Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.
Health insurance for poor is a human right
Gov. Terry Branstad was 54 years old when he felt chest pains and was rushed to a Des Moines hospital. After an angiogram and angioplasty surgery, he was released five days later and began cardiac rehabilitation as an outpatient. Ten years later, during his 2010 campaign, he had a partially blocked artery cleared. Last year, he went to the hospital after choking on carrots. If anyone would understand the importance of having health insurance to help pay for care, it is the governor. That’s why his opposition to a health reform provision to expand Medicaid to insure thousands of low-income Iowans is baffling. (Des Moines Register)
Loebsack facilitates local discussion on mental health care
With increasing turmoil regarding school safety and mental health following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, one local congressman held a forum in hopes of creating a dialogue on improving Iowa City and Iowa’s mental-health programs. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, listened to health care professionals and members of the University of Iowa College of Education at a forum held at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on Wednesday, as they suggested ways to better mental-health programs in Iowa. “I’ve done everything I could to draw attention to the issue,” Loebsack said regarding his interest in spreading mental-health awareness. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)
30% of Iowa prisoners have serious mental health issues, officials say
About three in 10 inmates in Iowa’s prison system have some form of serious mental illness often linked to substance abuse, state officials said Tuesday. And the problem gets even bigger when the population is expanded to offenders who are under supervised release in Iowa communities, they said. “We are the largest mental-health institute in Iowa,” Dr. Harbans Deol, medical director for the state Department of Corrections, told Senate Judiciary Committee members in presenting data indicating that 2,589 offenders in Iowa’s 8,333 prison population in 2012 were diagnosed as having serious mental illnesses. (Quad-City Times)
More cities added to Blue Zones Project
Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Iowa City are now officially going blue. On Wednesday, Blue Zones leaders named these three cities, along with Muscatine, Oskaloosa and Sioux City, as Blue Zones Project demonstration sites. There are now a total of 19 Blue Zones communities. For more than a year, communities across the state have been competing to be demonstration sites. Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Spencer, and Mason City were all selected in the first round. Back in March Cedar Rapids made its pitch to Blue Zone judges, but wasn’t picked. But City leaders said they refused to give up. (KCRG)
Federal rules limits aid to families who can’t afford employers’ health coverage
The Obama administration adopted a strict definition of affordable health insurance on Wednesday that will deny federal financial assistance to millions of Americans with modest incomes who cannot afford family coverage offered by employers. In deciding whether an employer’s health plan is affordable, the Internal Revenue Service said it would look at the cost of coverage only for an individual employee, not for a family. Family coverage might be prohibitively expensive, but federal subsidies would not be available to help buy insurance for children in the family. (New York Times)
Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital is back, but changed, after Sandy
When a ferry crashed in lower Manhattan earlier this month, ambulances took dozens of people to hospitals around Manhattan. Bellevue Hospital took in 31 passengers who all had minor injuries. Despite their bruises and bandages, something was missing: the most seriously hurt patients from the crash. Dr. Suzi Vassallo said that’s because Bellevue currently can’t handle serious traumatic injuries. Hurricane Sandy closed Bellevue, and it re-opened in December, but doing only partial duty. “We don’t have an operating room yet,” Vassallo said. “And you always have to have that kind of backup for any critical trauma.” (Kaiser Health News)
Finding qualified employees puts damper on revved up health care jobs market
According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder, one of the largest online employment companies in the country, 22 percent of healthcare hiring managers are planning to add full-time, permanent employees in 2013. That’s up three percentage points from 2012. But, 23 percent of healthcare employers also reported they have open positions for which they have not been able to find qualified talent. (Healthcare Finance News)
California beach cities are getting healthier
Beginning in 2010, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach started making changes in homes, workplaces and schools to improve the well-being of people living in the region. They revamped restaurant menus, started “walking school buses” for children and created neighborhood gardens. The changes lowered obesity and smoking rates, while increasing the number of residents who exercise and eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, according to Gallup, which is conducting well-being index surveys to document the impact of the Blue Zones Project. (Los Angeles Times)
Minnesota Supreme Court says online post about doc is protected speech
A man’s online post calling a doctor “a real tool” is protected speech, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. The state’s highest court dismissed a case by Duluth neurologist David McKee, who took offense when a patient’s son posted critical remarks about him on rate-your-doctor websites. Those remarks included a claim that a nurse called the doctor “a real tool,” slang for stupid or foolish. The decision reversed a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that would have let the doctor’s lawsuit proceed to trial. (Associated Press/Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Mayo Clinic seeking state help for $5B expansion
The Mayo Clinic has proposed a $5 billion investment in Rochester and surrounding communities designed to make the region a “Destination Medical Center” and create up to 45,000 jobs statewide. The plan calls for $3.5 billion in capital investments at its Rochester campus over the next 20 years. Mayo Clinic officials also say they expect an estimated $2.1 billion in additional private investment. (Minnesota Public Radio)
Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.
Iowa Democratic lawmakers launch bid to expand Medicaid
A push that Democratic lawmakers initiated Tuesday to expand Medicaid in Iowa would likely translate into new or improved health benefits for thousands of the state’s low-income residents. Broadening the program could mean that people like Terri White, a 51-year-old widow from Fort Dodge, would for the first time have comprehensive health insurance. White qualifies for a state health program called IowaCare, but it doesn’t cover the cost of her thyroid medication. (Omaha World-Herald)
Healthiest state would need to expand Medicaid
refusing the Medicaid expansion would end up costing already-insured Iowans even more money in the long run as the expenses for all that uncompensated care gets passed on to individuals and employers through higher insurance premiums. We hope Governor Branstad eventually comes to realize that expanding Medicaid is a necessary step to take if he really is serious about Iowa becoming the healthiest state in the nation. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)
Hospitals, seniors, religious groups push for Iowa Medicaid expansion
Nearly 50 interest groups gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to make fiscal, health and moral arguments for the expansion of Medicaid coverage to as many as 150,000 more Iowans. Broadening the eligibility requirements would be a “win-win if not a win-win-win” for state government, low-income Iowans and the Iowa business community, Kirk Norris of the Iowa Hospital Association said at the Statehouse. The hospital industry, he noted, is a major employer and has a $6 billion impact on the state’s economy. (Mason City Globe Gazette)
Medicaid expansion may save Florida money
Florida would save money over the next decade—not lose billions as Gov. Rick Scott has argued—by accepting Medicaid expansion under federal healthcare reforms, according to a detailed economic study. Jack Hoadley, a senior researcher with the Georgetown Health Policy Institute, said the study was the first to calculate spin-off savings in other state programs if Florida accepted the expansion, which over the next 10 years could bring $26 billion in federal funds to provide insurance to an estimated 815,000 to 1.3 million Florida residents who are now uninsured. (Miami Herald)
Obama enlists doctors for gun violence prevention
President Obama’s multifaceted plan to reduce gun violence calls on physicians to play an important role in decreasing shooting deaths and injuries in communities nationwide. The initiative, which was unveiled Jan. 16, one month after 20 first-graders and six adults were massacred at a Connecticut school, encourages doctors to talk to patients about gun safety and warn law enforcement about threats of violence. (American Medical News)
Who pays hospital costs for patients in police custody?
CMS in April plans to implement a process for detecting and recouping improper payments for previously paid Medicare claims, according to the Office of the Inspector General. While CMS is revisiting its policies, healthcare leaders should, too. Even if a hospital is not part of this particular recoupment process, it’s a good time to review policies and procedures regarding incarcerated patients and even consider contracting with local law enforcement authorities regarding such patients. (HealthLeaders Media)
Health care organizations share innovative practices
On Tuesday, representatives from the Montefiore Medical Center in New York and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) discussed how regional collaborations can improve quality and reduce costs during a webinar sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Health Care Innovations Exchange. David Share, MD, senior vice president of Value Partnerships at BCBSM, and Lauren Henrikson-Warzynski, a healthcare analyst, shared how BCBMS went about improving healthcare through Collaborative Quality Initiatives, which were developed and administered by Michigan physician and hospital partners, and were funded by BCBSM and its HMO, Blue Care Network. (Healthcare Finance News)
Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.
Medicaid expansion would save lives, say AARP, Cancer Society, 46 other groups
Many of the groups represented at today’s press conference previously have expressed their support for the expansion. Kirk Norris, president of the Iowa Hospital Association, disputed Governor Branstad’s claim that there’s no proof Medicaid expansion would improve health outcomes. “Quite the opposite is true,” he said, adding that health insurance coverage is clearly a factor in overall health ratings. He also said that Iowa employers would save money if Medicaid is insured, because medical providers wouldn’t have to try to shift so much cost of treating the uninsured onto people with private insurance coverage. (Des Moines Register)
Iowa economic report card shows little change
The Iowa Business Council’s Competitiveness Index showed little change last year compared with the previous year when looking at economic growth, education and workforce readiness, government and finances, health and well-being, and workforce demographics. The council, made up of executives representing the state’s largest businesses, said improving the state’s education system is the group’s top priority. Gov. Terry Branstad, who is pushing major education reform initiatives, was the guest speaker at the group’s annual meeting Monday in downtown Des Moines. (Des Moines Register)
State review recommends stronger encryption procedures for UIHC
A state review of a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics computer system recommends the hospital strengthen procedures for the encryption of laptop computers. The review, conducted by the State Auditor’s office and released Monday, found that certain controls can be strengthened to further ensure the reliability of financial information. The auditor’s office conducted the information technology review of selected general and application controls over the UI Hospitals and Clinics’ GE Centricity System for the period of May 28, 2012 to July 30, 2012. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
Congress can’t cut Medicare hospital outpatient payments
America’s hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to provide for the health care needs of their communities. Hospitals provide emergency services around-the-clock as well as emergency back-up for other settings of care; disaster preparedness; and a wide range of personnel and equipment. However, these “stand-by capacity” services make hospital-level care more expensive—and these essential public services are not explicitly funded by Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance. To provide these vital services, facility fees and other costs are spread across all hospital services, including outpatient care. (US News & World Report)
Hanging a price tag on radiology tests didn’t change doctors’ habits
If doctors would just pay attention to how much things cost, they might be more careful when ordering tests for patients, right? But a study at Johns Hopkins Hospital found that changing doctors’ behavior may be not be as easy as simply making them aware of prices. Radiologist and hospitalists collaborated on an experiment to see if disclosing the cost of some of the most frequently ordered imaging tests, including standard chest X-rays and CT scans of the head, would reduce their use in the hospital. The short answer is no. (National Public Radio)
Who wants to be a ‘death panelist’?
As the economist who conceived the ideas at the heart of the Massachusetts health-care law, Jonathan Gruber is arguably the intellectual godfather of the Affordable Care Act. All of which would make him a natural fit for the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the new, 15-member panel that has the authority to reduce Medicare doctors’ reimbursements and pilot new ways to deliver high quality care for less. There’s just one tiny problem: Gruber has absolutely no interest in serving on the panel. (Washington Post)
Mobile health care apps slated for federal oversight
Health care apps for smart phones and other mobile devices have been flooding the market since 2010 and have proliferated so rapidly that efforts are under way to create a process to evaluate and certify them. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there were 17,288 health and fitness apps on the market in mid-2012 along with 14,558 medical apps. And all those apps are being used in a vacuum with no government oversight or vetting by private companies, leaving users to rely on word-of-mouth, online reviews, or simple trial and error. (HealthLeaders Media)
In 2009, a crippling ice storm hit Chariton and left many in the community without electricity for as long as three weeks. Lucas County Health Center employee Mark McCurdy, along with other hospital, fire department and community members, established a shelter for those in need. He ensured volunteers showed up for their shifts and made frequent home visits to elderly or disabled citizens to confirm their safety.
In May 2012, Mark and four other firefighters spent three weeks traveling with a medical and fire team to Katete, Zambia. This is an international outreach program on a mission to improve burn care and reduce mortality and morbidity of patients at St. Francis Mission Hospital. During his stay, Mark visited more than 20 schools to teach fire safety and burn prevention to children. Additionally, Mark and his team are working to raise funds to ship a donated 1971 International Fire engine to the Katete Fire Brigade. Seven complete sets of fire protective turnout gear were also donated to the brigade. Mark plans to make future trips to Africa and hopes to have the truck available for further training. This fire engine would bring a great deal of respect and self-pride to the community.
Mark also volunteers a great deal of his time to several Central Iowa Honor flights, where he assists veterans during their visits to memorial sites in Washington, D.C. It is difficult to find pictures of Mark at these events as he often avoids the spotlight saying, “This is not about me, it is about them.”
Mark works at Lucas County Health Center as the disaster services specialist and is a deputy fire chief, paramedic and training officer for the Indianola Fire Department. He also dedicates much of his time to the Russell Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department.
Mark has accomplished many great things, all while raising a family of four. His wife, Amy, a registered nurse, is proud of her husband and the work he does. She was extremely proud of his mission trip and the fact that the team funded themselves. Mark and Amy have two daughters, Kaitlyn and Kelly, and two sons, Joseph and David. His oldest daughter is following her parents’ footsteps and has enrolled in college to pursue a nursing degree.
Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.
Branstad’s health plan does little for Iowa’s poor
Gov. Terry Branstad’s philosophy on health care, if taken literally, means an epileptic can exercise his way out of the disease. A diabetic doesn’t need test strips to check glucose levels and stave off complications. She can simply eat right. Instead of heart surgery, Iowans should take control of their health. People apparently don’t need health insurance, in his view. They just need to take better care of themselves. Branstad is out of touch with reality when it comes to health care. (Des Moines Register)
IowaCare is poor substitute for comprehensive insurance
Washington lawmakers reformed health care because voters demanded it. When millions of Americans are a broken leg or heart attack away from financial ruin, people eventually get fed up. Congress and President Obama acted because this country’s system of paying for health care is broken. Yet opponents of reform would have us believe everything was just fine before Washington intervened. Gov. Terry Branstad is among them. (Des Moines Register)
More children struggle with mental illness
Like thousands of other Iowa kids with mental illness, Cynthia Shouse has been shunted around the state’s patchwork mental health system. She’s become accustomed to waiting two months to see a psychiatrist, said her mother, Rhonda Shouse. At one point, she waited seven months to get in a residential program in Des Moines. Her mother is outraged. “If you go to a hospital with a heart attack, they don’t tell you, ‘Oh, we don’t have a bed. Come back in three days.’ ” (Des Moines Register)
Mental health redesign includes financial uncertainty
Uncertainty around Iowa’s still-evolving mental health system redesign starts with money. Reps. Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf, and Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, spoke Friday at a United Way of the Quad-Cities Area forum on the changing mental-health system, telling about 40 mental-health professionals to call legislators across the state to advocate for needed funding. Scott County’s mental-health funding is in a dire financial crisis that would be helped by transition funding this year and next year, helping ease some of that uncertainty, said Lori Elam, Scott County’s community services director. (Quad-City Times)
Mercy-Cedar Rapids launches first-in-nation pharmaceutical oncology robot
The robot is highly recommended in many European countries because of its benefits to patients and staff. Following Mercy’s lead, several other world-renown U.S. medical institutions, such as Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, will be installing the pharmaceutical robot as well. This technology removes the element of human error in mixing chemo drugs and allows for precise mixtures, which increases patient safety. Care providers at the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center will be able to remotely and automatically observe, manage, audit, approve and dispense injectable medications without unnecessary exposure to the drugs. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
New Medicare scam reported in Central Iowa
A new scam preying on those who expect to receive Medicare’s redesigned benefits summary has been reported in Central Iowa. Scammers have been calling seniors asking to visit them at home with new details about their Medicare benefits in an attempt to obtain personal information to commit financial fraud, according to a news release from the Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol. Medicare officials do not phone seniors to discuss policy changes and do not visit them at home, said Deb Yankey, state coordinator for Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol, in a news release. (Des Moines Register)
Money fears vs. real benefits in Medicaid choice
“It’s the biggest expansion of Medicaid in a long time, and the biggest ever in terms of adults covered,” said Mark McClellan, who ran Medicare and Medicaid when George W. Bush was president. “Although the federal government is on the hook for most of the cost, Medicaid on the whole is one of the biggest items in state budgets and the fastest growing. So there are some understandable concerns about the financial implications and how implementation would work,” McClellan said. (Associated Press/Idaho Statesman)
Report: Texas should put politics aside, expand Medicaid
Expanding Medicaid is a “smart, affordable and fair” decision for Texas, according to a report issued by Billy Hamilton, a non-partisan consultant commissioned by Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas and Texas Impact, a statewide interfaith network. “If politics are set aside, the right decision is obvious,” wrote Hamilton, a former deputy comptroller of public accounts who was once the state’s chief revenue estimator. He argued that for an investment of $15 billion, Texas could draw down $100 billion in federal funds and expand health care coverage to 2 million low-income Texans over 10 years. (Texas Tribune)
Intermountain analysis: Can hospitals cut waste without rationing care?
It’s the new managed care motto: cheaper care is better care. But a trio of studies by researchers at Intermountain Healthcare—often cited as a model of efficiency and cost control—shows it’s more complicated than that. “Everyone is running around and saying value equals quality divided by cost,” said John C. Ruckdeschel, medical director of Intermountain’s Oncology clinical program. “But if you accept cost as the denominator, you would always assume doing the cheaper thing is better, and that’s not always true. It sounds simple, but it’s really very difficult,” said Ruckdeschel, who shared results from the experiment this winter at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s first Quality Care Symposium. (Salt Lake Tribune)
Mandate improves hospital workers’ flu vaccination rates
Many Bay Area hospitals are vigorously enforcing a new mandate that health care workers throughout Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties get a flu shot or don a mask during the flu season. Comprehensive numbers are not yet available, but some institutions are reporting dramatic increases in employee vaccination rates. Many hospitals have set up flu stations with employee masks at entrances to buildings and are using stickers on employee badges to identify those who have had a shot. Stations with sanitizers and masks have also been set up for patients. The goal of the mandate is to protect patients who are most at risk, including infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. (San Jose Mercury News)