Monday Roundup

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash

From the political front, Politico reports that

[Senator] Joe Manchin (D WV) remains at the negotiating table [with his party’s leadership], despite deep concerns about President Joe Biden’s climate and social spending bill [a/k/a the Build Back Better Act]. 

After speaking with Biden on Monday afternoon, Manchin said he was still “engaged” in discussions. And as he left the Capitol, the key Democratic senator made clear he wasn’t ready to commit to voting for or against a bill that is still coming together behind closed doors.

From the White House, the President issued an executive order on improving customer service performed by government agencies. Federal News Network explains that

Jason Miller, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management, said the EO also directs agencies to coordinate work on services that reflect common life experiences, including turning 65 and planning retirement, having a child or applying for a small business loan. * * *

The executive order gives senior administration officials 90 days to select a limited number of these customer life experiences to prioritize across government. It requires Miller and other members of the President’s Management Council to update [Presidential senior advisor Neera] Tanden and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on progress made improving these customer life experiences every six months.

The EO also gives the General Services Administration six months to develop a roadmap of shared services that agencies can use to improve customer experience.

The administration specifically names Login.gov and the U.S. Web Design System, a set of templates meant to create a common look and feel for agency websites, as tools that all agencies should use to improve federal customer experience.

Here is a link to the White House’s press release on the Executive Order as found on performance.gov.

From the Affordable Care Act front, the Internal Revenue Services has released the final Affordable Care Act coverage reporting forms, 1095-B and 1095-C, along with the final instructions for those forms.

From the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs’ website, we find that the federal government’s Fall 2021 regulatory agenda has been published. Here is a link to OPM’s Fall 2021 agency rule list. A chill went up the FEHBlog’s spine when he noticed that the ACA provider non-discrimination proposed rule mandated by the No Surprises Act will be published this month due to a statutory requirement. Cost curve up?

From the employer sponsored care front, Healthcare Dive reports that

— The average per-employee cost of employer-sponsored health insurance jumped 6.3% in 2021, as employees and their families resumed care delayed last year due to the pandemic, according to a new survey of employers from Mercer.

— That’s the highest annual increase since 2010. Health benefit costs outpaced growth in inflation and worker compensation through September, the employee healthcare and investment consultancy said.

— The findings raise questions of whether employers are experiencing a temporary correction to the cost trend following a minimal year-over-year increase of just 3.4% in 2020, or if they’re staring down the barrel of a new period of higher cost growth.

No doubt those questions can keep actuaries awake at night.

From the good COVID news department (yes it exists), STAT News informs us that

Paxlovid, Pfizer’s oral treatment for Covid-19, led to an 89% reduction in hospitalization and death in final data from a pivotal trial, the company said today, confirming the results of an earlier analysis.

The news should allay concerns that the efficacy of Pfizer’s pill would wane over time. Molnupiravir, a Covid-19 antiviral from Merck, appeared 50% effective in an interim trial analysis but fell to about 30% in the final tally. Both studies enrolled unvaccinated patients who were recently diagnosed with Covid-19 and had at least one risk factor for severe disease.

The next step for Pfizer is submitting the results to the FDA, which the company expects to do this month, and applying for an emergency-use authorization. The agency is yet to disclose whether it will convene a panel of expert advisers before deciding on Paxlovid.

Based on the President’s winter is coming plan, the FEHBlog’s bet is on the FDA approving the Pfizer drug without delay.

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