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Culver and JudgeGovernor Chet Culver announced a new state Web site, recovery.iowa.gov, that will provide details and transparency to the $1.9 billion in federal stimulus money allocated to Iowa which includes millions for health care.

Culver said, “As governor, I am committed to making sure our state makes full use of the federal economic recovery program in order to benefit all Iowans. This Web site is one tool to help Iowans learn about the benefit of this important program, track the work underway to make the best use of these funds and provide accountability and transparency about this important effort.”

Nearly 30 percent ($550 million) of the total stimulus money will be coming in through increased federal matching dollars to Iowa’s Medicaid program. The increased federal funding will allow the state to shift dollars from Medicaid to other parts of the state’s struggling budget without making cuts to the Medicaid program.

2009-03-27_1027_recovery-iowa-gov1The Web site will track where the money is going, and the governor said it will be regularly updated with summaries of the estimated direct federal assistance to Iowa, tax benefits to individuals and businesses and links to state and federal agencies that relate to the economic recovery.

According to the governor’s released statement, the Web site will soon include a “dashboard” that will not only provide detailed information on the distribution of funds but also the economic impact of the funds.

A working group, comprised of two dozen state agencies, is currently reviewing federal rules and developing a plan on how Iowa can make the best use of these one-time stimulus funds. Other sites tracking stimulus funds at the federal level are www.hhs.gov/recovery and www.recovery.gov.

IHA will continue to monitor the stimulus package and provide information as it becomes available.

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logo-uiowa-ccomOn the third Thursday of March each year, Match Day ceremonies are held at 155 medical schools across the U.S as fourth year medical students receive their placements for residencies.

The University of Iowa had 143 students among its graduating class this year, 23 of whom will begin residencies at UI Hospitals and Clinics. An additional 11 students will take residencies within the state of Iowa, while the other 77% of graduates will leave the state.

Just under half of the UI students (47%) chose primary care specialties, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology. Emergency medicine and anesthesiology were the top two non-primary care specialties to receive matches.

See the Gazette’s story from yesterday for photos of student’s celebrating and their thoughts on the down economy’s effects on their jobs.

The entire list of this year’s match results are available at http://www.medicine.uiowa.edu/osac/MatchResults.html

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Twitter, the microblogging website that allows users to post status updates of 140 characters or less, is no longer a portal just for  technology geeks or internet stars. News agencies, nonprofits, celebrities and television shows are joining in droves, as is evident by the microblogging service generating 4 million unique visitors in the U.S. to its website in February 2009.

Chuck Grassley Twitter ProfileHowever, long before you could follow The Ellen Show or Ashton Kutcher on Twitter, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley was posting (also called “tweeting”) with the service while at events in Iowa (see Grassley’s first tweet from November 26, 2007).

Tweets from the Senator encompass what he is up to during the day and read as if he was holding a conversation one-on-one with his audience.

Whether it be “Ran in 45degree weather Tues morn. On way frigid iowa. Don’t LOL. TTYL” or Just finishd hour long meeting in Rep caucus w Obama. He was recd well. Good discusion on stimulus and recession,” Grassley uses the 140-character platform to inform his 4,900+ followers about current issues, upcoming appearances and his role as a representative of the state of Iowa.

In February 2009 Grassley made Politico.com’s list of “10 most influential D.C. Twitterers,” which is impressive considering the number of legislators now joining the flock in D.C. tweeting with their constituents.

Tweet Congress Tracks Legislators on Twitter

The number of Congress members using Twitter has grown so much that a website called Tweet Congress launched to help citizens track which of their legislators were on Twitter (and enables users to petition those who’ve not yet made the jump).

Of the seven legislators serving the state of Iowa, just three are active on Twitter, with Grassley greatly overshadowing the others in terms of followers, number of messages posted and time using the service.

Iowa Legislators on Twitter

Iowa Legislators NOT on Twitter

Follow the Iowa Hospital Association on Twitter

As IHA continues to stay on top of developing trends, we’ve also launched a Twitter account of our own (@iowahospital) to keep interested parties aware of relevant information and announcements.

You can visit our Twitter profile and read the latest updates, or create an account on Twitter and subscribe to our updates by clicking the “Follow” button on our Twitter profile.

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Building on the discussions held at the White House’s health care summit, President Obama announced a series of regional forums to be held across the country.  Iowa, along with California, Michigan, North Carolina and Vermont, has been selected to host a forum and continue the discussion on health care reform.

At the health care reform summit last week, President Obama told attendees, “The time for reform is now and these regional forums are some of the key first steps toward breaking the stalemate we have been stuck in for far too long.  The forums will bring together diverse groups of people all over the country who have a stake in reforming our health care system and ask them to put forward their best ideas about how we bring down costs and expand coverage for American families.”

The forum will be hosted by Iowa Governor Chet Culver and, according to a statement released by the White House, the dialogue will include “participants ranging from doctors to patients to providers to policy experts.  They will be open conversations with everyday Americans, local, state and federal elected officials both Democrat and Republican, as well as senior Obama administration officials.”

The Iowa event will be held in Des Moines on March 23 and is tentatively scheduled to be located at the Polk County Convention Complex.  The governor’s office has indicated that 200-500 individuals representing a wide variety of perspectives on the issue will be invited to attend.  The conference will begin with a video recorded by the president, a summary of the findings from the Health Care Community Discussions that took place in December and an overview of the discussion that took place at the White House Forum on Health Reform.

“The governor is thrilled that the White House has chosen Iowa to host one of these important health care meetings,” Culver spokesman Troy Price said.  “So many Iowans and Americans face challenges to accessing quality, affordable health care every single day.  Now they will be given an opportunity share those concerns.”

Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley have both indicated they plan to attend the forum.

A live video stream of the forum is intended to be available on the newly created Health and Human Services Web site at www.healthreform.gov so that the public can be involved in what is being discussed.

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The ill effects of the nation’s struggling economy are being felt by Iowa’s hospitals, according to data gathered by the Iowa Hospital Association.

Comparing data from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the same period in 2007 shows declines in virtually all service areas, from home health visits (down 5.2 percent) to inpatient surgeries (down 2.2 percent).

More significantly, charity care and bad debt increased 13.3 percent, meaning Iowa hospitals are treating more patients who are unable to pay for their care.  Nearly $72 million in charity care and bad debt was provided during the last three months of 2008, a record amount for a single quarter.

Such losses have also impacted hospitals’ already thin margins.  Operating margins have fallen from 2.8 percent for the final quarter of 2007 to .8 percent in 2008.  But when investment losses of hospital reserves are calculated in, margins that were at 5.5 percent in 2007 slid to -9.6 percent at the end of 2008.  This equates to an overall loss of more than $160 million in the fourth quarter alone.

In all, 45 percent of Iowa hospitals lost money on operations and 45 percent of Iowa hospitals lost money on total revenue in the fourth quarter of 2008.  This compares to 45 percent losing money on operations and 20 percent on total revenue in 2007.

“Just like other businesses, hospitals are subject to the hardships of the economic downturn,” said IHA President/CEO Kirk Norris.  “But on top of those issues, hospitals are expected to provide an essential public service, every day and at all hours, at a time when a growing number of individuals are in need.”

Also unlike other businesses, hospitals experience huge losses because Medicare and Medicaid, which together make up about 60 percent of Iowa hospital revenue, do not cover the full cost of providing care to their beneficiaries.  In 2008, Iowa hospitals lost more than $275 million to the two programs.

“As political leaders in Des Moines and Washington, D.C., look for ways to address and stabilize the economy, it is important they remember the burden government health care programs already place on hospitals and physicians,” Norris said.  “Health care is a social and economic cornerstone for Iowa and the nation, now more than ever.”

Hospitals in Iowa employ more than 72,000 people and have a $5.8 billion impact on the state’s economy.  In counties where they are located, hospitals are typically among the largest employers.

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