Visit our website ⇒

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

Iowa News

Wellmark undecided on insurance exchange
Iowa’s dominant health insurer is considering staying out of the state’s planned insurance exchange, which could hamstring the initiative. John Forsyth, chairman of Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield, said in an interview that the company hasn’t decided whether it would offer coverage through Iowa’s planned exchange. Wellmark provides three-quarters of policies to Iowa individual consumers and small businesses. (Des Moines Register)

King frustrated by lack of progress in Congress
Congressman Steve King says if voters are concerned with a “do-nothing” congress they need to put new leaders in the senate and elect a new president. “If you want to do the wrong thing you can go compromise all you like and get lots done. If you want to do the right thing, there are people who want to stand in the way of doing the right thing, and it makes no sense to compromise with people that only will compromise in the direction of doing the wrong thing.” (KTIV)

National News

NY hospital staff stayed with patients too ill to move during Irene
Administrators from New York University-Langone Medical Center explained that six patients in the intensive care unit were so sick that moving them might kill them, and so the mayor’s office gave permission to keep them in the hospital throughout the storm. It then fell to Elaine Rowinski, nurse manager of the intensive care unit, to find seven nurses willing to stay at the hospital, right in the hurricane’s predicted path and just 100 yards from the East River, which many feared would overflow. It turned out she had nothing to worry about. (CNN)

ACOs may not end wasteful health spending
Expensive technologies like proton beam therapy and hot chemo baths are among the reasons America’s health care spending is rising at an unsustainable clip and making the federal deficit so hard to tame. But two of the nation’s top health care economists are expressing doubts that accountable care organizations — one of Obama administration’s most-hyped mechanisms to save money — will be able to overcome the medical system’s lust for the newest new thing. (Kaiser Health News)

GOP tax expert to help run debt-reduction ‘super committee’
A veteran Senate GOP tax expert with long experience working across the aisle was tapped Tuesday to help run a powerful new congressional debt-reduction committee, buoying hopes that the panel would produce a plan to tame borrowing. Mark Prater, 52, has served as chief tax counsel for Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee for nearly two decades, playing a key role in forging consensus on numerous major tax and deficit-reduction bills. His appointment as staff director was announced in a joint statement by the committee co-chairs, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.). (Washington Post)

GOP governors say U.S. fiscal fix should let states decide Medicaid rules and spending
States, they argued, should be allowed to design their own Medicaid programs and operate them with a lump payment every year from the federal government, and then be held accountable for the results. Outdated or inappropriate federal guidelines now make it more burdensome and frustrating to provide a health care safety net that’s one of the biggest expenses for cash-strapped states, the governors said. (Associated Press/Washington Post)

Intensive care units grow more friendly to patients’ families at some hospitals
An ICU room is filled with lifesaving equipment — ventilators hissing, monitors beeping, red and green lights flashing — around which doctors and nurses carefully maneuver. If families are there, the nurses must keep a watchful eye to make sure that no equipment is moved. “Nurses like to be in control of their work environment,” an ICU nurse manager told me. Moreover, in the ICU, a family member could become distressed to see their loved ones bucking the ventilator or bleeding from a fresh wound. (Washington Post)

Leave a Comment

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

Iowa News

Loebsack talks job creation, legislation in Iowa City
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack vowed to push legislation to support U.S. manufacturing jobs, a measure he sponsored earlier this year but which failed to pass the Senate. During a stop in Iowa City last week, Loebsack, D-Iowa, said job creation is his No. 1 priority. Loebsack introduced the Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success Act during the last Congressional session; it focused on helping communities, small businesses, local chambers of commerce, and unions to keep manufacturing jobs. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

National News

Drug prices soar as hospital suppliers are forced into ‘gray market’
Like most pharmacists charged with stocking an entire hospital, Michael O’Neal prefers to conduct his official business for Vanderbilt University Medical Center through big-name distributors. But there are days when his “back’s against the wall,” O’Neal said — when official supply chains run dry for all kinds of drugs — from the “bread-and-butter variety” used every day in hospitals to specialty medication for cancer treatment. On those days, O’Neal resorts to haggling on the little-known sector of the health care economy that’s only a slight shade more legal than the black market. (PBS NewsHour)

Health care fraud prosecutions on pace to rise 85%
New government statistics show federal health care fraud prosecutions in the first eight months of 2011 are on pace to rise 85% over last year due in large part to ramped-up enforcement efforts under the Obama administration. The statistics, released by the non-partisan Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, show 903 prosecutions so far this year. That’s a 24% increase over the total for all of fiscal year 2010, when 731 people were prosecuted for health fraud through federal agencies across the country. Prosecutions have gone up 71% from five years ago, according to TRAC. (USA Today)

Steep rises in health premiums scrutinized
Starting Thursday, the Obama administration and states will automatically scrutinize any proposed health-premium increase of 10% or more as part of the 2010 health-overhaul law. The change applies to an estimated 34.8 million insurance policies that Americans buy on their own or get through a small employer—two markets where consumers have faced particularly hefty increases in recent years. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s main lobbying group, found that about half of all increases in the individual-insurance market exceeded 10% each year for the past three years. (Wall Street Journal)

Uninsured largely unaware of benefits coming from overhaul
When it comes to last year’s Affordable Care Act, there’s not much people agree on. Except, says Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman, this one thing: “It really does help the uninsured; 32 million uninsured people will get coverage.” But according to the foundation’s latest monthly tracking poll, it appears that only about half of uninsured people have any idea that help is on the way. And fewer than a third (31 percent) say they think the law will help them obtain health insurance. (National Public Radio)

Poll: Employees don’t want changes in their health insurance
Employees love to gripe about rising health care costs, but a new poll finds most are not willing to sacrifice to pay less for their insurance. Only 27 percent of people with insurance provided through their employer said they would accept a more restricted list of doctors and hospitals in their networks, according to the latest monthly poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Less than a third of those polled were willing to pay more for brand name drugs or pay higher deductibles in return for lower premiums. (Kaiser Health News)

Leave a Comment

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

Iowa News

92% of Iowa hospital workers received flu vaccination
Statewide, 92 out of every 100 hospital staff members were vaccinated against seasonal flu. The national rate is only around 50 percent. That puts Iowa at the top of the nation. For workers at some Iowa hospitals, getting vaccinated isn’t a choice. It’s a requirement of the job. “If you work at Allen Hospital, you must be vaccinated,” said Allen Hospital spokesman Jim Waterbury. “It’s just part of our culture now. We tell people, you must be vaccinated or you must present a waiver.” (KWWL)

HOLA means ‘hello’
Meaning “hello” in Spanish, HOLA is an acronym for Healthcare Opportunities for Latino Advancement. Started in 2004, the program trains bilingual people as certified nurse assistants in order “to achieve more culturally competent care in an increasingly diverse community,” according to Mercy human resources manager Pat Rodriguez. “Hispanics now make up 15 percent of our area’s population,” Rodriguez said. “HOLA addresses the barriers that keep Hispanics from considering the nursing profession, specifically the lack of academic preparation and money.” (Sioux City Journal)

St. Luke’s Telehealth targets health issues early
With three heart surgeries and a heart attack to his name, William Dufault knows the importance of keeping a close eye on his health every day. That’s why each morning, he has a registered nurse from St. Luke’s Home Care check his vital signs. The 85-year-old Sioux Cityan does so from the comfort of his own apartment. Using a Telehealth monitoring system, he steps on a scale, straps on a blood pressure cuff and slips on a pulse oximeter. Using his phone line, the system sends his weight, blood pressure, pulse and oxygen level to St. Luke’s Home Health, where a registered nurse reads the results. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

For some medical evacuees, safety brought its own difficulties
On Friday and Saturday, the city shifted thousands of patients out of low-lying hospitals and nursing homes in the projected path of the hurricane. The goal was to avoid a situation like the one after Hurricane Katrina, when vulnerable patients suffered or died after institutions in New Orleans lost power and evacuations took days. (New York Times)

Doctor shortage threatens U.S.
The largest and most immediate need in this region and nationwide remains primary care doctors — an umbrella term for family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology and general surgery. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates there is a shortage of 13,700 doctors nationwide in all specialties. That number is predicted to hit 63,000 by 2015, and more than double, reaching 130,000, by 2025. (Cleveland Plain Dealer) 

Ruling may broaden insurance plans’ coverage for mental illness
A Northern California woman’s treatment for anorexia at a residential facility was medically necessary and must be covered by her healthcare plan, a federal appeals court has ruled in a case that could lead to more extensive benefits for those being treated for mental illnesses. Jeanene Harlick’s policy with Blue Shield of California specifically excluded coverage for residential care, the room and board expenses she incurred while at the Castlewood Treatment Center in Missouri for 10 months beginning in April 2006. (Los Angeles Times)

Medical community pays tribute to Steve Jobs
Since submitting his resignation letter to Apple’s board of directors on August 24, tributes have poured in to InformationWeek Healthcare from hospital CIOs, doctors, and medical organizations. The tributes point out that the mobile devices Jobs created, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch–as well as the health applications developed specifically for these devices–have enabled doctors, nurses, and patients to enter, access, and share clinical data. Similarly the medical images that can be viewed on these devices have raised the level of care and improved the way they perform their tasks on a daily basis. (InformationWeek)

Leave a Comment

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

Iowa News

Finally: Missouri River drops below flood stage
The Missouri River dropped below flood stage for the first time this summer on Thursday when it eased under the 30-foot mark in Sioux City. National Weather Service hydrologist Mike Gillispie said the low reading Thursday morning was the first time the river has fallen below flood stage in Sioux City since June 5.  Gavins Point Dam near Yankton, S.D., released 160,000 cubic feet per second at the height of the flood, but that rate has been lowered to 115,000 thanks to daily release reductions of 5,000 cfs. The river should drop about a half to seven-tenths of a foot for every reduction of 5,000 cfs. (Sioux City Journal)

Johnson County won’t fight nursing home chain
Johnson County officials have decided not to fight a nursing home chain’s attempt to be reclassified as a residential property, citing a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling showing a broad interpretation of residential housing. The decision means Johnson County will lose $90,770 this year in taxes from Care Initiatives, Iowa’s largest non-profit nursing home chain. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Area food shelves face cut in supply
Proposed cuts to federal food programs will be felt in the diets of thousands of working Iowans, according to those working to help put food on their tables. “These are hardworking individuals,” Jordan Vernoy said Thursday. “They’re trying to make ends meet, but they’re just struggling.” Half of the more than 382,000 Iowans classified as food insecure are working and ineligible for federal food assistance, Vernoy said.  “Food insecure” doesn’t mean a person is always hungry, Vernoy said, but they lack regular access to adequate nutrition. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Individual responsibility is a key part of new health reform law
Without the individual responsibility, we won’t be able to pay for medical coverage for the 30 million uninsured Americans. Without the individual responsibility provision, there is no way to end the abusive insurance company practice of denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Hurricane Irene sets hospitals scrambling to prepare
As Hurricane Irene churns up the Atlantic Coast threatening communities from North Carolina to New England, hospitals in the storm’s path are working to finalize their plans for keeping their facilities safe and operational. Federal and state regulations require hospitals to have disaster plans in place. And small community hospitals and large urban health systems approach emergency planning in much the same way: they secure the facility, order supplies, get staff in place, and wait out the storm. (HealthLeaders Media)

Health law puts governors in pickle
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, along with a slew of other Republican governors, faces a dilemma: Do they apply for millions of dollars in federal grants by September to begin establishing state-run health insurance exchanges, or let the deadline slide, lose the federal money and risk falling into a federally run exchange? (Wall Street Journal)

Health care not the employment promised land yet
“Hospitals and health-care providers have so much apprehension about the economy in general they’re not hiring as many people and getting by with less,” said Christopher Gillig, a health care services executive who was laid off in January. “Health care will grow, but not as quickly and aggressively as expected.” Still, the fundamentals that undergirded earlier optimism remain: the country is getting older; Americans strive to get healthier; and health care reform will likely translate into job growth. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Obesity rates rising worldwide, half of US could be obese by 2030
The world is getting fatter, and packing on the pounds is not just for wealthy nations anymore. Obesity is sweeping into low and middle-income countries, reports the World Health Organization’s obesity center, creating a dual problem of unhealthy weight gain in some segments of a country’s population, and malnutrition in others. The warning comes as part of a special Lancet series on weight gain in the run-up to the United Nations high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases in September. (PBS NewsHour)

Report: Vaccines generally safe, some side effects
The report released Thursday isn’t aimed at nervous parents. And the side effects it lists as proven are some that doctors long have known about, such as fever-caused seizures and occasional brain inflammation. Instead, the review comes at the request of the government’s Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which as the name implies, pays damages to people who are injured by vaccines. Federal law requires this type of independent review as officials update side effects on that list to be sure they agree with the latest science. (Associated Press)

Leave a Comment

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

Iowa News

Eastern Iowa hospitals react on infection data survey
With the release of the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative’s annual infection statistics associated with health care, it can also be an ideal time for patients to consider the risks of infection with surgeries. Yet the raw data from the 2010 figures for coronary, hip, colon and hysterectomy surgeries, among other procedures, are important but is there a point where too much emphasis can be placed on a certain figure? (KCRG)

Iowa Supreme Court hears arguments over secret Broadlawns drug audit
Iowa Supreme Court justices were urged this morning to find that a former chief pharmacist for Broadlawns Medical Center was trying to clean his own house rather than respond to a state investigation when he launched an audit to account for missing drugs in 2008. Pharmacist and Broadlawns have argued that the audit should be allowed to remain confidential since it also was provided to a state pharmacy board. A Polk County judge ruled that the report is covered by an Iowa law that allows investigative documents in the hands of the Iowa Pharmacy Board to remain confidential. (Des Moines Register)

Newton hospital acquiring new type of MRI
Skiff Medical Center in Newton says it will soon have a piece of equipment no other hospital in the country has. Skiff C.E.O. Steve Long says the hospital will be the first to have a digital broadband MRI. Long says the new machine “immerses you in an experience” so you can go through the MRI. He says patients tend to be in the traditional machines a long time, the machines are noisy and make people claustrophobic. But this new machine will help people get through it. (Radio Iowa)

Cedar Rapids cancer center making progress
Mercy Medical center and Oncology Associates are making progress on a state of the art cancer center to be housed near downtown Cedar Rapids in the medical district. Their message is clear and it’s to never give up hope.  “We’re just at a starting point of what we can do,” says Dr. Martin Wiesenfeld. The three-story Hall-Perrin Cancer Center has a price tag of about 24 million dollars and will be the first of its kind here in Eastern Iowa. (KGAN)

National News

Budget deficit to hit $1.3 trillion this year, congressional analysts report
The federal budget deficit will continue at historically high levels, hitting $1.3 trillion in fiscal 2011, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday. But it will ebb substantially over the next decade — if the Bush-era tax cuts and other measures are allowed to expire as scheduled, the report said. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that revenue, coupled with the debt-reduction deal signed into law this month by President Obama, would cut projected deficits by $3.3 trillion, or nearly half, over the next 10 years. (Washington Post)

Modest expectations urged on deficit cuts
Annual deficits would be $5 trillion higher for the decade, or a total of $8.5 trillion, assuming the White House and Congress continue several policies as in years past — keeping the lower income-tax rates of 2001 and 2003, which already were extended by two years last December; adjusting the alternative minimum tax annually so it does not hit middle-class taxpayers, and blocking a mandated cut in Medicare payments to doctors. The result would be deficits averaging 4.3 percent of gross domestic product instead of 1.8 percent, the budget office said; economists generally say annual deficits should not exceed 3 percent of gross domestic product. (New York Times)

Survey: Overhaul may push employee benefits shift
Nearly one of every 10 midsized or big employers expects to stop offering health coverage to workers after insurance exchanges begin operating in 2014 as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, according to a survey by a major benefits consultant. Towers Watson also found in its July survey that another one in five companies are unsure about what they will do after 2014. Another big benefits consultant, Mercer, found in a June survey of large and smaller employers that 8 percent are either “likely” or “very likely” to end health benefits after the exchanges start. (Associated Press)

Illinois midwifery debate ongoing
Advocates say about 800 Illinois women a year deliver their babies at home. But the majority of those births are supervised by illegal, unlicensed practitioners, making Illinois one of the riskiest places in the country to try for a home birth. At issue is whether nonnurse midwives, also called certified professional midwives, or CPMs, should be allowed to assist women who want home births. Midwives without nursing degrees are authorized to practice in 27 states if they meet standards set by the North American Registry of Midwives. (Chicago Tribune)

Hospital studying iPad app to screen for concussions
Cleveland Clinic biomedical engineer Jay Alberts is piloting a study to measure the effects of athlete head injuries using an unorthodox screening tool: the iPad 2. This tool could make it easier for schools to gauge changes in injured players’ brain functions, with the added benefit of not having to buy expensive medical equipment. “[The current practice is to] ask a player to balance in different ways and count the errors, but trainers disagree as to what counts as a mistake,” Alberts said. The iPad 2 has technology to gauge direction and acceleration built into the device, so trainers will be able to accurately measure the changes pre- and post-injury, said Alberts. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Leave a Comment