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

Iowa News

Branstad, legislators wrangle over budget, taxes
Party lines were evident as Gov. Terry Branstad joined area legislators to discuss budgeting, property taxes and education at Saturday morning’s Eggs and Issues session in front of about 125 people at Spencer Community Theatre. In his opening remarks, Branstad blamed poor budgeting practices for “financial instability,” such as a $540 million Medicaid deficit that was filled with one-time revenues. His Republican colleagues decried practices such as spending more than the state takes in and using one-time revenues for ongoing expenses. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

Iowa health officials prepare for the possibility of a measles outbreak
University of Iowa health officials say the number of international students and students traveling abroad at the UI leaves the university at risk for infection. “Given that students travel much more than in the past to countries where there is more disease and lower vaccination rates, [getting vaccinated] is an important active step to maintain personal health and to protect others on campus and in the community,” said Lisa James, associate director for clinic operations at UI Student Health Services. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

Ames hospital awards $15.6 million in bids for expansion
Mary Greeley Medical Center’s Board of Trustees approved bids Monday totaling $15.6 million to continue a $129 million expansion project for the hospital that broke ground last fall. The six bids, which included landscaping, masonry, concrete and construction work, comprise the next step of the project — the construction of a six-story patient tower on the west end of the main building. The entire first phase of the expansion project, which also includes two existing stories on the west wing of the building and a new power plant, is scheduled to be complete by spring 2014. (Ames Tribune)

National News

Supreme Court turns to key constitutional issue in health care law
The Supreme Court’s conservative justices appeared deeply skeptical that the Constitution gives Congress the power to compel Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, as the court completed two hours of debate Tuesday on the key component of the nation’s health-care overhaul law. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, traditionally the justice most likely to side with the court’s liberals, suggested that the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act invoked a power “beyond what our cases allow” the Congress to wield in regulating interstate commerce. (Washington Post)

Most oppose at least part of overhaul, poll finds
At the heart of the opposition is the individual mandate requiring Americans to obtain health insurance, the least popular part of the bill and a crucial piece at the center of the court arguments, which began Monday and will turn to the mandate on Tuesday. In the latest poll, 47 percent said they oppose the law while 36 percent approve, with the rest having no opinion. The results are similar to previous surveys that have consistently found the law’s detractors outnumbering its supporters. (New York Times)

Democrats release budget to compete with Ryan plan
Authored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the House Budget Committee’s top Democrat, the $3.7 trillion budget plan is designed to present an alternative vision to a spending plan proposed last week by the committee’s Republican Chairman Paul Ryan (Wisc.). Under Van Hollen’s budget, the deficit as a percentage of the nation’s gross domestic product would shrink from more than 8 percent in fiscal year 2012 to 2.7 percent in 2022. But the national debt would continue to grow — and documents accompanying the budget resolution do not indicate the proposal would lead to a balanced budget over any time frame. (Washington Post)

Health care rivals battle for patients in Pittsburgh
In Pittsburgh, the acrimonious battle between Highmark, the region’s most powerful health insurer, and UPMC, the dominant health-care provider, is drawing national attention as a test case on the impact of consolidation in the health-care industry. At the heart of the dispute is Highmark’s effort to acquire a financially troubled local hospital group, West Penn Allegheny Health System, as the centerpiece of what it says will be a lower-cost and more efficient health-care operation. UPMC, which has its own insurance arm as well as 19 area hospitals and 3,240 doctors, says it doesn’t want to bolster a company it now considers a direct rival. It has vowed not to sign a new contract to treat patients covered by Highmark, which would mean those patients generally would pay high out-of-network rates to use UPMC hospitals and doctors. (Wall Street Journal)

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