Busy Thursday

Earlier today the President announced a comprehensive list of executive measures intended to stem the Delta variant of COVID-19 in our country. Here’s a Medscape article on this action.

One of the new measures replaces the President’s July 28 vaccination screening program for federal employees and federal government contractors with a vaccination mandate program described in this Federal News Network article. Here are links to the Executive Order for the federal employees program and the separate Executive Order for the federal government contractors program.

The Health and Human Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the Administration’s plan to lower prescription drug costs. In the FEHBlog’s view, the proposals build price controls on top of existing price controls. The president of PhRMA, the prescription drug manufacturer’s trade association, commented that

“What was released today is a laundry list of old partisan ideas and not a serious plan to address what patients pay out of pocket for prescription drugs. What it leaves out is any attempt to fix a broken insurance system that discriminates against sick patients and does nothing to hold insurers and middlemen accountable for pocketing savings from our companies that should go to patients to lower their costs.
 
“It’s hard to ignore the irony that this is being released the same day the White House is unveiling a separate plan meant to regain control of the Covid-19 pandemic. The biopharmaceutical industry is continuing to work around the clock against this pandemic while this same White House is trying to make it more difficult for our industry to continue the fight against this pandemic and plan for future health crises.” 

Alternatively and perhaps even worse for PhRMA, according to STAT News, “[S]everal advocates and lobbyists told STAT this week that lawmakers in the U.S. Senate] were zeroing in on the idea of setting prices based on the maximum price drug makers can charge several military health programs, including the VA’s, known as the Federal Ceiling Price. That price is calculated by reducing the average price paid by non-governmental wholesalers by roughly one-quarter.” This drug cost reduction initiative in its final form would be included in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill.

Yesterday, the actuarial consulting firm WillisTowersWatson released its 2021 Benefits Trend Survey.

More than two-thirds of respondents (69%) say integrating employee wellbeing into the benefit package will be the top strategic benefit objective over the next two years. Most employers (86%) cite employee emotional wellbeing as their top priority over the next two years, followed by physical wellbeing (68%) and financial wellbeing (67%).

According to the survey, employers are taking steps to support their employees’ health and wellbeing in four main areas:

Physical: Over three in four employers (77%) have added or enhanced online and virtual medical services, and over half (53%) plan to add more or enhance them in the next two years.

Emotional: 73% of employers plan to boost their support for mental health (stress, burnout and depression).

Financial: Nearly half of employers (47%) plan to add or enhance their support for financial wellbeing (savings, budgeting, loans and counseling).

Social: More than a quarter of employers (29%) plan to add or enhance support for social wellbeing (charitable donations, volunteer opportunities and social recognition).

The survey also revealed less than three in 10 employers (28%) believe their benefit programs enhance employee appreciation of the employment deal, and many are taking steps to boost support and communication. Over one-third (34%) are planning or considering the use of digital tools and technology to help employees feel connected and be productive; over half (52%) are planning or considering the use of personalized communication to specific segments of the workforce.

he Wall Street Journal”The coming flu season is on track to be much worse than the last cycle, according to health experts, who fear an influx of cases could further strain hospitals already overwhelmed by the Delta surge. The season could also strike earlier and more severely than usual, doctors and researchers said, because many people haven’t been able to build up their natural immune defenses while working from home and avoiding strangers.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that

The coming flu season is on track to be much worse than the last cycle, according to health experts, who fear an influx of cases could further strain hospitals already overwhelmed by the Delta surge.

The season could also strike earlier and more severely than usual, doctors and researchers said, because many people haven’t been able to build up their natural immune defenses while working from home and avoiding strangers [and children are back in school].

The FEHBlog got his flu shot today.

Today’s WSJ Future of Everything article informs us that

A sports injury or trauma to cartilage around the knee, hip or shoulder joint can lead to osteoarthritis later in life—or, worse yet, the need for a new joint. So can the wear and tear that comes with age. One day, new drugs and stem-cell therapies may stop the degeneration before it starts.

Researchers are developing new techniques to protect, repair and regrow articular cartilage, the layer of connective tissue that covers the ends of bones and enables joints to move smoothly, to stop the progression of osteoarthritis and curb the need for joint replacement surgery.

Now that could reduce healthcare spending.

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