Post Thanksgiving Extra

The FEHBlog noted his plan on Wednesday to hold off on future posts until Cybersecurity Saturday. A pleasant Thanksgiving holiday resulted in the FEHBlog preparing this Friday Extra.

From Washington, DC,

  • CMS issued a No Surprises Act toolkit for consumer advocates.
  • Federal News Network tells us,
    • “As it’s the middle of open season, those eligible have until Dec. 12 to enroll or make changes to their plans under TRICARE – the Defense Department’s healthcare system – for 2024.
    • “The two main plans eligible for enrollment are TRICARE Prime, which includes the U.S. Family Health Plan, and TRICARE Select. TRICARE Open Season does not apply to its premium plans – TRICARE Young Adult, TRICARE Reserve Select and TRICARE Retired Reserve. TRICARE Open Season also does not apply to those who are eligible for Medicare or those using TRICARE For Life. It also does not apply to active duty service members. These groups do not have to do anything during the Open Season.
    • “Open Season is an opportunity for you to evaluate the health care coverage that your family has and to see if you need to change plans or if you want to stay in the current plan that you’re in,” Zelle Zim, who’s on TRICARE’s policy and programs team, said at a TRICARE event on Wednesday. “You also have the opportunity to enroll in a new plan during TRICARE Open Season.”

In public health and medical research news,

  • Healthcare Dive informs us,
    • “Rates of completion for high-risk diagnostic tests and referrals were lower when ordered during a telehealth visit compared with an in-person appointment, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open. 
    • “For telehealth orders, 43% were completed during the designated time frame compared with 58% of tests and referrals requested during in-person appointments, and 57% of those ordered without any visit at all. 
    • “Failure to get tests or complete referrals is a leading cause of diagnostic errors, and safety risks can be a particular concern in primary care due to the large number of potential diagnoses, researchers said.” 
  • STAT News points out,
    • “Overdose deaths among pregnant or postpartum people skyrocketed between 2018 and 2021, according to new research published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry.
    • “The study, conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institutes of Health, compared the incidence of maternal deaths for overdose of commonly misused psychotropic drugs (such as heroin and other opioids, including synthetic ones, or cocaine) among girls and women aged 10 to 44.
    • “The spike in overdose deaths was especially high among women ages 35 to 44. In 2018, the rate was 4.9 overdose maternal deaths per 100,000 mothers with a live birth; in 2021, the rate was 15.8 per 100,000. The rate of overdose death for all age groups also increased significantly, from 6.9 per 100,000 mothers in the first half of 2018 to 12.2 in the second half of 2021.”
  • Beckers Hospital Review reports, “There’s been a slight slowdown in reports of new drug shortages before the winter holiday season, but six medications recently entered the list of ongoing shortages, which includes about 300 drugs.” Becker’s article lists those six drugs.

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Beckers Payer Issues notes that Blue Cross licensees are “diving into” direct healthcare delivery. “BCBS plans have spent 2023 reorganizing to better compete with larger insurers through corporate restructuring, M&A or the launch of healthcare delivery subsidiaries.”
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “Pharmacy benefit management giant Optum Rx is aiming to address maternal and fetal health by leaning on the power of independent pharmacies.
    • “The Road to Healthy Baby program launched earlier this year in three states—Louisiana, Michigan and New Mexico—and offers pregnant patients prenatal checkups and vitamins at an independent pharmacy. The initiative is part of a broader push by the PBM that seeks to harness the power of these pharmacies.
    • “Through the program, a pregnant person who maintains their prenatal vitamins across three prescriptions or a 90-day supply will receive a care kit with key items that help during pregnancy and after the baby is born.
    • “Optum has also deployed grants to local diaper banks to ensure new mothers have access to necessary supplies. Katie McCarey, vice president of pharmacy strategy and product innovation at Optum Rx, told Fierce Healthcare that the company has found in some markets that new mothers often have just one or two diapers available each day for their babies.”
  • and
    • “UPMC’s operations dipped into the red this quarter as volumes and their associated care delivery costs and insurance claims continue to climb.
    • “The Pittsburgh-based integrated nonprofit system reported Tuesday a $191 million operating loss (-2.8% operating margin) and a $421.8 million change in net assets (without donor restrictions) for the three months ended Sept. 30. During the same time a year prior, UPMC had logged a $114.5 million operating income (1.8% operating margin) and $272.6 million drop in its net assets (without donor restrictions).
    • “The organization is now sitting at a $176.5 million operating loss (-0.9%) year to date despite its strong start to 2023. Its bottom line reflects a $244.7 million net decline over nine months.
    • “In a release announcing the financial results, UPMC Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer stressed that the system is “staying to true its commitments” surrounding capital investments ($517 million year to date) despite industry-wide workforce challenges and other headwinds.”
  • Healthcare Dive highlights five major healthcare company bankruptcy filings in 2023. “Bankruptcies have spiked this year as federal COVID-19 funding lapsed and heightened interest rates, regulatory changes and labor shortages squeezed the sector.”