From the federal employment front, Govexec tells us
The Biden administration is looking to add 82,000 employees in fiscal 2024, a 3.6% increase that would bring civilian federal rolls to their highest levels since World War II.
Nearly every federal agency would receive a funding boost in President Biden’s fiscal 2024 budget, and all but one major agency is anticipating adding staff as a result. Some of the hiring is still aimed at making up for losses sustained during Obama-era budget caps and Trump-era targeted reductions, though much of it is for implementing major new initiatives Biden has ushered into law like the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure measure Congress approved in 2021.
“As we release the President’s FY 2024 Budget, we are proud of the mission-driven investments it makes in the federal government’s most important asset—our people,” Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Jason Miller and Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja said in a [Performance.gov] blog post Monday.
From the end of the public health emergency front, Health Payer Intelligence reports
In most states, beneficiaries who lose Medicaid coverage when the public health emergency ends are likely to transition into employer-sponsored health plans, according to a study funded by AHIP from NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC).
NORC used the Urban Institute’s public health emergency Medicaid coverage loss estimates and historic data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).
The researchers recategorized the data, taking into account respondents’ coverage type in year one and year two of the transition, supplementing data for smaller states, and applying a hierarchy of coverage types to distribute respondents with multiple coverage sources. When respondents had multiple coverage types, the researchers prioritized first employer-sponsored coverage, then uninsurance, CHIP, nongroup coverage, and other public coverage, respectively.
When the researchers blended these two data sources, the study found that individuals who lose their Medicaid coverage after the end of the public health emergency will transition into employer-sponsored health plans in most states.
More than half of the beneficiaries who lose Medicaid coverage will transition to employer-sponsored health plan coverage in every state except for Georgia (48.9 percent), according to the dashboard associated with the report. The state with the highest share of beneficiaries going into employer-sponsored health plans after the public health emergency was Delaware (57.1 percent).
Because FEHB-eligible annuitants and family members must be on Medicaid, OPM may want to consider sharing information with federal agencies about how this cohort can shift from Medicaid to FEHB and when to apply.
From the Medicare front —
- CMS today trumpeted that Medicare Part D members can receive vaccinations without cost sharing. CMS doesn’t mention that commercial plans, including FEHB plans, have offered this opportunity under the Affordable Care Act since 2011. For example, the FEHBlog received a shingles vaccination with no-sharing (in-network) before he went on Medicare (because his company has under 20 employees). He got hit with a $400 Medicare Part D copay when he received the updated shingles shots in 2019. Better late than never because the FEHBlog needs a TDap booster next year.
- While Congress emptied this bowl of wrong, Medicare beneficiaries still face a pre-existing condition limitation (except in certain states) if they try to enroll in a Medicare supplement plan after the first opportunity.
- CMS announced “27 prescription drugs for which Part B beneficiary coinsurances may be lower from April 1 – June 30, 2023. Thanks to President Biden’s new law to lower prescription drug costs, some people with Medicare who take these drugs may save between $2 and $390 per average dose starting April 1, depending on their individual coverage.” One CMS fact sheet explains how this program works, and another CMS fact sheet lists the 27 drugs, which include Humira. This will reduce FEHB Program spending as a secondary payer for annuitant and eligible family members with primary Part B. In the FEHBlog’s opinion, this program will not generate a dollar-for-dollar cost shift from Medicare to the FEHB cohort without primary Part B due to how the new program is structured.
- Looking forward, CMS released its “Initial Guidance for Historic Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Program for Price Applicability Year 2026.” Thanks to OPM’s decision to allow FEHB plans to offer Part D EGWPs in 2024, the FEHB will be advantaged by the Part D savings.
From the public health front, the Alzheimers Association issued
Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, an annual report released by the Alzheimer’s Association, reveals the burden of Alzheimer’s and dementia on individuals, caregivers, government and the nation’s health care system.
The accompanying special report, The Patient Journey in an Era of New Treatments, examines the importance of conversations about memory at the earliest point of concern, as well as a knowledgeable, accessible care team to diagnose, monitor disease progression and treat when appropriate. This is especially true now, in an era when treatments that change the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s are available.
From the miscellany department –
- Forbes informs us that “the U.S. government is suing Rite Aid — accusing the drugstore chain of “knowingly” filling unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances — only adds to the financial and operational woes of the embattled drugstore chain.”
- AHIP has added details to the March 29-30 OPM AHIP FEHB Carrier Conference agenda.
- The Wall Street Journal reports on yesterday’s abortion pill hearing before a federal judge in Amarillo, Texas. “A federal judge on Wednesday questioned the government about its approval of a medication used in more than half of the abortions in the U.S. but also asked whether there was any precedent for a court blocking sales of a drug long after it had been allowed on the market.” The FEHBlog expects the Court to rule in the federal government’s favor because no such precedent exists.
- Beckers Hospital Review tells us
A ChatGPT update released March 14 has been stunning physicians with its ability to deliver sound medical advice, The New York Times reported.
Anil Gehi, MD, a cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at Chapel Hill, N.C.-based UNC Health, described the health history of a patient, using advanced medical terminology, to the artificial intelligence chatbot and asked it how he should treat the person, according to the March 14 story.
“That is exactly how we treated the patient,” he said of ChatGPT’s answer.
Experts told the newspaper the new GPT-4 technology is more precise, accurate and descriptive than its predecessor, which OpenAI released in November. However, the chatbot is still prone to “hallucination” and making things up.