Tuesday’s Tidbits

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Today is the deadline for submission of 2022 FEHB benefit and rate proposals to OPM. Also on the federal employment front, Federal News Network reports that

Agencies have until July 19 to submit employee and contractor reentry plans to the Office of Management and Budget, the Biden administration said Tuesday.

Agencies must finalize their plans for both reopening offices and setting post-reentry procedures and policies by that date, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, in collaboration with OMB, the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration, said in an email.

Those final plans will build on draft reentry plans, which agencies are supposed to submit to OMB by June 18.

Agencies can, in phases, bring more employees and contractors back to their work sites after completing their final reentry plans, satisfying collective bargaining obligations and giving the workforce advanced notice, the task force said.

According to the CDC, over 50% of the total U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Also from the COVID-19 vaccination front

  • Moderna announced today that “it has initiated the rolling submission process with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a Biologics License Application (BLA) for the licensure of its mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine to prevent COVID-19 in individuals 18 years of age and older.” Pfizer took the same FDA approval step with its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine a few weeks ago. This FDA approval process likely will take several months.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released an informational bulletin on COVID-19 vaccinations for adolescents. While directed at the Medicaid program, the bulletin is filled with useful information for everyone. What’s more, the American Medical Association offers its view on what doctors wish parents knew about these vaccines.
  • The National Institutes of Health Director, Dr. Francis Collins, explains on this blog that “Studies confirm COVID-19 mRNA vaccines [are] safe, effective for pregnant women.” “Overall, both studies show that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are safe and effective in pregnancy, with the potential to benefit both mother and baby. Pregnant women also are more likely than women who aren’t pregnant to become severely ill should they become infected with this devastating coronavirus. While pregnant women are urged to consult with their obstetrician about vaccination, growing evidence suggests that the best way for women during pregnancy or while breastfeeding to protect themselves and their families against COVID-19 is to roll up their sleeves and get either one of the mRNA vaccines now authorized for emergency use.”

MedPage Today in an op-ed adds that “policymakers should include natural immunity as determined by an accurate and reliable antibody test or the documentation of prior infection (previous positive PCR or antigen test), as evidence of immunity equal to that of vaccination. That immunity should be given the same societal status as vaccine-inducted immunity.” (FEHBlog supplement — At least at this early stage when it’s not clear whether a booster is required.) The CDC should give more attention to this cadre.

From the flu vaccine front, the National Institutes for Health announced that “A first-in-human, Phase 1 trial assessing the safety and immunogenicity of an investigational nanoparticle influenza vaccine designed to provide long-lasting protection against multiple flu virus strains has begun at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.” Wild.

In other good news, Health Payer Intelligence reports that “Member satisfaction has improved significantly among commercial health plans, JD Power’s 2021 commercial member health plan study found. “The past year has proven without a doubt that effective use of digital channels has the power to increase customer engagement, build trust and promote brand advocacy,” said James Beem, managing director of global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power.“While many plans are showing tremendous progress by delivering for their members during a highly volatile and stressful period, they still have a long way to go when it comes to delivering consistently strong levels of customer engagement across all segments of their member populations.”

Regarding the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget proposal

  • Govexec informs us that “President Biden ends trend of [federal employee] benefit-cutting budgets, but new Federal Workforce Initiatives are still being developed. Most of the workforce provisions outlined in the president’s first budget submission are vague references to policies that will be part of the forthcoming president’s management agenda.”
  • Becker’s Hospital Review offers seven takeaways on the budget proposal for healthcare executives.
  • Forbes Magazine predicts that President “Biden’s answer to the [looming] Medicare Trust Fund Insolvency is hidden In his Budget Proposal.” The answer, by the way, is to pay Medicare Part A from the general treasury like the other parts.

In other crystal ball articles

  • The Journal of AHIMA discusses how this health informatics organization is preparing for the post-pandemic world.
  • Healio predicts how primary care providers will use telehealth in the new normal. The answer is quite a bit. “Thirty-five percent of adults in the United States who were surveyed said they would consider leaving their primary care physician for qualified physicians providing on-demand telehealth services. This percentage was even higher — 50% — among Generation Z and millennials, according to the data. Older adults also expressed interest in telehealth services, with 48% of respondents aged 65 years and older reporting that they will likely continue to use telehealth after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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