Midweek Update

Photo by Manasvita S on Unsplash

A friend of the FEHBlog asked the FEHBlog to share the slide deck from this morning’s White House press briefing on COVID-19. It is chock-a-block full of useful data. Please check it out.

Fierce Pharma reports that following similar news from Moderna:

Pfizer and partner BioNTech are developing booster shots so that their COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty can protect against new, highly contagious variants, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday, according to Bloomberg.“Every time a new variant comes up we should be able to test whether or not [our vaccine] is effective,” Bourla was quoted as saying. “Once we discover something that it is not as effective, we will very, very quickly be able to produce a booster dose that will be a small variation to the current vaccine.”

That is the beauty of these mRNA vaccines.

From the complimentary webinar front —

  • The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the Washington Post are presenting Prognosis 2021 on Thursday January 28 at noon ET. You can register here.
  • The National Committee for Quality Assurance is discussing the Future of Health Care / Its Presidential Pitch on Tuesday February 9 at 1 pm ET. You can register here.
  • Both webinars are an hour long and the FEHBlog has registered for both of them.

The FEHBlog noticed that Modern Healthcare is tracking the Biden Administration’s regulatory freeze actions on Trump Administration “midnight” healthcare regulations. Here is a list of the frozen Trump Administration rules:

Cutting 340B drug discounts –HHS in December finalized a rule forcing community health centers to pass 340B drug discounts along to their patients, a move the Trump administration hoped would lower out-of-pocket drug costs. It faced staunch opposition from providers and patient advocates, who worried it could hamper access to care and cut already razor-thin operating margins for community health centers.

Status: On pause, Jan. 21. The rule was slated to take effect Jan. 22, but the Biden administration delayed until March 22. The rule could be withdrawn before then.

Covering dialysis treatments — The Trump administration wanted to permanently require dialysis centers to tell patients about their coverage options and premium assistance programs. It was an updated version of an Obama-era rule, which went into effect in January 2017.

Status: On pause, Jan. 26

Increasing oversight on accreditation organizations — CMS has long worried about accrediting organizations’ potential conflicts of interest, as many sell consulting services. The Trump administration was working on a rule to address them.

Status: On pause, Jan. 26

Revising Social Security and Medicare Part A relationship — Under the current rules, a person age 65 or older automatically applies for Part A coverage when they file to collect Social Security benefits. The Trump administration was working on a proposal to allow seniors to collect Social Security retirement benefits if they chose not to accept Medicare coverage for inpatient services.

Status: On pause, Jan. 26

No action has been taken on several other rules, including the prior authorization rule, the international drug pricing rule and the drug rebate restriction rule, none of which apply to the FEHBP. Needless to say industry groups are demanding action.

Healthcare Dive informs us about Blue Cross licensee Anthem’s fourth quarter 2020 earnings announcement —

  • Health insurer Anthem’s profits fell 41% in the fourth quarter of last year, due to a resurgence in care that patients put off earlier in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Net income dropped to $551 million, compared to $934 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, though revenues were up 16% to $31.5 billion on higher premiums and investment income, beating Wall Street expectations.
  • Enrollment also strengthened in the fourth quarter, following quarter-over-quarter declines in the second and third quarters during the first surge of COVID-19 and subsequent economic recession.

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