus surged in the northeast. Hospitalizations hit a nearly identical peak again in late July, as the pandemic’s grip spread across the South and West.

Epidemiologists said the record is likely to be swiftly replaced by another as Covid-19 cases soar nationally. “We already know this is going to go far north,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Fierce Healthcare adds that

Health IT giant Epic has rolled out a new tool for hospitals that helps predict patients’ likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19. The COVID-19 risk prediction model was designed by Cleveland Clinic researchers and was developed and tested using clinical data from more than 11,000 patients. The model uses information from patients’ comprehensive health records combined with patient-entered information in Epic’s patient-facing app, MyChart, to show an individual’s likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19.

Finally on the FEHBP front, FEDWeek reports that

OPM has issued guidance on removing ineligible family members from coverage under the FEHB program, stressing that under its rules, either an employing agency, OPM or an FEHB carrier may “request proof of family member eligibility from an employee at any time for existing enrollments.”

In a pair of similar messages to agencies and to carriers, OPM set the process for requesting proof of family member’s eligibility for existing enrollments, what documents may be used as proof, what actions can be taken based on the response, and the process for reconsidering a decision to remove someone from coverage. Carriers are to inform employing offices in order to avoid duplicate requests for verification, it added, and carriers are to be “judicious in exercising this authority.”

Honestly, it is the employer’s responsibility to police its eligibility rolls. Around five years ago, OPM added a provision to the FEHBP standard contract requiring carriers to pay the freight for an OPM contractor to audit eligibility rolls for ineligible family members. However, OPM has not implemented this clause to date.

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