TOP LINKS FOR THE WEEK ENDING JUNE 26, 2020
FEHB & OPM
White House Concealed Finding That OPM Merger was Illegal, Report Says: The Justice Department reportedly determined last year that a White House plan to dismantle OPM was illegal, but the White House withheld this information from Congress.
Rep. Spano Introduces the ‘Federal Agency Sunset Act’ with Florida Senator Rick Scott: The Federal Agency Sunshine Act, H.R. 7226, would create a temporary federal commission tasked with finding inefficiencies in the federal government and identifying federal agency functions that can be relegated to the private sector. The bill would allow the Commission to make recommendations as to whether identified agencies should be continued, abolished, or reorganized. A “fast track” process for Joint Resolutions drafted by the Commission would require them to be introduced in the Senate and House within 60 days of being proposed to Congress and brought to the floor no later than 90 days after introduction.
Note: this could have implications for OPM, given the White House effort to abolish the agency.
Coronavirus: US Hits Record High in Daily Cases: The US hit a record high with 40,000 coronavirus infections on Thursday. The US now has the most confirmed cases of any country with 2.4 million infections confirmed and over 122,000 deaths.
Republican Senators Oppose Trump’s Plan to End Federal Support for Testing. On Thursday, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) protesting the administration’s plans to cut back federal support of drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites in Texas and other states. News of the plan to end federal support of the community-based testing sites broke this week after President Trump said at a political rally in Tulsa that he has asked officials to slow down testing. HHS has pushed back on concerns, stating that although direct federal support for testing sites would wind-down, this will not affect the testing sites, which will now be operated by states.
CVS Launches Return-to-Work Service, Including In-House COVID-19 Testing Option: The “Return Ready” program is aimed at US employers and universities. CVS offers point-of-care diagnostic tests, which give results in 15 minutes. Employees can be tested onsite with CVS medical staff or at one of CVS’ drive-thru testing locations.
As Employers Continue to Expand Mental Health Supports, COVID-19 is Making the Care for Those Investments: A new survey released by the Business Group on Health indicates that 95% of jumbo, large, and midsized firms offer emotional and mental well-being supports as part of their wellness programs. 69% of these firms indicated they were offering these benefits via a virtual platform.
Female, Younger Patients More Likely to Choose Telehealth Visit Pre-Pandemic, Study Finds: In research conducted before COVID-19, female and younger adults aged 18-44 were found to be more likely to elect a telemedicine visit. The study analyzes data from 1.1 million Kaiser Permanente Northern California patients.
New Survey: First Look at Health Coverage in the COVID Recession Finds More Uninsured, But Many Furloughed Workers Holding onto Employer Coverage: The Commonwealth Fund released results from a recent survey of U.S. adults regarding health insurance during the pandemic. The survey found that 2 out of 5 adults reporting job disruption continued to be ensured via an employer-sponsored program, either from their own employer or that of their spouse; one in five indicated that they and/or their spouse are now uninsured. Hispanic workers and middle- and low- income workers experienced the highest rate of furloughs and layoffs.
Obamacare Must ‘Fall,’ Trump Administration Tells Supreme Court: Late Thursday (6/25) night the Trump Administration, in a filing to the Supreme Court, reaffirmed its position that the Affordable Care Act is illegal following the 2017 repeal of the individual tax penalty. According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, If the ACA were to be wiped out, over 23 million Americans would lose their health insurance and 130 million individuals with pre-existing conditions will be left at risk.
Lambda Legal Sues HHS to Block Effort to Gut Protections for LGBTQ Patients: Lambda Legal, a national organization aimed at protecting civil rights for LGBTQ people, has filed a lawsuit against HHS for the recently released Section 1557 Final Rule.
House Voting on ACA Improvement Bill on Monday. On Wednesday, House Democrats introduced a bill designed to expand the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill, which is scheduled for a vote on Monday, includes Democratic priorities like expanding the health law’s subsidies to make premiums more affordable and increasing federal Medicaid funding to encourage the remaining states to expand Medicaid. The latter provisions are intended to encourage non-Medicaid expansion states to expand Medicaid. The measure is expected to be a non-starter for the Republican-controlled the Senate. Its timing coincides with an important filing deadline for the Trump administration, which has taken the side of states in a legal challenge to the ACA that is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Senate Democrats Sink Police Reform Bill. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats blocked a key procedural vote in advancing Republicans' police reform plan. Although Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), and Angus King (I-ME) voted with all Republicans to proceed, most Democrats voted down the measure, stating concerns that the bill does not go far enough and opposition by civil rights groups. Unlike Democrat proposals, the Senate bill does not ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants; nor does it limit qualified immunity. The House is expected to pass its version of police reform legislation on Thursday, but the prospects for bipartisan agreement are uncertain.
Federal Judge Sides with HHS on Hospital Price Transparency Rule: On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled in favor of HHS in a lawsuit brought by the American Hospital Association requesting to block the implementation of a rule requiring hospitals to disclose their negotiated prices.
CMS Creates New Office of Burden Reduction and Health Informatics: The new office is tasked with reducing the number of hours and costs clinicians incur for CMS-mandated compliance.