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

Iowa News

Projects would operate with health care reform in mind
Pilot projects proposed by the Iowa Health System could become models for other states. Bill Leaver, president and CEO of the Iowa Health System, said the pilots are needed to reduce costs and control chronic diseases in the face of health care reform. Leaver and Ted Townsend, president and CEO of St. Luke’s, spoke Friday, Feb. 25, to the Gazette Editorial Board as health care reform reaches its one-year anniversary. “The current system is broken,” Townsend said, noting that rewards are based on volume, rather than outcomes. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Area hospital sees spike in flu cases
It’s been a busy week or so at St. Luke’s. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in influenza in the community, particularly to our younger children and elderly folks,” said St. Luke’s Hospital Dr. Julie Beard. Emergency room physician Dr. Julie Beard says this time of year is prime time for airborne illnesses. “We seem to see a lot of viral illness, RSV, influenza,” said Beard. (Eastern Iowa Health)

Professor, Iowa family try to educate public about dangers of brain injuries
Iowans should view proposed legislation on concussions in middle school and high school sports as a way to increase awareness and protect youths, not as a threat to athletics, a doctor said at a brain-injury forum Sunday. Dr. Scott Lindgren, professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa, said that House File 385 doesn’t go far into demanding specific procedures from local schools but is a good start. (Des Moines Register)

U.S. News

Defining ‘essential’ care
The next big issue for the federal health law as it moves toward implementation is how regulators will define so-called essential benefits—the basic medical services that health plans must cover under the law. The legislation gives 10 categories of care that plans must provide for customers of the health-insurance exchanges that are launching in 2014. But the law leaves details up to regulators, who are now starting to develop the rules. (Wall Street Journal)

Budget-cutters wary of entitlements
It’s become a familiar refrain among Republicans in Washington, echoed on talk radio and in some right-wing blogs — that the people are ahead of the politicians on entitlement reform, ready to face the tough realities about Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. There’s only one problem with that line of thinking: Even in an atmosphere ripe for spending cuts, the latest polls show the public to be fiercely protective of Medicare and Medicaid. (Politico)

Obama, governors to meet as states face cutoff of funds
Financially strapped state governments are heading off a cliff this year when more than $150 billion in federal stimulus money runs out, said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, chairman of the National Governors Assn. States have used most of the money to keep teachers on the job, fund healthcare for the poor and balance their budgets over the last two years. (Los Angeles Times)

Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers: ‘We all ran on repealing” health law
Supported by the tea party, Renee Ellmers pulled an upset victory over the Democratic incumbent in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District last fall. As a nurse married to a physician, Ellmers says her own experience has convinced her that health care “is a personal responsibility” and the only way to bring down high health insurance costs is for government to step aside and let the private market work better. Rep. Ellmers was interviewed in her office on Capitol Hill by Kaiser Health News reporter Jessica Marcy. (Kaiser Health News)

Add health care policy to medical school curriculum, doctors say
Medical student and resident education has to include instruction on how healthcare systems function — especially with the advent of complicated national healthcare reforms, University of Michigan physicians said. Two U-M physicians and a U-M Medical School graduate called for a national curriculum in health policy for medical students and residents, in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. (HealthLeaders Media)

A great institution rises and, with it, the healing arts
When Massachusetts General Hospital opened in 1821, most patients were required to apply in writing for admission. They could be turned away for “bad morals’’ — and discharged for spitting, drinking, smoking, or swearing. Patients who followed the rules stayed for two months on average at an all-inclusive daily rate of 43 cents. Nearly 200 years later, patients still can’t smoke, but that’s about the only similarity. (Boston Globe)

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

Iowa News

Iowa works on mental health
Three western Iowa lawmakers who met with hospital officials during the Iowa Hospital Association’s Legislative Day were optimistic that the Legislature would take action this year to improve the state’s mental health system. “We have a fractured system of mental health services in Iowa,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs. “I think it is extremely likely the Legislature will take significant steps this year to do away with the waiting lists, and I think they’ll put some money with it.” (Omaha World-Herald)

Marshalltown hospital announces staff cuts, restructuring
Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center announced the elimination of six current management and administration positions as a means of staff restructuring. The hospital will also not fill an additional seven management positions currently open. “The decision to eliminate the positions was made in order to address future changes in healthcare and elevate growth initiatives, while providing a more adequate level of staffing and leadership to move our strategic initiatives into the future,” said Brian Burnside, CEO of the hospital. (Marshalltown Times Republican)

Student-athletes, families primarily cover sports-related medical expenses
The University of Iowa Athletics Department is paying $1,345-per-student to insure 24 student-athletes this year. The remainder of the UI’s more than 600 student-athletes have insurance either through their parents or pay for their own. The small number of athletes whose coverage is provided by the department meet financial hardship requirements, officials said. When a UI player is injured in practice or during a game, the department picks up the cost of care once a student’s health insurance coverage is tapped out, officials said. So a student-athlete isn’t left holding a large bill. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

U.S. News

Shutdown preparations begin
Agencies throughout the government are scrambling to figure out how to handle a government shutdown, with a potential closure as soon as March 5 prompting a review of which activities are essential and which aren’t. Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said federal departments have been exploring issues raised by a possible shutdown, including which operations are crucial and how employee furloughs would work. (Wall Street Journal)

Scott Walker’s budget could pare Medicaid
The Wisconsin governor’s proposal, part of a “budget repair” bill, would allow the Walker administration to make potentially drastic changes in health programs with little legislative oversight, a move officials say could make it easier to tackle a looming two-year, $3.6 billion deficit. The result, Democrats predicts, is that “large numbers of people will lose BadgerCare,” a component of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program. (Politico)

As mental health cuts mount, psychiatric cases fill Texas jails
As lawmakers consider deeper cuts this year to deal with a budget shortfall estimated at $15 billion to $27 billion, jail officials across Texas are deeply concerned that proposed reductions in community-based mental health treatment will worsen the problem. Without resources in the community, more mentally ill Texans are likely to end up on the streets, in emergency rooms and behind bars, and it will cost local taxpayers even more to care for them. “We can’t not respond,” said Dr. Michael Seale, executive director of health services at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. “We can’t not put people in jail.” (New York Times/Texas Tribune)

Dartmouth Atlas finds vast regional differences in Medicare elective surgery rates
Whether or not Medicare patients undergo elective surgery depends on where they live and their doctors, according to a report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project and the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making. Researchers found remarkably wide regional variations in elective surgery for Medicare patients even though they had similar conditions. (HealthLeaders Media)

Nine Maryland hospitals penalized for high complication rates
Patients at one of every five Maryland hospitals suffered higher-than-state-average rates of infections, pneumonia and other complications last year, and most of those medical centers will face a financial penalty as a result, regulators say. Twenty-three hospitals did better than the state average and will receive small bonuses. (Washington Post

Dangerous doctors slipping through the cracks
State agencies, county prosecutors, insurance companies, and health care employers and associations are mandatory reporters — they’re required to report potentially dangerous and unprofessional doctors to medical regulators, who can bar the doctors from practicing and keep patients out of harm’s way. But the mandatory reporters sound few alarms, and when they do, regulators rarely take action, the Tribune found. There were 348 mandatory reports filed with the state in 2009. That’s out of nearly 46,000 physicians statewide. (Chicago Tribune)

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

Iowa News

Survey: Iowans support smoke-free workplace law
Iowans overwhelmingly favor the state’s smoke-free workplace law and nearly two out of three would like to see the anti-tobacco measure expanded to include gaming floors at state-licensed casinos, according to survey results released Wednesday by the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance. Nearly 80 percent of the 500 registered Iowa voters who were surveyed Feb. 7-9 indicated they believed the Smokefree Air Act made Iowa a better place to live. (Eastern Iowa Government)

$12M expansion underway at Mercy-Des Moines
A multimillion dollar, two phase renovation and expansion project is under way at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. The project is expected to be complete by spring of 2012. Construction is already under way on new pediatric inpatient and pediatric intensive care units. The first phase of renovations is expected to be finished this fall and will transform the postpartum area into the new pediatric inpatient unit. The unit will feature 22 private patient rooms with full bathrooms. There will also be space for a family area. (KCCI)

Mercy-Cedar Rapids selects name for new cancer center
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids announced on Thursday that it will name its new cancer center the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center. The name recognizes Howard and Margaret Hall and Beahl and Irene Perrine who have supported Mercy for five decades and together, gave more than $25 million to develop cancer facilities, programs, and services. (KWWL)

Ames hospital helps police establish improved emergency protocals
Ames residents now have more help available in an emergency medical situation. As of Wednesday morning the police dispatch center has begun using a new software-based system to ask questions as a means of assessing the problem. The police have worked with a physician from Mary Greeley Medical Center to establish the protocols. Prior to this system, dispatchers would transfer callers to the hospital emergency room to get advice. (WHO-TV)

U.S. News

Many Americans believe health law has been repealed
A poll released Thursday found extensive public confusion about the health care law, with 22 percent of Americans incorrectly believing it has been repealed and another 26 percent unsure or unwilling to say. The results come after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal the law last month, and two federal judges ruled the law was unconstitutional. After extensive media coverage of these events, only 52 percent of Americans accurately said the health care law, which passed last year, remained intact. (Kaiser Health News)

States: White House dodging on health ruling
“If the Government was not prepared to comply with the Court’s judgment, the proper and respectful course would have been to seek an immediate stay, not an untimely and unorthodox motion to clarify,” the states argue. “Defendants’ Motion is, in fact, a transparent attempt, through the guise of seeking clarification, to obtain a stay pending appeal.” (Politico)

CMS cites early interest in EHR incentives
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is touting early interest in new programs offering bonuses to healthcare providers for using electronic health records (EHR). More than 21,000 providers have already signaled their intent to apply for Medicare and Medicaid incentives, and 11 states have launched Medicaid EHR programs, CMS announced Wednesday. Four Medicaid programs have already paid out $20 million in incentives. (The Hill)

Reducing the risks of workplace violence
health care workers are about three times more likely than workers in other industries to be injured by acts of violence, according to “State of the Sector/Healthcare and Social Assistance,” a report published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in 2009. Workplace violence in health care settings is increasing, according to the American Nurses Association. Of all industries reporting physical injuries from workplace violence, the health care sector tops the list. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Five ways green surgical teams save hospitals money
It’s no secret that health care facilities produce huge amounts of trash, specifically 6,600 tons per day, much of which ends up in landfills or in expensive incineration or autoclaving processes. About 70 percent of that comes from operating rooms and obstetric procedures. But a study in the latest issue of Archives of Surgery by researchers at the University of Maryland’s Bloomberg School of Public Health says that with a little thought and planning, hospitals can realize billions in savings. (HealthLeaders Media)

Under kidney transplant proposal, younger patients would get the best organs
The ethically fraught potential changes, which would be part of the most comprehensive overhaul of the system in 25 years, are being welcomed by some bioethicists, transplant surgeons and patient representatives as a step toward improving kidney distribution. But some worry that the changes could inadvertently skew the pool of available organs by altering the pattern of people making living donations. Some also complain that the new system would unfairly penalize middle-aged and elderly patients at a time when the overall population is getting older. (Washington Post)

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

Iowa News

UI releases emails showing response to hospitalization of athletes
Vice President for Strategic Communication Tysen Kendig said he thought the university’s first public statement on the issue raised more questions than it addressed:  “For instance, it doesn’t at all address what happened? What was the cause?… All we really say is that players were hospitalized en masse…” Dr. Ned Amendola, the team physician, replied that giving too much information that is not confirmed also raises more questions. “We generally have been very careful with medical issues and what is best for all concerned,” Amendola wrote in response. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Skiff employees donate more than 1,000 pounds of food
Success marked the beginning of Skiff Medical Center’s new WeSpark incentive program, in which employees, medical staff and volunteers are rewarded for doing things to better the hospital and the community. More than 100 employees donated non-perishable food items for the Salvation Army during enrollment. Total food donations to the Salvation Army came in at a whopping 1,012 pounds. (Newton Daily News)

Drill speeds help
A mock stroke drill introduced in Iowa is leading to earlier treatment of patients, while capturing the attention of international researchers and health care providers. Terri Hamm, stroke treatment coordinator at Mercy Medical Center, and Brian Helland, assistant fire chief for emergency medical services in Clive, presented information on the drills at the International Stroke Conference earlier this month. The two trained and educated small-town Iowa medical providers and the public on how to respond to strokes in young, unlikely patients. (Des Moines Register)

Disabilities services preparing for possible shortfalls, reorganizations
Pammy Rodriguez was born with a series of medical conditions. She has had 11 surgeries and will continue to have at least two a year until she is 18 to correct her scoliosis, her mother said. Rodriguez and her family rely on a number of local care providers to help care for Pammy, but Rodriguez is worried that proposed funding cuts for Medicaid and other disabilities services could put an end to some of those services for Pammy and other clients. County Mental Health and Disabilities Services systems could face a statewide shortfall of $40 million in funding beginning July 1 if state lawmakers don’t make up the difference. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

U.S. News

Obama administration asks states to cut costs without dropping Medicaid coverage
The Obama administration is deploying squadrons of in-house experts to help budget-strapped states figure out how to save money on Medicaid. In recent weeks, governors have been pressing the administration to be flexible in enforcing a requirement in the new health care law that bars states from tightening eligibility for the program between now and 2014, when an additional 16 million people will be eligible for the program. Some states want to tighten eligibility now to curb spending. (Washington Post)

Third judge validates health care overhaul law
A third federal judge upheld the constitutionality of the Obama health care law on Tuesday, reinforcing the divide in the lower courts as the case moves toward its first hearings on the appellate level. Judge Gladys Kessler of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia became the third appointee of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, to reject a constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Two other federal district judges, both appointed by Republican presidents, have struck down the law’s keystone provision, which requires most Americans to obtain health insurance starting in 2014. (New York Times)

Business associates may be liable for HIPAA compliance
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights intends to strengthen HIPAA compliance requirements under the HITECH Act. The proposed changes would make BAs directly liable for HIPAA breaches, and subcontractors of BAs would also have to be compliant with HITECH and HIPAA. And that means they would have to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule and the use and disclosures provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. But is HITECH alone enough to ensure BAs and their subcontractors comply? (HealthLeaders Media)

IT companies stand to gain from health care’s ‘Y2K’ problem
Some venture-backed information-technology companies that serve hospitals and health insurers are getting a boost from what analysts call the “Y2K” of health care. The problem is caused by a coming change in the coding system used to bill for medical procedures. Most industrialized nations, such as Canada, France and the U.K., switched to the newest system, ICD-10, years ago, but the U.S. lags behind. U.S. health care providers and payers can’t wait much longer, however, since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has mandated that they move from ICD-9 to ICD-10 by Oct. 1, 2013. (Wall Street Journal)

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Not able to make it to Des Moines today for Legislative Day 2011? Fear not – IHA is offering a Live Blog to keep everyone up-to-date on the events of the day as well as the issues being discussed as health care advocates meet with their legislators up on Capitol Hill.

Keep checking back thoughout the day to view updates of the day’s events. Please feel free to leave comments or join the discussion on Twitter.

11:00 a.m.

Hundreds of hospital advocates from all around the state have started to gather at the Polk County Convention Center in Des Moines. Soon, the day’s events will begin with the presenting of the color guard and the playing of the national anthem followed by opening remarks from IHA Board Chair, Joe Smith.

11:45 a.m.

Michael Johnston, VP Network Development at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa (Mason City) takes a minute to talk about why its important to bring advocates from his hospital to Des Moines for Legislative Day.

12:15 p.m.

Ben Franklin takes the stage to provide insight on his life as well as current and past issues.

1:30 p.m.

Scott Curtis, Administrator/CEO of Kossuth Regional Health Center (Algona), prepares his hospital’s advocates for their upcoming meeting with legislators while on their way up to the Statehouse.

2:30 p.m.

Todd Hudspeth, CEO at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center (Storm Lake) talks about the importance of getting health care advocates to Des Moines for an event such as Legislative Day.

3:00 p.m.

Chad Wolbers (middle, left), COO at The Finley Hospital (Dubuque), and advocates from The Finley Hospital meet with Representative Charles Isenhart (D-27) outside of the House chambers. Several groups from Iowa hospitals are meeting with their legislators around the busy rotunda at the Iowa State Capitol. All in all, over 600 people were in attendance for Legislative Day, making this a very succesful day for health care in Iowa.

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