Thursday Miscellany

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

In a welcome spurt of cautious optimism, Bloomberg reports this evening

The U.S. vaccine supply is poised to double in the coming weeks and months, according to an analysis by Bloomberg, allowing a broad expansion of doses administered across the country. * * * A review of drugmakers’ public statements and their supply deals suggests that the number of vaccines delivered should rise to almost 20 million a week in March, more than 25 million a week in April and May, and over 30 million a week June. By summer, it would be enough to give 4.5 million shots a day.  * * * The analysis assumes drugmakers will meet their new delivery targets — not a guarantee in a year-old pandemic where much has gone wrong.

The FEHBlog’s bet, for what it’s worth, is that Bloomberg’s analysis proves correct.

The urgency of rapid COVID-19 vaccine distribution is reinforced by the Centers for Disease Control’s report today that U.S. life expectancy dropped by one year during the first six months of last year.

For perspective, take a look at the American Medical Association’s interview of John Barry, the author of the Great Influenza. To wit –

In 1918, people didn’t buy the government’s take on the pandemic. They saw what was happening. The disease was much more virulent, killing between 50 million and 100 million people. That would be between 225–450 million people today after adjusting for population. In Philadelphia, Barry said, priests would drive horse-drawn carts down the street calling for people to bring out their dead.

Mr. Barry urges truth telling by all parties holding public trust. By the way, the Great Influenza is fascinating reading.

In regulatory news —

  • Fierce Healthcare informs us that “President Joe Biden has chosen Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), according to a report in The Washington Post.” This post requires Senate confirmation.
  • The National Law Journal reports that “The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced last Friday that it was withdrawing two proposed rules regarding the incentives employers can provide their employees as part of a wellness program without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Originally, the proposed rules had stated that, for the most part, employers could offer only “de minimis” incentives for employees participating in a wellness program—incentives that potentially could apply to employees receiving a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. With the withdrawal of those rules, employers have little guidance in terms of what incentives, if any, they may offer employees”
  • The Health and Human Services Inspector General announced a court ordered delay in effective date of the Trump Administrations’ rule banning prescription drug rebates in Medicare Part D (but not the FEHBP) to January 1, 2023.
  • The Internal Revenue Service issued guidance implementing the following cafeteria plan changes created by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The new law

Provides flexibility with respect to carryovers of unused amounts from the 2020 and 2021 plan years;

Extends the permissible period for incurring claims for plan years ending in 2020 and 2021;

Provides a special rule regarding post-termination reimbursements from health FSAs during plan years 2020 and 2021;

Provides a special claims period and carryover rule for dependent care assistance programs when a dependent “ages out” during the COVID-19 public health emergency; and

Allows certain mid-year election changes for health FSAs and dependent care assistance programs for plan years ending in 2021.

This notice also provides additional relief with respect to mid-year elections for plan years ending in 2021. 

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