Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, July 2, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK ENDING 7.3.2020
FEHB & OPM
Trump to Tap Senior HUD Official to Run Office of Personnel Management: John Gibbs, current acting Assistant Secretary at HUD, is Trump’s top pick for Director of OPM, according to sources. OPM Carrier Letter Requesting Enrollment Data: Late last week OPM released a Carrier Letter indicating that all FEHB carriers will be required to submit seven years of enrollment data in an effort to create an FEHB Master Enrollment Index. Establishment of a secure connection with OPM is required by October 1, 2020 and the first transmission of data is required by January 1, 2021. Thereafter, submission will occur on a monthly basis.
Paid Parental Leave Proposed Rule Clears OMB: Text of the rule is not yet available, but the long-awaited proposed rule regarding paid parental leave cleared OMB on June 26. We can expect it to be published in the Federal Register soon. As a reminder, these benefits are expected to go into effect by October 1, 2020.
OPM Benefits Administration Letter Allowing Sixty-Day Limited Period for Changes to Existing FSAFEDS Elections: Beginning on July 1, 2020, FSAFEDS enrollees will have a 60-day window to make mid-year changes to their elections.
New Trump EO Urges Agencies to Prioritize Skills over College Degrees in Federal Hiring: Trump signed an Executive Order late last week requiring agencies to review and revise all job classification and qualification standards in the competitive service, looking for opportunities to prioritize skills over having a college degree. OPM will lead the effort.
Trump Administration Moves to Abolish OPM Despite Law Prohibiting It: AFGE reports on recent revelations that the White House was aware that the OPM merger with GSA was illegal and moved forward anyway. The union is calling on Congress to conduct oversight into the matter.
OPM Releases Results from 2019 Federal Employee Benefits Survey: Administered every 2-3 years, the FEBS asks Federal Employees questions about their level of satisfaction with the suite of federal benefits available to them, including FEHB.
Lawmakers Press CDC for Plan on Distributing COVID-19 Vaccine: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing this week with members of the coronavirus task force on safely reopening schools and workplaces. Top of mind to several senators was the lack of a comprehensive plan on vaccines from the CDC. CDC officials indicated that a plan is under development and will be available in the coming weeks.
FCC Boosts Rural Healthcare Funding by $198M, With Eye Toward Telehealth Expansion: Many small and remote providers are still in need of high-speed broadband, the FCC is responding my carrying forward unused funds from previous years to fill the gap.
HHS ‘Expects to Renew’ COVID-19 Emergency, Spokesman Says: A spokesperson from HHS tweeted on Monday night that the agency expects to renew the public health emergency which was set to expire later this month.
American Hospital Association Urges HHS to Maintain COVID-19 Flexibilities: In a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the AHA to temporarily extend certain waivers and make others permanent beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency. AHA recommends that telehealth flexibilities should be permanent.
After Delay, Republicans Turn to Next COVID-19 Package. Senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are expressing urgency about passing another stimulus package before the end of July. This comes after a period of inaction by Republicans, who had quickly dismissed the House-passed HEROES Act last month as a nonstarter. Democrats and Republicans have not reached agreement on the content of the next stage of COVID-19 relief, taking different positions on issues such as expanded unemployment support. Congress has just 11 days this month to pass a bill.
Senators Question COVID-19 Vaccine Price Controls. At a Thursday hearing, the Senate appropriations committee expressed concern about whether the government was doing enough to ensure that coronavirus vaccines developed with federal funds are affordable. Several Democrats charged the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) weakened language on pricing and patents in contracts the agency struck with manufacturers of candidate vaccines. Seven government grants for hundreds of millions of dollars for COVID-19 treatments apparently narrowed or remove boilerplate language designed to let the government assert authority over prices and production.
Indiana Approves Anthem’s Coronavirus Financial Relief Plan for Employers: The state of Indiana approved a plan from health insurer Anthem to provide COVID-19 relief to consumers and employers. Individuals will see credits ranging from 10-15% of their premium on their August bill. Dental plans will be discounted by 50% of the total premium.
Gilead Sets Price for COVID-19 Drug Remdesivir: The drug company will charge between $2,340 and $3,120 for a typical course of treatment. The price will vary depending on what kind of insurance coverage the patient has.
Humana to Offer Home COVID-19 Testing, Drive-Thru Testing at Walmart: Humana will offer in-home COVID-19 testing to its Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, Medicaid, and employer groups plans. Members will also have access to drive-thru testing at Walmart.
House Passes ACA Improvement Bill: On Monday, House Democrats passed a bill expanding the Affordable Care Act, underscoring the health care law’s central role in their campaign pitch and drawing sharp contrast with President Trump’s efforts to eliminate the entire law. The bill would expand the law’s subsidies for private health insurance, encourage hold-out red states to expand Medicaid and reverse Trump administration policies seen as undermining the Affordable Care Act. The bill also contains a requirement for the government to negotiate drug prices. It is expected to be shunned by the Republican-controlled Senate.
NAIC Announces Special Session on Race and Diversity in the Insurance Sector: As part of their virtual Summer National Meeting, NAIC has announced a session exploring the role of the NAIC and state insurance commissioners in addressing racially discriminatory practices in insurance products. The National Meeting will also address COVID-19.
Anthem Customers Can Now Ask Alexa about Their Health Plan Benefits: This marks the first time a health plan has offered access to plan information via Amazon’s voice assistant. Customers will be able to ask a variety of questions about their health benefits including progress towards meeting deductibles, the balance of their HRA/HAS, and out-of-pocket costs.