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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Acting Director Dan G. Blair Opens FEHB Carrier Conference with Directive for Enhancing Existing Health Benefits and Programs for the Federal Community

Washington, D.C. -- Dan G. Blair, Acting Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, recently outlined the Administration's vision of health care for federal employees and retirees, and encouraged health plans to consider benefits enhancements in mental health and smoking-cessation programs.

Speaking at the opening of the 2005 Federal Employees Health Benefits Carrier Conference in Washington, Blair also challenged health-plan and industry representatives to take the lead in fulfilling President Bush's Health Information Technology initiative. Once implemented, recipients of care under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program would be included in a health-care infrastructure, part of which would maintain electronic copies of medical records and allow doctors to electronically send prescription orders to pharmacists.

"Better information technology is essential to a health-care system which puts the needs of the patient first," said Blair. "The use of electronic prescribing has the potential to reduce prescription errors, ensure medication safety and save health-care dollars, while insuring patient privacy rights are protected." He added the creation of electronic medical records also reduces errors, paperwork and misdiagnosis.

Blair's remarks previewed the agency's annual Call Letter to FEHB-participating carriers. The Call Letter is a blueprint of OPM's priorities and health-care enhancements for carriers to consider.

Last year, OPM introduced High Deductible Health Plans and Health Savings Accounts into the FEHB Program to expand consumer choice. Blair said the agency is working to implement the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Benefits Enhancement Act of 2004.

OPM and America's Health Insurance Plans co-sponsored the FEHB Carrier Conference.

As was the case last year, OPM is not requiring new benefit mandates in 2006. However, carriers are being asked to continue their emphasis on care management programs for individuals with chronic health conditions. The FEHB Program currently offers comprehensive mental health treatment, and Blair has asked carriers to enhance or expand care management programs to include depression. He also has asked for enhanced smoking-cessation programs.

"OPM's job is to help build a high-quality and diverse work force which America needs to guarantee freedom, promote prosperity and ensure the security of our great nation," said Blair. "Together, we have made the FEHB the best health program in the world, and a model for all health plans."

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Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.


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