Tuesday Tidbits

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • The Wall Street Journal reports
    • “House Republican leaders worked to salvage a short-term spending bill that sparked angry disagreements among the party’s rank-and-file, but they remained short of the support needed to pass the measure and show the party could unite to avert a government shutdown. * * *
    • “The effort to pass a short-term deal comes as Congress is working to pass the 12 annual appropriation bills that fund the government. Leaders of both parties in the House and Senate have thrown their support behind reaching a short-term deal that would give both chambers more time to negotiate a full-year spending agreement.
    • “Both McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) have warned of the political fallout for the GOP from a shutdown.
    • “I’ve seen a few of them over the years, they never have produced a policy change, and they’ve always been a loser for Republicans politically,” said McConnell to reporters.”
  • Govexec offers federal employees a “guide to pay and benefits during a shutdown.”
  • The House Ways and Means Committee held a No Surprises Act hearing today. Here are a link to the Chairman’s opening statement and a link to the AHIP witness statements.
  • Federal News Network tells us,
    • “Enrollees in the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) are bracing for another big premium increase starting in 2024.
    • “The Office of Personnel Management, which runs the federal insurance program, announced plans to hike up premium rates for current enrollees. The changes will take effect on Jan. 1.
    • “Unlike the averages offered in past years, OPM declined to share an average percentage increase for FLTCIP premiums. An agency spokesperson said the percentage increases for enrollees were too variable for an average to accurately depict how much the rates are rising.
    • “But anecdotal experiences from program participants who spoke with Federal News Network and who shared their premium notification letters with the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) show the increases are as large as 86%, if the enrollees choose to stick with their same coverage options. In a few other instances, enrollees received notice from OPM that their premiums will go up 77% and 49%, according to NARFE.”
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a revised Grade B recommendation today. “The USPSTF recommends screening for hypertensive disorders in [asymptomatic] pregnant persons with blood pressure measurements throughout pregnancy.”
  • The Wall Street Journal adds,
    • “The recommendation made Tuesday by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force broadens 2017 guidance to screen regularly only for preeclampsia, a dangerous and increasingly common condition that can arise in pregnancy. It involves high blood pressure along with kidney or liver trouble and other problems and is believed to occur when the placenta develops abnormally because of a problem with the blood vessels that supply it.  
    • “The recommendation applies to other disorders marked by high blood pressure that, like preeclampsia, normally develop in the second half of pregnancy. They include gestational hypertension—high blood pressure without the other signs of preeclampsia—and eclampsia, which involves seizures and is life-threatening.” 
  • Per Healthcare Dive
    • “Eighty-one percent of nursing home facilities nationwide and 90% of for-profit facilities would need to hire additional registered nurses or nurse aides to meet the minimum nursing staff hours standards proposed by the CMS earlier this month, according to a KFF estimate published Monday.”

From the public health front,

  • NBC News reports,
    • “Doctors say they’re finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish Covid from allergies or the common cold, even as hospitalizations tick up.
    • “The illness’ past hallmarks, such as a dry cough or the loss of sense of taste or smell, have become less common. Instead, doctors are observing milder disease, mostly concentrated in the upper respiratory tract. 
    • “It isn’t the same typical symptoms that we were seeing before. It’s a lot of congestion, sometimes sneezing, usually a mild sore throat,” said Dr. Erick Eiting, vice chair of operations for emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York City.”
  • The Wall Street Journal offers “A Game Plan for Timing Your Flu, Covid, and RSV Shots This Fall.”
  • The Washington Post informs us,
    • “Doing puzzles, playing memory-boosting games, taking classes, and reading are activities that we often turn to for help keeping our brains sharp. However, research is showing that what you eat, how often you exercise, and the type of exercise you do can help lower your risk of dementia to a greater extent than previously thought.
    • “Although more studies are needed, “there’s a lot of data that suggests exercise and diet are good for the brain and can prevent or help slow down” cognitive changes, says Jeffrey Burns, co-director of the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Fairway.
    • “And living a healthy lifestyle can produce brain benefits regardless of age.”

From the healthcare business front,

  • Fierce Health identifies the most influential minority executives in healthcare for 2023. Maazal tov to those execs.
  • Beckers Payer Issues points out,
    • “Elevance Health’s pharmacy benefit manager, CarelonRx, is launching a new integrated cost savings program to automatically offer members the lowest price for generic prescription drugs at their preferred pharmacy.
    • “We will automatically compare prices to emulate a comparative shopping experience, similar to when a member would use a discount card,” Michele Paige, vice president of product at CarelonRx, told Becker’s. “But now they don’t have to because it’s integrated within their benefits.” 
    • “The new program, EnsureRx, is set to launch in February and will automatically compare prices for more than 50 generic medications against a variety of cash discount cards, with savings automatically applied. Ms. Paige shared that the list of generic medications covered will be constantly evaluated for potential additions.” 
  • and
    • “Cigna Healthcare offers employers a supplemental benefit designed to help employees diagnosed with musculoskeletal conditions. 
    • “The payer is adding musculoskeletal conditions to its Supplemental Health Critical Illness plans, according to a Sept. 18 news release. The program provides an annual payment of $3,000 to employees to help them cover out-of-pocket hospital costs or other expenses such as rent, childcare and groceries. 
    • “Cigna offers similar benefits for cancer, heart attack and stroke.”