Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, August 21, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK
FEHB & OPM
OPM’s Paid Parental Leave Rule is Released: the long-awaited parental leave rule was released by OPM last week. Published as an interim final rule, it will be effective on October 1, 2020 and public comments are due by September 9, 2020. Federal employees may only take paid parental leave of up to 12 weeks after the birth or placement of a child and may only do so within a 12-month window of that birth or placement.
SBA’s Cavallo to Take Modernization Successes to OPM: Guy Cavallo, current deputy chief information officer at the Small Business Administration, will be joining OPM as principal deputy CIO in mid-September. At SBA, Cavallo was responsible for IT modernization efforts and he hopes to bring this expertise to address OPM’s outdated IT systems.
PPE Shortage Could Last Years Without Strategic Plan, Experts Warn: Logistical challenges remain seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, putting adequate supplies of personal protective equipment at risk for years to come. Hospitals continue to report rolling shortages for supplies ranging from specialized beds to disposable hospital gowns to disinfectant wipes. Manufacturers indicate that strategic government intervention is needed.
Employers Expect Virtual Care to Increase Worker Healthcare Costs: The Business Group on Health’s annual survey of employers indicates that employers expect to pay 5.3% higher for health coverage next year. Growing virtual care costs were frequently cited for the expected rise. Over 80% of employers believe that telehealth will be a significant healthcare delivery model in the future.
Fitbit Posts Early Findings Showing its Trackers Can Identify Cases of COVID-19 Before Symptoms Take Hold: Fitbit has enrolled over 100,000 users in a study to see if its wearable activity tracker could identify COVID-19 patients. By monitoring hear rate, sleep patterns, breathing, and physical activity, Fitbit was able to identify nearly half of COVID-19 cases. While the false positive rate was high, the company hopes to encourage earlier testing.
Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Obamacare on Nov. 10, A Week After Election Day: The Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act one week after Election Day. A decision in the case is expected by June of 2021. The case was brought by Republican AGs arguing that the individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional when the penalty was set at $0 by a Trump Administration tax overhaul.
USPS Postpones ‘Longstanding’ Operational Changes Until After Election Day: The Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said that he will continue to approve overtime and will not reduce post office hours until after the presidential election.
Systematic Racism is a Public Health Crisis: The National Institute for Health Care Management released an infographic illustrating the relationship between long-standing social and economic inequities and health disparities affecting Black Americans, over the life course and in relation to COVID-19.
Senate GOP to Release “Skinny” COVID-19 Package with Postal Funding. This week, Senate Republicans signaled that they are preparing to unveil a smaller coronavirus relief package, which is expected to include billions in new funds for the Postal Service. In addition to $10 billion in post office funding, the Republican proposal is expected to include liability protections, a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit, another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding, and additional money for coronavirus testing and schools. Since earlier this month, negotiations between House Democrats and the White House on a larger coronavirus bill have stalemated. Democrats have maintained they don’t want a skinny or piecemeal package.
News about the Senate package comes as House Democrats ready their own $25 billion Postal Service funding bill, in which a vote is expected Saturday.
On Wednesday, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said the Senate will likely be motivated to work towards a deal on coronavirus relief shortly after next week’s Republican National Convention, with a deal hopefully soon after Labor Day.
Senators Investigate Prescription Drug Delays Through Postal Service. On Thursday, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bob Casey (D-PA) on Thursday announced an investigation into delays in mail-order drug prescriptions, which they attributed to “sabotage” of the United States Postal Service by the Trump administration. The senators cited reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer of “significant delays” in mail delivery across the region, as well as reports of seniors waiting days for vital medications. Demand has significantly increased for mail-order prescriptions as a result of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. The senators also wrote to the five major pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers to request information on the number of mail-in prescriptions they have filled each month of 2020. The House Energy and Commerce Committee this week launched a similar investigation into prescription delays.
Cleveland Clinic, Aetna Team Up on Insurance Plan, ACO: The Cleveland Clinic and Aetna are forming an accountable care organization and launching a co-braded health insurance plan for employers in northeast Ohio. Nationwide, Aetna plans will offer virtual second opinions from Cleveland Clinic providers.
Payers Win Again, Court Rules Trump Admin Violated Law in Axing ACA Cost-Sharing Payments: On Friday, a federal court rules that insurers are owed subsidies mandated by the ACA and that the Trump Administration violated the law when it halted payments in 2017.