OPM promotes health IT for its carriers

The Office of Personnel Management told its contracted carriers today that adoption of health IT requirements will be an element of its plan performance review within the next two to four years.

OPM will also highlight those health plans with health IT capabilities during the next period when federal employees may switch carriers, according to OPM's annual Federal Employee Health Benefits Program Carrier Letter, which OPM released today and GCN obtained.

The annual letter details OPM's policy goals and calls for proposals on how to implement them from its health benefit program carriers. This year's letter seeks more specific evidence that carriers are working toward health IT adoption.

Carriers should provide a business plan for this year and for 2007 for accelerating health IT at their health plan providers. OPM also wants to know how its carriers expanded health IT initiatives last year.

A number of carriers provide health benefits to 8 million federal employees and their families. OPM supports the adoption of health IT to improve the quality of health care for federal employees. The use of electronic health records and other health IT for federal employees, by their sheer numbers, would spur the market in the private sector, health IT experts have said.

'We expect carriers to work toward enhancing consumer education, offering personal health records, encouraging e-prescribing, linking disease management to HIT and ensuring compliance with federal privacy requirements,' said Nancy Kichak, associate director for strategic human resources policy, and Robert Danbeck, associate director of human resources products and services, both of whom signed the call letter dated today.

OPM will also provide additional information on its Web site during 'open season,' the annual period when federal employees may change health plans, on the health IT capabilities of participating plans so employees can take that into consideration when making their selection.

'OPM will highlight plans that are able to provide evidence of state-of-the-art HIT capabilities,' the letter said.

OPM also wants carriers to list more pricing information about provider costs on their Web sites to encourage transparency and quality.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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