Weekly Policy Updates
Friday October 9, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK:
FEHB & OPM
OPM Memo Puts Pause on Diversity Training Across Government: Late last week OPM released guidance to agency heads effectively halting all diversity training at federal agencies and requiring that OPM review and approve all training materials before they are used.
Trump Flips on COVID-19 Relief, Says Talks Are Now ‘Working Out’: Days after calling off talks with Democrats on a multi-trillion-dollar COVID-19 relief package, President Trump said he was now negotiating a “bigger deal.” There is no evidence yet that Democrats and Republicans had restarted negotiations on a broader package, although Trump said the deal was larger than the airline focused package House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin were negotiating Wednesday. Republicans, especially those vulnerable to being ousted in the November elections, have expressed frustration at the erratic changes and urged Trump to continue negotiations.
Supreme Court Nomination Hits Bump as Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will delay the Senate’s return until October 19 after three lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19. But committee hearings will continue as planned, including the first Supreme Court nomination hearings for Amy Cohen-Barrett on October 12. Barrett spoke by phone with the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 7, where the members expressed concern about the confirmation process as well as on Barrett’s views on issues like Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act.
Executive Order on Saving Lives Through Increased Support for Mental- and Behavioral- Health Needs: President Trump recently inked an Executive Order establishing a Coronavirus Mental Health Working Group tasked with examining “existing protocols and evidence-based programs” that can serve and support groups at risk of mental health issues and suicide. Additionally, he calls on agency heads to review existing grants for medical/mental health services and work to encourage grantees to incorporate policies to improve mental health and reduce suicide, including the use of telehealth.
National Association of Postal Supervisors 2020 Presidential Candidate Questionnaire: NAPS sent out questionnaires to both the Biden and Trump campaigns, but only received a response from Biden. He indicates that, if elected, he will work with Congress to eliminate the requirement that USPS prefund retiree health benefits, work to provide emergency funding to the agency, and protect 6-day delivery service, particularly in rural areas. Any efforts to reduce FEHB benefits for postal workers would be opposed by a Biden-Harris Administration.
House Democrats Slam Pharma CEOs For Price Hikes Driven by Revenue, Executive Bonuses: The House Oversight Committee met Wednesday and Thursday of last week to question the CEOs of several major pharmaceutical companies on price hikes of prescription drugs. The hearings come as the committee concludes an 18-month investigation, where the committee found the companies were ordering large price increases to maximize executive bonuses and boost profits. On Wednesday, executives from Celgene, Bristol Meyers Squibb, and Teva were questioned on the exponentially rising prices of cancer and Multiple Sclerosis drugs, the high U.S. prices relative to the same drugs in other nations, and efforts to limit generic substitutions.
Lyft Integrates with Epic, Exponentially Growing NEMT Reach: Lyft recently announced plans to integrate its non-emergency medical transportation platform with Epic, the largest EHR vendor in the US. Several health systems have already committed to using the integration, which will allow staff to schedule rides directly within Epic. The integration goes live next month.
Walmart’s Next Health Foray is Medicare Plan with Startup Clover: Beginning next year, Walmart and insurance startup Clover Health will provide two Medicare Advantage plans in Georgia. Use of in-store health clinics, which are being piloted in Atlanta, will be encouraged. Both plans will offer free primary care and a $400 a year benefit for over-the-counter health expenses in stores or on Walmart’s website.
Telehealth Patient Satisfaction Surges During Pandemic but Barriers to Access Persist, JD Power Finds: The 2020 U.S. Telehealth Satisfaction Survey results are in and the overall customer satisfaction score is among the highest of all healthcare, insurance, and financial services industry studies conducted by J.D. Power. Many users reported barriers to access and technical difficulties during telehealth visits, but still indicated overall satisfaction with the benefit. Patients with lower self-reported health status indicated less satisfaction with telehealth visits. Amwell ranked the highest for customer satisfaction, with Doctor in Demand trailing closely behind. Cigna, Kaiser, and UnitedHealthcare ranked highest among health plans.
BCBSA Names Kim Keck as New President and CEO: Effective January 4, 2021 Kim Keck will be the new president and CEO of BCBSA. Keck currently serves as the CEO of BCBS Rhode Island and has 28 years of experience at Aetna. She will be the first female CEO of BCBSA.
Amid Pandemic, Specialty Care Outpaces Urgent Care, Amwell Poll Says: Prior to the pandemic, the vast majority of virtual visits were for urgent care, but market research conducted by Amwell indicates that only 21% of consumers had a virtual visit for urgent care while over 50% used virtual care to visit a primary care physician. More than 40% had a virtual visit with a known specialty provider and another 13% had a visit with a new specialty provider.
Eli Lilly Rushes to FDA with its COVID-19 Antibody for Emergency Green Light, Reveals New Cocktail Therapy Data: Drug-maker Eli Lilly is sending its antibody therapy to the FDA for emergency use authorization and will send a cocktail therapy in November.
34 People Connected to White House, More than Previously Known, Infected by Coronavirus: Internal FEMA Memo: According to an internal memo obtained by ABC News, FEMA is reporting that as many as 34 individuals connected to the White House now have Coronavirus. Upon returning from the hospital, Trump removed his mask causing concern for the wellbeing and safety for staffers, Secret Service agents, and facilities workers.
White House Clears Food and Drug Administration Coronavirus Vaccine Standards it Tried to Derail: Earlier this week the White House cleared new, tougher standards for a Coronavirus vaccine. Trump had initially indicated that he would not approve the new guidelines because they would make it nearly impossible for a vaccine to be approved before the election, but the FDA posted them on their website, forcing his hand.