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

Iowa News

Hospital infection data go unreported
The public-reporting issue has become increasingly prominent nationally, along with concern about deadly infections that can spread in health care settings. Hospitals provide prime breeding grounds for the most dangerous bacteria, because of the heavy presence of antibiotic medications. The drugs kill most germs, but a few survive and can breed new lines of drug-resistant bacteria. (Des Moines Register)

Wheaton doctors in Iowa also fed up
Doctors from a Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare hospital in Iowa say they are frustrated with Wheaton management just like doctors at Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints. “We’re ready to bring a bus of people to Milwaukee to walk in front of (Wheaton president and CEO John) Oliverio’s office,” said Anthony Leo, chief of staff at Wheaton’s Mercy Hospital of Franciscan Sisters in Oelwein, Iowa. (Racine Journal Times)

Surgeons to be honored at Heart Ball
Dr. Keith Allen and Dr. Richard Gitter, both with Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, will be recognized for their years of experience and achievements in the areas of heart disease and stroke at the Siouxland American Heart and Stroke Association’s 15th annual “Rendezvous Around the World” heart ball on Saturday evening at the Marina Inn. (Sioux City Journal)

U.S. News

Obama health plan costs $950 billion over 10 years
Trying to revive languishing health-care legislation, the White House proposed Monday that a tax on high-end health plans be delayed for all workers, not just those in unions, and suggested new taxes to help make up for the lost revenue. (Wall Street Journal)

Obama helped bring on the healthcare backlash
By leaving the overhaul in the hands of Congress, he has given the public a full view of how lawmakers do business. The result is an anti-Washington mood that Republicans have tapped into. (Los Angeles Times)

Governors focus on health care reform
Gov. Joe Manchin (D- WVa.) discusses the environmental and health care reform efforts in his state, while Gov. Gary Herbert (R-Utah), says he thinks states should take the lead in health care issues. “States have the ability to be nimble,” Herbert says. “Having 50 different approaches will probably give us a chance to find success.” The two lawmakers are in Washington, D.C., for the National Governors Association meeting. (National Public Radio)

After Pawlenty’s veto of health care bill, can new House minority leader sustain it?
Kurt Zellers doesn’t act like a man with a new job herding cats. But as the new House minority leader, the Maple Grove Republican is charged with doing almost exactly that. And after Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday vetoed an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill rescuing a health care program aimed at the poorest Minnesotans, Zellers quickly vowed to keep his members in line and sustain the veto. (St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Saving Haiti
Pediatrician Brett Hendel-Paterson spent 40 sleepless hours getting to Leogane, Haiti, near the epicenter of the earthquake. For a week, he did what he could to help. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Doctor shortage fuels nurses’ push for an expanded role
Nursing leaders say large numbers of practitioners like Cavall will be needed to fill gaps in primary care left by an increasing shortage of doctors, a problem that would intensify if Congress extends health insurance to millions more Americans. Advocates say nurse practitioners have the extra education and training needed to perform a variety of services, including physical exams, diagnosis and treatment of common ailments and prescribing drugs. (Kaiser Health News)

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The editorial page of the Boston Globe provides a brief item on the importance of evidence-based medicine with regard to reducing costs and improving health care.  The editorial points to two examples: A 2007 study that showed that drugs work just as well as stents in treating chest pain and a 2002 study that showed generic drugs work just as well as name brands. 

The central point of the editorial is that neither of these cost-saving approaches has been as widely adopted as one might expect.  Why?  Because the insurance companies – both public and private – have provided few, if any, incentives to adopt them. 

This is yet another illustration of how health care spending is being driven by something other than value.  Instead, it is driven by a system that rewards quantity – a physician who does more testing and procedures will be paid, even if those tests were not the best or possibly even unnecessary. 

The Globe emphasizes evidence-based best practices and notes that “Medicare should have the authority to weigh both comparative effectiveness and cost in steering doctors to the best practices.”  In other words, Effectiveness + Cost = Value. 

In Iowa, we are fortunate to have a health care system that, particularly in the community hospital setting, is dominated by a culture of patient-centered primary care.  This means care tends to be provided in a coordinated fashion with the primary care physician at its foundation.  Patient-centered primary care works when best practices are emphasized.  And when that happens, real value in health care is the result.  

This is why Medicare would save billions of dollars every year if it demanded, as the Globe editorial suggests, the same value from others that Iowa already provides.

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

Iowa News

Iowa lawmakers want to know why insurers raise rates
State lawmakers want to press Iowa health insurers to release more details to help lawmakers decide whether rate increases are justified. This week, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer, said it would raise rates an average of 18 percent for about 80,000 Iowans who buy their own health insurance. (Des Moines Register)

Loebsack: Health reform moving ahead
Forget what the polls and pundits are saying against health reform and Congress as a whole. Rep. Dave Loebsack, a Democrat, said from what he hears around the 2nd District, people still want Congress to move forward on health reform and act in a bipartisan way. (Burlington Hawk Eye)

Hospital creates impact on local economy
Keokuk County Health Center generates 89 jobs that add $2,750,000 directly to local economy, according to the latest study by the Iowa Hospital Association. The benefit doesn’t stop here however. Each dollar put into the local economy has a multiplier effect as it makes its way into area businesses to pay salaries, supplies and other costs. The net effect of this is another $1,400,000 into the local economy. (Sigourney News-Review)

MHP improves patient care with new technology
Mahaska Health Partnership is improving security and accessibility of patient information with electronic medical records and single sign-on technology. (Oskaloosa Herald)

Flood risk rising for Cedar River; Corps dropping Coralville Lake level early
The risk of the Cedar River flooding in Cedar Rapids this spring has increased dramatically in the past three weeks, according to a flood forecast released today by the National Weather Service. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

U.S. News

As demand for care swells, many states cutting Medicaid
Facing relentless fiscal pressure and exploding demand for government health care, virtually every state is making or considering substantial cuts in Medicaid, even as Democrats push to add 15 million people to the rolls. (Boston Globe)

Millions of seniors face 14 percent premium increase for popular Medicare Advantage plans
A study to be released Friday by a major consulting firm found that premiums for Medicare Advantage plans offering medical and prescription drug coverage jumped 14.2 percent on average in 2010, after an increase of only 5.2 percent the previous year. Some 8.5 million elderly and disabled Americans are in the plans, which provide more comprehensive coverage than traditional Medicare. (Associated Press)

Obama to offer health bill to ease impasse as bipartisan meeting approaches
President Obama will put forward comprehensive health care legislation intended to bridge differences between Senate and House Democrats ahead of a summit meeting with Republicans next week, senior administration officials and Congressional aides said Thursday. (New York Times)

Votes, then a veto, for health care
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty turns down an extension of medical coverage for the poor, even after it passed the Legislature with overwhelming support. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Gawande disputes criticism of Dartmouth data
Brigham and Women’s surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande garnered wide attention last year for his New Yorker article exploring why McAllen, Texas, has one of the highest medical costs in the nation despite health needs similar to lower-cost cities. Now he is disputing a New York Times article that calls into question the Dartmouth data on which it was based. (Boston Globe)

Missing HSA money raises oversight questions
Thousands of people are learning that money they squirreled away in health savings accounts is gone. Many thought the money was sitting safely in banks. But now it appears it was stolen. Federal investigators have released few details, but all the cases have one thing in common: a Chicago company called Canopy Financial. (National Public Radio)

The Smart Set
Much of the buzz about digital future of health care has centered on electronic health records: both Google and Microsoft have developed platforms for medical providers. But one of the biggest advancements in health care might come on a very small card. Could medical information stored on wallet-size cards cure the country’s health-care woes? (Newsweek)

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

Iowa News

Legislative strike a big home run for Clarinda MHI center
A single legislative strike may prove to be a political home run for Clarinda. The local fight to save the Clarinda Mental Health Institute (MHI) from possible closure took a dramatic turn on Friday afternoon, Feb. 12, when the Iowa House of Representatives approved a second degree amendment to the government reorganization bill that removed the entire section of that bill dealing with mental health institutes and the delivery of mental health services in Iowa. (Shenandoah Valley News)

Hospital work is nearly on schedule
The new Crawford County Memorial Hospital building project is on schedule for completion in about 17 months, despite weather-related delays. According to site manager Bob Long, the construction crew finished installing the final pre-cast concrete wall panels last week. (Omaha World-Herald)

Progress continues at hospital
Clarke County Hospital invites the public to Come See Our Progress at an open house Sunday, Feb. 21 from noon to 4 p.m. at the local healthcare facility. With all of the changes in recent months and the past three years at CCH, progress is an appropriate theme for the open house. (Osceola Sentinel-Tribune)

New office space in old hospital won’t be posh, Iowa lawmaker says
Hospital wings will still look like hospital wings, even though state workers will soon occupy the old Mercy Capitol building. The idea is to keep the old hospital building as office space for 10 years. Until lawmakers figure out whether to replace the Wallace Office Building, and whether to keep the old hospital longer, the state will not spend much on improvements. (Des Moines Register)

U.S. News

HHS warns of double-digit increase in health premiums
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius held a news conference to highlight a department report showing double-digit percentage increases in health insurance premiums in California, Michigan, Connecticut, Oregon and Maine. The report specifically cites Anthem Blue Cross of California, a company owned by Wellpoint Inc., for premium increases as high as 39 percent for their insurance plans on the individual market. (Wall Street Journal)

Why are fewer patients enrolling in hospice?
Suddenly, many hospices are admitting fewer patients. Others are increasingly caring for people for just days or hours before they die. The result: cash-strapped hospices are cutting back on nurses and aides, and patients are missing out on critical end-of-life care. It is not clear why it’s happening, but some hospice officials blame both a bad economy and Medicare rules that unintentionally discourage doctors from referring all but those who are about to die. (Kaiser Health News)

Medicaid cuts would hurt hospitals, Virginia economy, hospital association says
Every $1 cut from the state’s Medicaid program costs the state’s economy $4.25, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. The association released its analysis on the same day Gov. Bob McDonnell introduced a state budget with deep cuts to education and health care. (Newport News Daily Press)

Bill would require state to investigate health care costs
The bill would require an annual public hearing at which insurers, doctors and hospitals would share financial information. (New Hampshire Public Radio)

Patient-friendly ER lobby designed to reduce stress
A new emergency department lobby at Portland, OR-based Adventist Medical Center is designed to help patients relax and relieve their anxiety while they wait. The 2,500-square-foot waiting room was modeled after a hotel lobby, and features an oversized fireplace, plasma televisions, a family-friendly seating area, free Internet access, and multiple windows for natural lighting. (HealthLeaders Media)

Technology, medical tests ‘changing the face of health care’
A boom in medical technology over the past decade or two has led to a surge in certain medical tests and increased prescription drug use, say authors of a report that provides a snapshot of Americans’ health today. (USA Today)

CMS assigns second-in-command despite lack of a leader, plans realignment
While President Obama still has yet to nominate anybody for the vacant position of administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the organization already has assigned the job of second-in-command to a former Virginia health official. CMS also plans a three-pronged structural realignment–its first reorganization in roughly 10 years–focusing on beneficiary services, program integrity and strategic planning. (Fierce Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

80,000 Iowans to see their Wellmark rates jump
The state’s largest health insurer will begin notifying the individual policyholders this week of the increase. Rising health care costs are driving the premium increases, said Rob Schweers, a Wellmark spokesman. Premium increases, which take effect April 1, range between 10 percent and 25 percent, the company said. (Des Moines Register)

Bruce Braley on health care
Representative Bruce Braley talks to the editorial board of the Quad-City Times about health care. (Quad-City Times)

U.S. News

Rural hospital CEOs concerned about doc recruitment
This survey found that there was surprisingly little disagreement between CEOs at non-rural hospitals compared with CEOs at rural and community hospitals about most issues. For instance, both ranked quality/patient safety, patient experience/patient satisfaction, and reimbursement as the two through fourth priorities for their organizations over the next three years. (HealthLeaders Media)

GOP sees possible upside in health care summit
Congressional Republicans see a chance for political gain in President Barack Obama’s televised health care summit next week, even though the president will be running the show. (Washington Post)

Haitian patients in US wait on status amid uncertainty
Some say Haitians should not have been brought to the United States for treatment, while others say they deserve medical attention but should be flown back as soon as they recover. The question – stay or go? – could become a major headache for the Obama administration. (Boston Globe)

Emergency doctors back bill redefining malpractice
Emergency physicians in Tennessee are behind a bill in the legislature that aims to protect them, on-call specialists and hospitals from “unreasonable lawsuits” when they’re rendering emergency care. Under the bill filed last month, the definition of medical malpractice would be changed from “negligence” to “gross negligence,” which would raise the bar for mistakes that could trigger a lawsuit. (Nashville Tennessean)

L.A. County slashes doctors’ reimbursement rate
Supervisors drop rate from 27 percent to 18 percent as of July for emergency room doctors and on-call specialists at private hospitals who treat uninsured patients. The rate cut could lead private hospitals to close emergency rooms and send more patients to crowded county hospitals, officials said. (Los Angeles Times)

Hospital gives kids bedside Web access
Touchscreen bedside units replace traditional hospital TVs and give pediatric patients Internet access, and a new way to communicate with hospital staff. (Information Week)

Most Americans think it’s others who are unhealthy
Despite rising rates of obesity and diabetes, a new survey has found that a majority of Americans believe their health is just fine – it’s everyone else who has the problem. More than 50 percent of respondents said that other people’s health “was going in the wrong direction.” In contrast, only 17 percent said their own health was going in the wrong direction. (HealthDay)

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