Week Ending 10.2.2020

Weekly Policy Updates

Friday October 2, 2020


White House Threatens Discipline for Employees Engaging in ‘Divisive’ Training, Calls for Political Watchdogs

Amy Coney Barret Nominated to Supreme Court

Drugs Aren’t the Reason the U.S. Spends So Much on Health Care

Trump Tests Positive for COVID

Death Toll from Coronavirus Tops 1 Million


White House Threatens Discipline for Employees Engaging in ‘Divisive’ Training, Calls for Political Watchdogs: OMB has released guidance for federal agencies regarding Trump’s recent Executive Order banning certain diversity and inclusion trainings. The Executive Order takes aim at “critical race theory,” which addresses racism as an institutional phenomenon as well as similar trainings that address sexism.

SES Reassignments Could Use More Oversight, GAO Says: OPM has oversight over practices for reassignment members of the Senior Executive Service to new positions, but the GAO finds that enforcement of the rules is inconsistent.

It Took a Pandemic for OPM to Adopt Cloud: OPM and GSA have teamed up to create a cloud-based dashboard, making oversight of agency re-opening efforts run more smoothly.

Policy Updates

Amy Coney Barret Nominated to Supreme Court: With the future of the Affordable Care Act in question, Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barret to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg has raised red flags. In particular, if the ACA is overturned by the Court, many are concerned about the impact on individuals with pre-existing conditions.

In Rare Move, Schumer Forces Vote to Consider Health Care Bill Amid Supreme Court Tensions. On Thursday, GOP Senators voted down a bill that would ban the Trump administration from advocating for courts to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had used a rare procedural move to force a vote on the issue before the Supreme Court considers striking the ACA on Nov. 10. Although Republicans shot down the effort, five Republicans on the ballot — Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — voted to proceed on Schumer’s bill.

“One More Serious Try” On COVID-19 Relief Yields Progress But No Deal. On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin huddled for roughly 90 minutes in the Speaker’s office in the Capitol, with both sides citing headway in the search for an elusive compromise — but no deal to report. The resumption of talks comes as both parties are facing increasing pressure to set aside their differences and secure an agreement to help struggling families, industries and small businesses left devastated by the global pandemic.

Senate Approves Stopgap Spending Measure to Avert Government Shutdown. On Thursday, President Trump signed a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown, averting an unlikely but potentially disastrous scenario that would kneecap federal agencies in the weeks before the presidential election. The Senate cleared the continuing resolution — which would extend about $1.4 trillion in government funding until Dec. 11 — on Wednesday in a bipartisan 84-10 vote. This gives Congress more than two months to either negotiate a massive spending deal by mid-Dec. or pass yet another stopgap bill to stretch current levels of government cash into next year. Two provisions of note, highlighted in the FEHBlog:

  • Section 2401 caps any increase to the Medicare Part B premium at 25% of what it otherwise would be for 2021. This might help encourage annuitants to join or stay enrolled in Part B.

  • Section 138 allows OPM, “to tap into the trust funds it oversees to keep its own operations going.” Congress typically appropriates only 1/4 of the administration fund to OPM and the balance per Section 8909 is deposited into the FEHB plan contingency reserves based on enrollment. It appears that this new law has given OPM the authority to tap into that surplus that otherwise would have been available to the FEHBP carriers. This is not the only such trust fund available to OPM.

White House Puts Off Action On Surprise Medical Bills, Punts to Congress. The White House is putting off executive action to crack down on surprise medical bills, instead calling on Congress to act on the issue. Before changing their minds due to pressure from providers and GOP lawmakers, the Trump administration had been working on a potentially far-reaching proposal to protect patients from getting stuck with “surprise” medical bills. Congress has so far been unable to reach agreement on surprise billing because of turf battles between committees and lobbying from powerful doctor and hospital groups.

What Has Trump Done for Health Care?: A quick rundown of the actions taken on the Affordable Care Act, reproductive health, COVID-19, prescription drugs, and other health care policy during the Trump presidency.

Industry Updates

Drugs Aren’t the Reason the U.S. Spends So Much on Health Care: Many site drug costs as the largest factor in booming healthcare spending in the US. Axios refutes this claim and indicates that inpatient and outpatient spending are the culprit.

13 Things to Know about Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare’s Virtual Care Strategies: A quick rundown of virtual care strategies among some of the largest US health insurance companies.

HHS Launching Effort to Better Track Office-Based EHR Use: A new program, run by American Board of Family Medicine, is being launched by HHS to track and monitor office-based doctors; health IT use.

Microsoft Teams Integrations with EHRs for Provider Telehealth: Microsoft Teams will link directly with health records software to let clinicians launch virtual visits directly from their EHR. Epic will be the first to integrate later this year.


Trump Tests Positive for COVID: Following reports that Trump advisor Hope Hicks had tested positive for COVID, Trump announced in a tweet early Friday morning that he and first lady Melania also have the virus. They will both be quarantining, with just a month left before the election.

A look at the impact of COVID-19 as the death toll rises to over 1 million across the globe.

Trump Administration May Push Back Info Blocking Rule Again Due to COVID-19 Pandemic: HHS has sent an interim final rule to OMB to revise timelines for implementinWorldwide Grief: Death Toll from Coronavirus Tops 1 Million:g the healthcare information blocking and interoperability rules that were set to go into effect on November 2nd. This will be the second delay of the rule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pentagon Transitioning its COVID-19 Acquisition Task Force to Permanent Office: The Pentagon set up a temporary Task Force to address complex procurement problems during the COVID-19 pandemic. The department has now indicated that the Task Force will become a permanent fixture.

#COVID #DrugPricing #HealthcareSpending #VirtualCare #Telehealth

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