Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, November 6, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK
FEHB & OPM
Trump Administration Abandons Plan to Split Up Personnel Office: The Trump Administration has decided not to move forward with plans to split OPM’s functions between GSA and the Executive Office of the President.
Significant Changes Coming to Some FEHB Plans in 2021: OPM released details about changes in the FEHB Program for plan year 2021, including a new plan from UnitedHealthcare that will cover all states except Hawaii and Alaska.
Biden Edges Closer to Victory: Biden's lead in Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia is growing.
McConnell Calls For COVID-19 Package Before End of Year. After winning reelection in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed interest in a post-election coronavirus relief package before the end of the year. This is a shift from his previous stance that a deal would be more likely early next year. Relief talks have stalled since the summer, although House Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin have insisted they have made progress towards a deal in the recent months. Although the Presidential election and control of the Senate remain undecided, McConnell indicated that keeping the government funded past the Dec. 11 deadline and coronavirus relief will be the top priorities when the Senate reconvenes on Monday.
Democrats Frustrated; GOP Jubilant in Senate Fight. Democrats are disappointed as they appear unlikely to achieve a majority in the Senate following Tuesday’s elections. Although Joe Biden looks increasingly likely to take the presidency, several challengers to Republican incumbent Senators failed. John Hickenlooper has declared victory over Sen. Cory Gardener (R-CO). Mark Kelly has a comfortable lead over Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ). Well-funded challenger campaigns failed to replace Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Susan Collins (R-ME). Republicans picked up a seat in Alabama after defeating Democrat Doug Jones and it appears they will keep Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC). The final outcome now rests on two possible runoff races in Georgia.
Democrats Projected to Keep House Majority Despite Unexpected GOP Gains. Democrats are projected to retain their House majority following Tuesday’s elections despite failing to significantly expand their majority as they hoped. Although Democratic leaders had predicted a net gain of as many as 15 seats, Republicans had defended battleground seats and unseated numerous Democratic incumbents as of Wednesday night. Some of the more surprising losses for Democrats included House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-MN) and first-term Reps. Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) and Shalala (D-FL). By contrast, many GOP lawmakers prevailed in highly competitive races.
Pelosi Says She Would Fast-Track Obamacare, COVID-19 Aid Next Year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shared Monday that Democrats intend to fast-track legislation to strengthen the ACA and provide coronavirus relief if given control of both chambers. Even a simple majority would allow Democrats to bypass the Senate filibuster to pass a budget bill by using a process called “reconciliation.” Reconciliation was previously used to pass parts of the ACA in 2010. Most other legislation would still be subject to the filibuster in the Senate, which requires 60+ votes to overcome.
Uncertainty Looms Over Packed Year-end Agenda. Political volatility and uncertainty hang over the end-of-year congressional agenda as the White House and balance of the Senate remain undecided. Congress faces a lengthy list of legislation before the end of the year, including coronavirus relief and government funding. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged the situation but insisted that even if the outcomes are still undecided, deals will need to be cut regardless of who “ends up running the government.” There is uncertainty about President Trump’s willingness to cut large deals.
As Pivotal ACA Case Heads to Supreme Court, Potential Outcomes are Many: The future of the Affordable Care Act is in the hands of the Supreme Court but predicting the potential outcomes of the case is not a simple task. Justices could take a variety of approaches including upholding the law, severing specific parts of the law, or invalidating the entire law.
CMS Finalizes Price Transparency Rule with Self-Service Tool: CMS has released a final rule for price transparency in healthcare coverage by leveraging two new tools. The first, a self-service tool, will require payers to release data on out-of-pocket spending and negotiated rates will be phased in between plan year 2023 and 2024. The second, a set of public data files on pricing, goes into effect for plan year 2022. Payers have indicated that the cost of implementing these new requirements will be higher than originally estimated by CMS.
Thoughts on Diversity in Healthcare C-Suite from an Executive Search Specialist: Healthcare Dive interviews the co-founder of an executive search firm that specializes in helping companies diversify their leadership and management teams.
Healthcare is Ramping up AI Investments During COVID. But the Industry is Still on the Fence about Google, Amazon. Here’s Why: In a recent survey of healthcare executives, over half indicated that they are accelerating or expanding the use of artificial intelligence in response to the pandemic. Google and Amazon have made inroads into the industry, but many executives still have concerns about their ability to integrate with healthcare systems and to protect data.
BCBS of Illinois to Pay Hospitals $100M to Improve Health Equity: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois launched a program to reward hospitals for reducing health disparities. Hospitals that join the equity program must commit to reducing health disparities for BCBSIL members over the next three years.
Medicare Fines Half of Hospitals for Readmitting Too Many Patients: Nearly half of all the country’s hospitals are getting lower payments for Medicare patients because of their history of readmitting patients. This comes at a time when hospitals across the country are struggling financially from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden Plans for COVID Task Force During Transition: If elected, Biden plans to stand up an advisory panel that would work in parallel to Trump’s coronavirus task force.
State Variation in Seasonal Flu Vaccination: Implications for a COVID-19 Vaccine: To achieve sufficient levels of immunity against COVID-19, most people in the US will need to be vaccinated. A look at varying rates of the flu vaccine informs an understanding of what COVID-19 vaccination rates might look like based on geographic region and demographic data.
U.S. Sees the Five Highest Days of COVID-19 Cases Leading up to Election: The days leading up to the election showed an uptick in new COVID-19 cases, including the highest number of new cases in one day (99,321 on Friday, October 30th).