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

Iowa News

Iowa’s health a mixed bag
First, some good news: Abuse of over-the-counter medications declined in Iowa in 2012 and state and local agencies installed 33,600 smoke alarms in Iowa residences. Now, some bad news: The number of fatal and injurious motor vehicle crashes has not decreased; and no progress has been made in decreasing the 17.4 percent premature birth rate among African Americans. Those facts, found in the Iowa Department of Health’s 2013 Progress Report, are tied to the 143 objectives and strategies the Department is developing in its five-year Iowa Health Improvement Plan. (Muscatine Journal)

Story County Medical Center names new CEO
Story County Medical Center’s board of trustees has selected Timothy Ahlers as the medical center’s new CEO. Ahlers has spent the past several years in leadership positions at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, most recently as vice president of marketing and business development. He earned his bachelor and master of business administration degrees, as well as a master of health administration, from the University of Iowa. (Des Moines Business Record)

College nursing lab given gift of hospital beds
The North Iowa Area Community College Nursing Lab is eight hospital beds richer, thanks to the Hancock County Health System. A new building and renovation project at Hancock County Memorial Hospital provided for 25 new private patient rooms. “The added space allowed us to purchase state-of-the-art patient beds that dramatically reduce the risk of caregiver injury and improve patient outcomes,” said HCHS CEO Vance Jackson. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Don’t cut funding for cancer medications
Access to quality cancer treatment is vital. Unfortunately, budget cuts could dramatically compromise care for cancer patients on Medicare. The federal sequester that just kicked in will subject Medicare to $10 billion in cuts this year alone. And federal lawmakers may soon look for even steeper cuts to the program that could make it even more difficult for patients to get the cancer treatment they need, especially in rural areas. (Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil)

National News

AHA recommends changes to proposed rules for charitable hospitals
The American Hospital Association has recommended changes and clarifications to the Internal Revenue Service’s proposed rules for Community Health Needs Assessments and sanctions for noncompliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requirements for tax-exempt hospitals, which would further relieve hospitals of unnecessary burden and provide greater certainty regarding enforcement. Under Section 501(r)(3) of the ACA, hospitals must assess community health needs at least once every three years and adopt a strategy to address them. (American Hospital Association)

No mandate for those left out of Medicaid expansion
Low-income Americans who live in states that have decided not to expand Medicaid eligibility will not face penalties if they fail to buy insurance next year. That’s according to a final rule on exemptions to the health law’s individual mandate – the law’s controversial requirement that most Americans have health coverage or pay a penalty in 2014. That rule was published Wednesday. (Kaiser Health News)

Rate of early C-sections has slowed
In a trend that public health officials call encouraging, fewer women are undergoing early-term Caesarean deliveries, according to new government data. The findings are part of a broad shift in the rate of Caesarean deliveries, which had risen steeply since the mid-1990s. From 1996 to 2009, the Caesarean delivery rate soared by 60 percent, accounting for a record 33 percent of births nationwide. The trend alarmed health officials and medical societies because many of these were early-term C-sections, performed at 38 weeks of gestation or earlier, when the risk of complications to the infant is greater. But from 2009 to 2011, the rate leveled out at 31 percent. (New York Times)

The gulf between doctors and nurse practitioners
Not long ago, I attended a meeting on the future of primary care. Most of the physicians in the room knew one another, so the discussion, while serious, remained relaxed. Toward the end of the hour, one of the physicians who had been mostly silent cleared his throat and raised his hand to speak. The other physicians smiled in acknowledgment as their colleague stood up. “Nurse practitioners,” he said. “Maybe we need more nurse practitioners in primary care.” Smiles faded, faces froze and the room fell silent. An outraged doctor, the color in his face rising, stood to bellow at his impertinent colleague. (New York Times)

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

Iowa News

Iowa broadcasters join in national mental health awareness campaign
Gordon Smith knows firsthand the enormous grief and sense of failure from losing a child to suicide. On Sept. 8, 2003, he learned that his son, Garrett, had committed suicide, just one day before his 22nd birthday. Smith, a former U.S. senator from Oregon who now leads the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), spoke to a group of Greater Des Moines community leaders about NAB’s participation in a nationwide public awareness campaign with a message targeted to teens and young adults: It’s OK to talk about mental health issues, and it’s OK to seek help. (Des Moines Business Record)

Panel rejects Iowa Communications Network bids; vote isn’t binding
A state commission on Wednesday voted to reject two bids from a West Des Moines company to purchase the Iowa Communications Network. The votes don’t eliminate the possibility that the statewide fiber-optic data network could be sold – whether to pursue privatization rests with Gov. Terry Branstad’s office and, ultimately, the state Legislature. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Intermountain launches analytics tool for population health data
The first fruits of the alliance between Deloitte and Intermountain Healthcare emerged this week with the launch of OutcomesMiner, an analytics tool designed to give researchers, and pharmaceutical and medical device companies data-driven insight needed to conduct comparative effectiveness research and bring new therapies to market more rapidly. Leveraging electronic medical records data, OutcomesMiner helps population health analysts understand associated outcomes for treatments and filter for sub-populations using phenotypic characteristics and specific medical associations. (HealthLeaders Media)

Georgia hospital shows why rejecting Medicaid isn’t easy
The Affordable Care Act was originally written such that every state would have to accept a Medicaid expansion. But the Supreme Court struck down that part of the law last year. The result is an unexpected bind for safety-net hospitals in states that are refusing Medicaid. How bad of a bind? Just look at the choices facing Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital. Grady, Georgia’s largest hospital, with more than 950 beds, has long been considered the backbone of metro Atlanta’s health-care system. (Washington Post)

‘Welcome-mat effect’ to boost Medicaid enrollment
A University of Minnesota study says the federal health care overhaul is likely to boost enrollment in Medicaid by people who are already eligible but not currently enrolled. And that means states will face higher Medicaid spending and caseloads, even states that don’t opt to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. The study, published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs, seeks to quantify the “welcome-mat effect.” Using the 2006 health care overhaul in Massachusetts as a model, the researchers pegged it at 19.4 percent. (Associated Press/KIMT)

Hospital officials complain to senate panel about Medicare efforts on observation care
Overly aggressive practices of contractors charged with recovering inappropriate Medicare payments are causing headaches for hospitals and patients, hospital executives told the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday. Recovery Audit Contractors uncover and collect improper payments made to hospitals, physicians, clinics and other providers. In 2011 the audits resulted in the return of nearly a half a billion dollars to the Medicare Trust Fund. “We need to build on this success, but we can’t overburden legitimate providers who play by the rules,” Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Tuesday. “We need balance.” (Washington Post)

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Roger and Judy Rasmussen with Dr. Matthew Deppe

Roger and Judy Rasmussen didn’t know where to turn next. Judy had been very ill.  At Waverly Health Center (WHC), Her family doctor, Lee Fagre, MD, knew something was seriously wrong. He called Dr. Matthew Deppe, the hospital’s newest general surgeon, to look at Judy. Dr. Deppe found that Judy had a very bad disease in her pancreas. The pancreas is a gland near the stomach that helps process foods. Judy had very little chance of living through the standard surgery used to treat her disease.

“Dr. Deppe helped us learn about the options to treat my illness. They weren’t very good,” stated Judy. “I could have surgery and most likely die from it or I could be given drugs to help with the pain until the end. We didn’t like either option.

”Dr. Deppe didn’t like the choices either. He contacted a doctor he knew from the Mayo Clinic to discuss a new procedure that was being used for Judy’s condition. The new method was showing great promise and a much higher survival rate than methods used in the past. There was hope!

“Our top goal was to get Judy as healthy as possible so she could have the new surgery,” stated Dr. Deppe. “We used antibiotics to help shrink her infection. We also worked to increase her strength with better nutrition through IV feedings.”

Dr. Deppe worked very closely with Dr. Fagre, WHC registered dietitian Wahneta Haywood, and the nursing staff. “The doctors and staff worked with us as a team – we all had faith in each other,” stated Judy.

Several weeks went by and the big news came. Judy’s illness had improved so much, she no longer needed surgery. She was being released to go home!

“Our health care team was very surprised. It is very rare for a patient with this disease to recover without surgery. In fact, we are not aware of any other cases,” stated Dr. Deppe.

Judy ended, “Needless to say, Roger and I will be eternally grateful for the professionalism, dedication and caring of Dr. Deppe, Dr. Fagre and the Waverly Health Center staff.”

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

Iowa News

Counties face new challenges in mental health funding
Mental health care is again a hot topic after Iowa’s governor vetoed millions of dollars in state funding to services. Next Monday, the next fiscal year begins.  In Woodbury County officials say they’re scrambling to adjust to last minute changes to mental health care funding. “The legislature didn’t make it easy,” said Woodbury County Social Services Director Patty Erickson-Puttmann. She thought her budget was set for next year.  It’s not. “That’s frustrating because you’re dealing with disabled people’s lives,” she added.

Confidential records missing at Iowa mental health facility
Officials say the information was stored on a backup computer tape that went missing April 30 and has not been located. A search for the tape continues at the Independence facility, DHS spokesman Roger Munns said in a news release, and officials think it is likely that the tape was inadvertently destroyed or discarded. Access to information on the tape requires specialized and outdated equipment. (Quad-City Times)

National News

Grassley: Who Approved These Hospital CEO Bonuses?
Sen. Charles Grassley, a longtime member of the Senate Finance Committee and frequent critic of nonprofit hospitals, wants to know whose idea it was to pay hospital CEOs annual bonuses surpassing a million dollars in some cases. “Is the board in control?” he asked in an interview. “Is the board making these decisions and how do they make these decisions? Are they running the show or is the CEO running them?” (Washington Post)

SD residents talk Medicaid expansion
A special Medicaid Task Force is in Sioux Falls for the next couple of days to find the pros and cons of expanding the state’s Medicaid program to the Affordable Care Act. When they do, they will report back to Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the state legislature on ways the state could best accomplish the expansion if it were to do so. (KDLT)

Expanding Medicaid is the smart thing to do
From New York to New Mexico, and Oregon to Alabama, state officials with diverse political outlooks are reaching the same conclusion: Expanding Medicaid under Obamacare is simply too good an idea to pass up. Not only that, it’s a smart, compassionate public-health policy. But a still-reluctant Gov. Corbett and the Republican-controlled General Assembly continue to stall on Pennsylvania’s adding more of its working poor to the health-insurance program. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Latino enrollment key to success of health law marketplaces
Just as Latinos were crucial to President Barack Obama’s re-election success in 2012, they are now key to the success of his health law. And the administration is doing everything it can to make sure that Latinos enroll.  The administration announced this week that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be making the rounds on Spanish-language media outlets to discuss the health law and unveiled the newly revamped, the Spanish version of (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

A healthy compromise
In the end, Iowa won’t accept the Medicaid expansion. However, it will expand health coverage to the same number of Iowans by putting some on Medicaid and those who make a little more would buy insurance on the new health care exchange and have premiums paid through federal grants. If the federal money doesn’t come through, Iowa can opt out. The bill also includes provisions to encourage people to seek preventive care and live healthier lifestyles. The federal government still needs to approve the plan, but lawmakers seem optimistic that will happen. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Mental health funding defended
“I wouldn`t say we`re in good shape but we`re in reasonable shape,” says Polk County Human Services Executive Director Lynn Ferrell. Ferrell says Polk County wasn`t counting on the risk pool funding to provide mental health and disability services to nearly 11,000 people.  But other counties need that safety net. “If the system has been underfunded for the last 15 years, you can`t fix it one year and you can`t veto the money one year on the grounds that you made a down payment on fixing the system last year,” says Ferrell. (WHO-TV)

‘Good news and bad news’ in Iowa Kids Count report
Fallout from the recession continues to put the well-being of Iowa children at risk, but efforts by the state and other groups have improved several key indicators of child health over the past six years, according to a local researcher. The findings are included in the most recent Kids Count report, released today. The report is compiled annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore with help from the Des Moines-based Child & Family Policy Center. (Des Moines Register)

Are your data safe? Don’t bet on it
“From a health care perspective, the risk of losing patient identities could be extremely detrimental and have long-term ramification,” said Sheryl Rose, chief information officer for Catholic Health Initiatives in Colorado, which oversees 84 hospitals and clinics, including Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. “It’s critical to build a security program that focuses on a layered controls structure, including both preventative and detective controls.” For example, at Mercy in Des Moines, employees are required to use proprietary portable hard drives, rather than the much cheaper drives (typically called thumb drives) available in retail stores. (Des Moines Register)

National News

HHS launches Marketplace call center, websites
The Department of Health and Human Services today launched a 24-hour call center and revamped website offering information to help individuals, families and small businesses prepare to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace beginning Oct. 1. The website can be accessed from desktop or mobile devices, includes a web chat feature to support consumer inquiries and is integrated with social media. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

AHA asks to modify reach of RACs
The American Hospital Association is asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reconsider its revisions regarding the admission of patients previously in observation care, and to begin financially penalizing recovery audit contractors for any errors they make in denying claims, AHA News reported. The CMS was prompted to change its rules regarding observation care after complaints from hospitals that inpatients admitted for a day or two were being unfairly targeted by RACs. As a result, many patients were being kept in observation care days at a time. (FierceHealthFinance)

Working poor losing Obamacare as states resist Medicaid expansion
Ruiz, a home health aide to Medicaid patients, has no medical insurance herself. Her best shot at getting access to doctors and medicines for her own needs was through President Barack Obama’s expansion of the federal-state Medicaid programs. That hope was scuttled for Ruiz and thousands of other health-care workers across Texas when the state opted out of the Medicaid expansion earlier this month. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the U.S. (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Guide outlines steps to become a culturally competent hospital
It may not be easy, but it’s possible to become a “culturally competent” hospital, according to a new guide released by the Equity of Care initiative and the American Hospital Association’s Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence. For those that take the necessary steps, the benefits are enormous and include improved health outcomes, increased participation from the local community and possibly lower costs, states the “Becoming a Culturally Competent Health Care Organization” guide. (FierceHealthcare)

Top Medicare prescribers rake in speaking fees from drugmakers
Forest Laboratories, launched a promotional assault on the group in the best position to determine Bystolic’s success: those in control of prescription pads. It flooded the offices of health professionals with drug reps and it hired doctors to persuade their peers to choose Bystolic — even though the drug hadn’t proved more effective than competitors. The strategy worked. In the 2012 fiscal year, sales of Bystolic reached $348 million, almost double its total from two years earlier. Now, data obtained and analyzed by ProPublica suggest another factor in Bystolic’s rapid success: Many of the drug’s top prescribers have financial ties to Forest. (Iowa Public Radio)

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