Weekly Policy Updates
Friday, August 7, 2020
TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK
FEHB & OPM
Recent Employee Reorganizations Raise Questions about OPM-GSA Merger, Union Says: Over 20 employees at OPM have been reorganized, raising questions about back-door strategies to achieve the Trump Administration’s desired merger with GSA. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has raised flags after learning that some of these employees were told they would be working on shared projects with GSA. The link above includes both an article and a podcast describing the recent personnel changes. The employees were moved to a newly created Human Capital Modernization Directorate tasked with enhancing the “collection, utilization, and accessibility of the critical human capital management data that drives insightful decision-making for Federal agencies across the government.”
Trump Administration Issues Guidance on Overhauling Federal Hiring to Emphasize Skills Over Degrees: OPM recently released guidance for Federal agencies related to a recent Executive Order on modernizing the assessment of Federal job candidates. By August 7, agencies must identify a point of contact who will work with OPM to implement the order.
Congressional COVID-19 Relief Negotiations Likely to Extend Past Friday: Despite a tentative Friday deadline, Democrats and the White House remain far from reaching an agreement on the next COVID-19 relief package, with key issues including state and local money and boosted federal unemployment benefits. With no deal on a coronavirus relief package in sight, most senators are expected to head home Thursday, leaving negotiations up to the White House and party leaders. On Tuesday, President Trump said that he was reviewing his options for unilateral action to delay the collection of federal payroll taxes, reinstitute an expired eviction moratorium, and extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits using unspent money already appropriated by Congress. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) predicted that White House negotiators, Democratic leaders and Senate Republicans will reach a deal “in the near future.”
COVID-19 Caused Hospital ED Visits to Dive More than 40%: Visit rates fell between 41.5% and 63.5% across hospitals studied in a report recently released in JAMA Internal Medicine. At the same time, hospital admissions from the ER rose by as much as 150%.
Johnson & Johnson Pledges 100M Coronavirus Vaccines Doses to US for $10 Each: If approved by the FDA, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be made available at $10 a dose in a deal penned with the government. Johnson & Johnson will receive $1billion in funding.
Executive Order on Improving Rural Health and Telehealth Access: the order would permanently expand some telehealth services beyond the COVID-19 pandemic in support of improving accessibility in rural areas. Accompanying regulations have been released by CMS.
White House Objects to Federal Personnel Provisions Passed in the House. Last week, the White House issued a Statement of Administrative Policy stating its intent to veto the House-passed minibus spending bill—which included funding for Defense, Commerce, Justice, Energy, Treasury Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. In doing so, the White House specifically rejected the bill’s provisions aimed at preventing the proposed merger of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) with the General Services Administration, reinforcing its goal of structural and organizational reform at OPM.
Teladoc to Buy Livongo in $18.5B Deal: The companies announced the deal on Wednesday.
Mental Health Start Up Ginger Lands $50M Backed by Cigna, Kaiser Permanente: Ginger offers behavioral health coaching, therapy and psychiatry via smart phones. The company has seen significant spikes in utilization since the beginning of the pandemic and has plans to expand their services to adolescents and non-English speakers.
Oscar Expands into Four New States, Touts New Virtual Primary Care Option: Oscar is expanding their presence in several states, bringing the total to 19 states and 47 separate markets next year. The health plan will also sell a low-cost virtual primary care option that includes unlimited no-cost virtual visits with a primary care physician and urgent care.