The FEHBlog was delighted to read today that OPM is encouraging FEHB carriers that OPM is encouraging FEHB carriers to incorporate Medicare Part D EGWPs in their plans for 2024. The FEHBlog has been encouraging this step for years, as readers must know.
The Medicare Part D EGWPs will cushion the FEHBP against the expenses of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s Disease and other illnesses that impact annuitants over age 65. While there are many factors at play in determining premiums, this factor standing alone would lower premiums. Thank you, OPM.
From the Omicron and siblings front, the New York Times virus briefing newsletter wished its readers well today.
Now, after three years, we’re pausing this newsletter. The acute phase of the pandemic has faded in much of the world, and many of us have tried to pick up the pieces and move on. We promise to return to your inbox if the pandemic takes a sharp turn. But, for now, this is goodbye.
The American Hospital Association informs us
In a study released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC}, a single bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster provided additional protection against omicron XBB variants in adults who previously received two to four monovalent vaccine doses. XBB-related variants account for over half of currently circulating COVID-19 variants in the United States.
“All persons should stay up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including receiving a bivalent booster dose when eligible,” the authors conclude.
The CDC yesterday launched a website to help consumers locate no-cost COVID-19 testing through its Increasing Community Access to Testing program, which includes pharmacies, commercial laboratories and other sites that bill the tests to government and private insurers and focus on vulnerable communities. The tests may include laboratory-based nucleic acid amplification tests and rapid antigen point-of-care tests, with results typically provided in 24-48 hours.
From the public health front
- The Hill tells us about a CDC internal reorganization.
- The HHS Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research provides us with an infographic and report about the three most commonly treated illnesses among older adults — hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and arthritis / other joint disorders
- Fierce Healthcare relates, “The Biden administration is planning to release three to four new payment models on advance primary care and another enabling states to assume the total cost of care for Medicare, a top official shared.”
- HHS’s HEAL Program Director, Dr. Rebecca Baker, discusses “Research That Offers Hope to End Addiction Long-Term.”
From the U.S. healthcare business front
Healthcare Dive reports
Elevance Health, one of the nation’s largest insurers, added more members in 2022, fueled by growth in its government business thanks to continued relaxed eligibility rules on enrollment.
Elevance ended the year covering 47.5 million people, a nearly 5% increase from the prior-year period, driven largely by growth in Medicaid members.
In turn, total revenue climbed 13% to nearly $157 billion for the year as the insurer collected higher premium revenue from its Medicaid plans.
Net income dipped about 1% to $6 billion for the full year as expenses climbed about 14%.
The CMS announced Wednesday that a record-breaking 16.3 million people signed up for Affordable Care Act marketplace plans during the 2023 open enrollment season, a result of extended pandemic-era subsidies enacted by the American Rescue Plan.
Over 1.8 million more people enrolled in marketplace coverage compared to last year — a 13% increase, and the most amount of plan selections of any year since the launch of the ACA marketplace a decade ago, according to the CMS. The record-breaking enrollment numbers include 3.6 million first-time marketplace enrollees.
STAT News tells us
The claims have become almost ubiquitous. Hospital CEO after hospital CEO stands at a podium and promises the merger being announced will improve quality and lower costs.
Once deals close, though, there tends to be little, if any, follow-up to determine whether those things actually happened. A new Journal of the American Medical Association study adds to the growing body of evidence that they don’t. The authors looked across a large swath of the country’s hospitals and physicians found that while quality did improve marginally, the prices paid for services delivered by health system hospitals and doctors was significantly higher than their non-system peers.
“You start to feel really hopeful when you hear about this, ‘Yeah, we can really improve health care,’ and then when you look at it, it’s just not there,” said Nancy Beaulieu, a study author and research associate in Harvard Medical School’s department of health care policy.
On related note, Fierce Healthcare informs us
A top insurance lobbying group plans to press Congress this session to adopt legislation that expands the footprint of site-neutral payment reform, setting up a likely clash with hospital groups.
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), which represents 38 Blues plans, released several policy priorities for the current Congress as part of a new report Tuesday. Some of the policies focus on changing Medicare reimbursement rates to pay the same amount to clinics whether they are independent or affiliated with a hospital. Other reforms focus on prescription drugs and spurring more participation in value-based care.
“We’re very concerned about the increasing acquisition of physician practices by hospitals in the healthcare system,” said Kris Haltmeyer, vice president of policy analysis for BCBSA, during a reporter briefing Tuesday.
One of the association’s major priorities is to pass a bill that would remove a grandfathering provision in the 2015 Balanced Budget Act. The provision shielded certain hospital outpatient departments from billing limits established in the law, with the exception of emergency departments.
The association also wants to require off-campus hospital sites to get a different national provider identifier than the main facility campus. They should also use a different claim form for any professional service rendered in an office or clinic owned by a hospital but not on the campus.
Go get ’em.