Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, July 24, 2020
THIS WEEK'S TOP LINKS:
FEHB & OPM
Nomination of John Gibbs as Director of OPM Sent to Senate: On July 20, President Trump officially sent the nomination of John Gibbs as Director of OPM to the Senate. A bio of Mr. Gibbs can be read in the previous intent to nominate announcement. The nomination has come with some questions about Mr. Gibbs’ previous participation in conspiracy theories regarding Hillary Clinton during the presidential election.
Rules Proposed for Continuing Benefits During Shutdowns: OPM has proposed rules that would designate many features of FEHB and other federal insurance programs as “emergency services” during a partial government shutdown. This would allow employees to continue to make allowable enrollment changes. The proposed rule also prohibits enrollment terminations for lack of payment during a shutdown in the FEDVIP and FLTCIP programs. Read the full proposed rule here; the public comment period closes on August 19, 2020.
Scrutiny of Agency Recall Practices Increases: Congress continues to scrutinize plans for federal employees to return to the office. Several agency IGs, including OPM’s, will conduct a review following a request from Representative Gerald Connolly (D-VA).
Maximus Awarded 13 Million OPM Contract for Retirement and Insurance Services Assistance: Maximus has been awarded a $13 million contract to provide services for federal annuitants during Open Season. The contract is for one year with four one-year extensions.
New COVID Local Risk Index Identifies Neighborhoods at Highest Risk of Pandemic’s Impact: NYU has added a neighborhood level COVID local risk index to their City Health Dashboard. The dashboard also includes data local level data on health outcomes, social and economic factors, health behavior, and clinical care.
Senate GOP Punts COVID-19 Bill to Next Week. Although Senate Republicans were expected to release a proposed coronavirus package on Thursday, Senate Majority leader McConnell is now hoping to introduce it on Monday, blaming White House talks for the delay. Proposed aspects of the bill potentially include $105 billion for schools, Trump’s payroll tax-cut, $16 billion for coronavirus testing, and more. Health industry players have signaled their priorities for the bill, including additional funding for hospitals, business liability protections, support for the newly uninsured, and testing and contract tracing. Despite the delays, Senate Republicans are still aiming to secure a bipartisan agreement on the package before August recess.
Telehealth Expansions Will be Permanent, Says Diabetes Caucus. On Thursday, Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY), co-chairs of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, said that Congress’ expansion of telemedicine during the coronavirus pandemic is likely to become permanent. Congress passed the CARES Act in late March, which dedicated funds for telehealth expansion and strengthened access to telehealth for Medicare recipients. Different proposals have been introduced or are being contemplated to make the changes permanent, including a proposal released by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) this week, as well as the forthcoming Cures 2.0 bill.
Where do COVID-19 Vaccine Players Stand on Pricing? So Far, It’s No Profit, Slight Profit or Undecided: Over 160 groups are currently working on a COVID-19 vaccine, but questions remain about how the product will be prices. Some companies have vowed not to make a profit off the vaccine, while others are still undecided.
Direct Primary care Backers Hope COVID-19 Entices Docs to Alternative Payment Model: Steep declines in non-essential doctor’s visits during the pandemic have put many primary care providers at financial risk. However, practices using alternative payment models such as a subscription fee, have been insulated from some of these negative impacts.
Dem AGs Sue to Stop Rule Revoking Transgender Protection: 23 Democratic Attorneys General have sued the Trump Administration, seeking to block the implementation of changes to the Section 1557 rule.
AHA Appeals Price Transparency Case After Judge Sides with HHS: The American Hospital Association has filed an appeal in a case against a recent decision upholding CMS requirements that hospitals make negotiated rates with insurers public.
Black Children are More Likely to Die After Surgery than White Peers, Study Shows: Research recently published in the journal Pediatrics indicates that Black children are more than three times as likely to die within a month of surgery as white children.
NIH Project Homes in on COVID Racial Disparities: The NIH started the “All of Us” research project in 2018 with the goal of enrolling at least a million people into the world’s most diverse health database, in stark contrast to traditional medical research that has skewed white, well-off, and male. They currently house data from 350,000 people across America. The data is being used to understand the impact of COVID-19 on people of color.