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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web.

Iowa News

Volunteers advocate for hospitals
Legislators and hospital advocates may have a way to head off further Medicaid cuts during the next fiscal year. The Iowa Hospital Association is lobbying for a hospital provider assessment that would tax large hospitals to raise more revenue for the Medicaid program, which would, in turn, draw federal matching funds at a rate of about $2 in federal funds for every dollar of state revenue. (Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil)

Harkin answers criticisms of health plan at Washington summit
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, spoke at today’s health care summit with the president in Washington, D.C. Harkin address criticism that they need to start over and develop a new health care bill. Harkin says they spent one year crafting this bill. (Radio Iowa)

Free dental clinic now offered in north Iowa
The North Iowa Dental Clinic for the Uninsured and Underinsured is operating half-days as staffing permits. It is located at Mercy Cheslea Creek, 1501 Fourth St. S.W., said LeAnn Eckhardt, RN, clinical leader for Mercy Family Health Line. The free clinic is provided through a partnership of Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, North Iowa Area Community Action Organization and North Iowa dental professionals, Eckhardt said.

Lawyers say hospital likely to escape liability in Becker case
A Waterloo hospital and psychiatrist probably could not be held legally liable for releasing mental patient Mark Becker the day before he shot and killed coach Ed Thomas, two Iowa lawyers said this week. Clive attorney George LaMarca said the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that mental health professionals generally could not be sued for releasing patients who went on to injure someone. (Des Moines Register)

U.S. News

At health-care summit, Obama tells Republicans he’s eager to move ahead
President Obama declared Thursday that the time for debate over health-care reform has come to an end, closing an unusual seven-hour summit with congressional leaders by sending a clear message that Democrats will move forward to pass major legislation with or without Republican support. (Washington Post)

Summit had no shortage of factual malpractice
At the president’s health care summit at Blair House – all six-plus hours of it – there were some factual missteps in the discussion. (Newsweek)

Race is on to pin blame for high health care costs
Insurers contend that they must pass on ever-higher bills from hospitals and doctors. Hospitals say they are struggling with more uninsured patients, demands by doctors for top salaries, and underpayments from Medicare and Medicaid. And doctors say they are strong-armed by insurance monopolies and hampered by medical malpractice costs. (Wall Street Journal)

Blue Cross of Illinois parent to discuss premium increases
The parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois has been summoned with other health insurance giants to Washington next week to discuss premium increases with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (Chicago Tribune)

A hospital in Harlem is studying its future
Like St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village, North General is trying to restructure itself to avoid closing and has reached out to potential partners and the state for money to keep going, officials said on Thursday. (New York Times)

Violence concerns Colorado hospital administrators
The Colorado Hospital Association wants to increase the punishment for harming an emergency worker, like a doctor, nurse or paramedic. The organization has been making an appeal to local lawmakers. “I never know what I’m going to walk into, anytime I walk into a room,” said Dr. David Rosenberg, an emergency physician at a Denver area hospital. (KMGH)

Immigrants sue state over exclusion from health care
Massachusetts’ exclusion of thousands of legal immigrants from state-subsidized health coverage is unconstitutional and should be struck down by the courts, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday by several of the affected immigrants. (Boston Globe)

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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web.

Iowa News

Our neighbor: a tireless advocate
Ken Petersen has been telling legislators what to do for more than 25 years. Petersen, 86, has served as a volunteer advocate for several organizations and was one of more than 100 southwest Iowa hospital volunteers who attended the Iowa Hospital Association Legislative Day Wednesday in Des Moines. (Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil)

Waukee nurse finds tough, grateful patients in Haiti
Brenda McGraw is a registered nurse who works as the Des Moines emergency management coordinator for Mercy Medical Center. She also is a member of federal and state disaster medical assistance teams, which provide emergency medical assistance wherever help is needed. (Des Moines Register)

Law may open door to clinical trials
University of Iowa Health Care cancer experts are hopeful a new Iowa law, signed by Gov. Culver on Tuesday, will encourage more cancer patients to take part in clinical trials. The law requires private health insurance companies in Iowa to cover the cost of routine medical care for people with cancer who wish to take part in clinical trials. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

The Sammy Project helps families remember lost little ones
Torri Jenn and a few other photographers create photo albums for families of stillborns at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. A stillbirth occurs when a baby dies more than five months into the pregnancy, but the mother still gives birth to her child. (KCRG)

U.S. News

At health care session, Obama stresses areas of agreement
Mr. Obama, speaking to lawmakers from his seat at the table they shared, not from a podium or with a teleprompter, used his opening remarks to make the case that reforming the health care system is critical to the nation’s economy. He made no opening bids, but instead called on the two parties to abandon their talking points and engage in a real unscripted discussion, even as he conceded that it might not result in a bridging of the deep philosophical divide between them. (New York Times)

Poll: Health care provisions popular but overall bills unpopular
Although the overall health care reform bills passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate are unpopular, many of the provisions in the existing bills are extremely popular, even among Republicans, according to a new national poll. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday also indicates that only a quarter of the public want Congress to stop all work on health care, with nearly three quarters saying lawmakers should pass some kind of reform. (CNN)

Lawmakers lay into Wellpoint over rates
The issue of sharp price jumps isn’t going away, as evidence mounts that double-digit percentage increases aren’t unique to California. On Tuesday, Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) asked Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, a nonprofit in Iowa and South Dakota, to explain premium jumps of up to 22%. A spokesman said the company recognized the increases were difficult for customers but that rising medical costs necessitated them. (Wall Street Journal)

Rising health care premiums prompt calls for more regulations in state, Washington
A typical family plan in Connecticut sold through an employer costs about $14,500 — an estimate based on the Kaiser Family Foundation’s report on 2009 prices and this year’s rates of growth. That’s fueling outrage here and elsewhere, especially since rates for individuals — people who buy coverage on their own rather than through employers or other groups — have seen their rates explode by 50 percent over three years, in many cases. (Hartford Courant)

Doctors group to focus on one hospital
Massachusetts’ largest independent doctors group is curtailing referrals to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a move it says is designed to better coordinate care of patients and reduce costs. (Boston Globe)

Snow day at the hospital
For hospital staff, snow day rules are the opposite of what they are for most people. The focus is not on an unexpected vacation but on work: getting to the hospital and doing our jobs despite linen shortages, short staffing in the cafeteria, slow-moving ambulances, dwindling supplies and doctors and nurses unable to show up at all. (New York Times)

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Click on this photo to see it and other images from Legislative Day.

IHA hosted another very successful Legislative Day yesterday in Des Moines, with more than 600 hospital advocates filling the Polk County Convention Complex and then streaming to the Capitol to meet with legislators. 

The group heard an outstanding speaker, Iowa State University Political Science Professor Steffen Schmidt, known as “Dr. Politics,” who reminded advocates that they should not let cynicism about the political process ruin their morally powerful effort to improve the state and national health care system. 

IHA President and CEO Kirk Norris captured the spirit of “e pluribus unum” – from many, one – in his message of strength through unity.  

And as he briefed advocates on the issues of the day, IHA Senior Vice President Greg Boattenhamer showed how Iowa hospitals have stepped up to the plate to help the state overcome its budget difficulties through a provider assessment plan that would pump $65 million into Medicaid. 

Legislative Day is hugely important for Iowa hospitals as it connects advocates one-to-one with their legislators and reminds legislators of the broad-based support Iowa hospitals have in their communities and throughout the state.  

By participating in Legislative Day, these advocates tell the “hospital story,” inform their legislators and show them that hospitals deserve the same support at the Statehouse as they receive in their communities.

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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web.

Iowa News

Virginia Gay Hospital opens new outpatient clinic
The next major step in Virginia Gay Hospital’s expansion and renovation project opened its doors Monday, as the hospital’s expanded outpatient clinic began serving patients. (Cedar Valley Daily Times)

Defibrillators in every Cedar Rapids police car
St. Luke’s Health Care Foundation donated 50 defibrillators to the Police Department on Tuesday. Police Chief Greg Graham said this donation is important because police officers are also first responders. The donation is part of St. Luke’s Heart Safe Community project. (KCRG)

Mandate hospitals report all medical errors
Allowing hospitals to voluntarily report such important information to a nongovernmental entity has not worked in Iowa. It’s time for lawmakers to finally mandate the reporting of not only infections, but all medical errors, by all hospitals. (Des Moines Register)

U.S. News

Democrats on track to revive healthcare overhaul
On the eve of President Obama’s planned healthcare summit, Democratic lawmakers are increasingly confident that they can resurrect their sweeping overhaul legislation after weeks of uncertainty about whether they could overcome the unified opposition of Republicans. (Los Angeles Times)

Republicans plan to stress private-sector alternatives to the president’s plan
Republicans are preparing to use Thursday’s White House health-care summit to sell their own ideas for using the private marketplace to expand coverage and reduce costs, but they remain wary of fumbling away what they believe is an advantage on the issue heading into this year’s critical midterm elections. (Washington Post)

Impact of bipartisan summit to be felt beyond health care
Lights. Camera. Traction. That’s what President Obama will be seeking Thursday at a televised summit with Republicans and Democrats on his stalled effort to revamp America’s health care system. (USA Today)

The Democrats’ 2010 health reform plan evokes 1993 republican bill
In 1993, at the height of President Bill Clinton’s health care reform initiative, Sen. John Chafee, R-R.I., along with 19 other Republicans and two Democrats, put forth a bill which was considered the major GOP proposal. One of the co-sponsors was then-Sen. Dave Durenberger, R-Minn. The bill, just like the Democratic version, never passed. But in a sense, it’s been revived this year. (Kaiser Health News)

Anthem Blue Cross plans to go ahead with rate hikes in California
Reporting from Sacramento – Executives from California health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross, under fire for scheduled rate hikes of up to 39 percent, insisted Tuesday that their premiums were fair and legal, and they told lawmakers they expected that the increases would go forward. (Los Angeles Times)

Hospital leaders give strategies for removing ED bottlenecks
Appointing emergency room “czars” to manage hospital beds, placing patients in recliners if they didn’t need an ED bed, and contracting with whole physician groups to take responsibility for ED calls are three strategies that can help hospitals remove bottlenecks that waste acute care resources. (HealthLeaders Media)

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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and Web.

Iowa News

Study: City hospitals have $232M economic impact
Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City and St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center generate 2,763 jobs that add more than $232 million to Siouxland’s economy each year, according to a newly released study by the Iowa Hospital Association. In addition, St. Luke’s and Mercy employees spend more than $103 million on retail sales and contribute $6.1 million in state sales tax revenue, the study found. (Sioux City Journal)

U.S., state legislators face health care bill, budget quandary
Health care is a front-burner item for both national and state lawmakers as Congressional leaders prepare to discuss President Barack Obama’s new health proposal Thursday and the Iowa Legislature looks for funds to make up for Medicare and Medicaid shortfalls. (Ames Tribune)

Union leader’s use of ‘scab’ riles state employee
A union leader inadvertently sent e-mail that calls a state worker a derogatory term, and the employee says that hints at the union attitude toward people who are not union members. State worker Joe Anderson said Monday that he thinks that even if nonunion workers are required by law to help pay their “fair share” for certain union services, they would still face discrimination from union officials. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa receives an “A” for addressing children’s dental health needs
The Pew Center on the States released a new report called “The Cost of Delay” that grades how well each state addresses the dental health care needs of its children. Iowa received an “A” grade. (IowaPolitics)

U.S. News

Obama offers new health-care reform proposal
President Obama signaled his determination to forge ahead with a Democratic vision of comprehensive health-care reform as he unveiled on Monday an ambitious proposal that would extend coverage to 31 million people, raise taxes on the wealthy and ratchet up regulations on insurers. (Washington Post)

Medical insurers slam proposed supervision
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s trade group, said that double-digit premium increases are a sign of higher medical costs, which it said insurers often merely pass on. Karen Ignagni, AHIP’s president, said hospital and doctor bills are 40% to 50% higher than last year, owing in part to biotechnology drugs. (Wall Street Journal)

Helping older nurses stay in the workforce
The nation’s graying nurse workforce is a worrisome trend. The last big survey from the HRSA Bureau of Health Professions found in 2004 that the average RN was 46.8 years old, and that nurses younger than 30 made up only 8 percent of the workforce. That means a large proportion of the workforce is nearing retirement, although the struggling economy has given healthcare a break. (HealthLeaders Media)

Ex-LA hospital owner convicted of Medicare fraud gets prison for recruiting Skid Row patients
The U.S. attorney’s office says 75-year-old Robert Bourseau was sentenced Monday and must pay $4.1 million in restitution for defrauding Medicare and Medi-Cal. Bourseau and Dr. Rudra Sabaratnum co-owned the now-defunct City of Angels Medical Center. Authorities say they paid a recruiter $500,000 between 2004 and 2007 to find homeless people, who received a small fee to undergo unnecessary hospital stays. (Los Angeles Times)

Miami serves as model in Medicare fraud crackdown
In December, federal authorities broke up a $40 million Medicare fraud scheme involving home health care services. Among those arrested was a family doctor who is charged with referring more than 1,200 Medicare recipients for home health services they didn’t need. It was big even by Miami standards. (Miami Herald)

Poll: one of four health care dollars spent on unnecessary medical care
One in four dollars spent on health care in America now pays for unnecessary tests and treatments that physicians order to keep from being sued, according to a new Gallup poll of the nation’s doctors released today by Jackson Healthcare and the Center for Health Transformation. (Fierce Healthcare)

Doctor training aided by drug industry cash
More than half of the nation’s medical residency programs to train doctors in internal medicine accepted financial support from the drug industry, even though three-fourths of the programs’ directors said accepting the aid was “not desirable,” a survey found. (New York Times)

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