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

Iowa News

Bills this week likely will differ on mental health funding
Counties currently contribute about $125 million annually toward services for people with mental illnesses or disabilities. Those contributions are scheduled to end in July 2013 under a bill the Legislature passed last year to try to force an overhaul of the system. However, many proponents said they expected this year’s reform legislation to include a renewal of the county financing. The overall system spends about $1.2 billion, including federal and state money. Supporters say a sudden $125 million cut would devastate a system that is perennially strapped for cash. Two bills to be introduced this week are expected to differ on this key issue. (Des Moines Register)

County decries shift in mental health funding
County governments are raising property taxes to make up for state mental health funding shortfalls. John Miller, chairman of the Black Hawk County board of supervisors, said he and fellow members of the Iowa State Association of Counties are outraged by the state’s failure to pay its full share of mental health property tax relief. “I find it unconscionable that we have to, for political reasons, be put in this situation,” Miller said. “I’m angry at the governor and I’m angry at his administration.” (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Mercy officials “pleased” with President Obama’s policy change
The Obama administration’s compromise on contraceptive coverage got a positive response from officials at Mercy Medical Center, in Sioux City. For weeks, the hospital administration worried the mandate would force them to sacrifice their beliefs, and provide contraception to employees as part of their health insurance. The onus now falls on insurance companies to pick up the cost of contraceptives. But, Mercy officials say the details of how its employees will seek those services from their insurance provider aren’t clear. (KTIV)

Blankets give patients something to hold on to
After her release from the hospital, Crystal Pottebaum approached her Sioux County 4-H Youth Council about making blankets for children who are hospitalized. The group bought 120 yards of fabric — for $651.40. Five teenagers then cut the fabric into squares over almost five hours. The squares were presented to the Discover 4-H kids — second- and third-graders — to tie the edges in January. Nearly 300 hands-on, volunteer hours later, they had 130 blankets to distribute to hospitals and ambulances throughout Sioux County. “We wanted a child to have something that brings them comfort when their world is turned upside down,” Pottebaum explained. (Sioux City Journal)

Bill would alter background check process for care centers
The industry has complained that under the current law, applicants’ past offenses must be re-evaluated every time an individual is hired at a new care facility. That’s true even in cases where the applicants were previously cleared by the state to work in a care facility and subsequently committed no additional offenses. Legislation now being considered by the House and Senate would eliminate those types of re-evaluations. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Medicare study finds teaching hospitals have higher risk of complications
Medicare has begun publishing the rates of complications as a step toward using them to set payment rates for thousands of hospitals. But leaders of a number of the nation’s prestigious teaching hospitals are objecting to the approach, which has intensified a debate about the accuracy and fairness of a series of efforts by the government to judge — and ultimately pay — hospitals on the quality of their care. Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington Hospital Center, the Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., were among the institutions having substantially more complications than the average, according to data evaluated by the Medicare program. (Washington Post)

Obama faces task of selling dueling budget ideas
With the election-year budget he unveils on Monday, President Obama more than ever confronts the challenge of persuading voters that he has a long-term plan to reduce the deficit, even as he highlights the stimulus spending and tax cuts that increase deficits in the short term. On Sunday, the job of making the argument for job-creation measures now and budget austerity later fell to Jacob J. Lew, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff and until recently his budget director, who made the rounds of five television talk shows. (New York Times)

Health reform law’s biggest threat: 30,000 too few doctors
Decades of research have confirmed that more specialists leads to more specialty care, which leads to a more expensive system. Now, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans will be looking for a primary-care doctor. It is no exaggeration to say that the success of the health-care law rests on young doctors choosing to do something that is not in their economic self-interest. “Regardless of what people think about the health reform legislation, or what side of the aisle people are on, the debate shone a significant light on the importance of primary care,” says Glen Stream, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. (Washington Post)

Health care in Massachusetts: ‘Abject failure’ or work in progress?
Voters are hearing a lot about health care this year. Republicans want to make the 2012 elections a referendum on the health care law that President Obama signed two years ago. That law was largely based on one that then-governor Mitt Romney signed into law nearly six years ago in Massachusetts. Romney is now a GOP presidential contender, and that’s made the Massachusetts universal health care law a political football. Romney’s rival Rick Santorum recently called it “an abject failure.” But “Romneycare,” as Santorum and others call it, isn’t controversial in its home state. And a lot of people here don’t call it Romneycare, because it took the support of a lot of other people – Democratic legislators, business leaders, insurers, hospitals and doctors, consumer groups – to get it passed. (National Public Radio)

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