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

Iowa News

Sioux City hospitals provided $40 million in community benefits
Sioux City’s two hospitals combined to contribute more than $40 million in community benefits last year, according to a report released Tuesday. Mercy Medical Center — Sioux City provided $23.9 million in benefits and UnityPoint Health –- St. Luke’s another $17 million, according to the recently completed assessment by Iowa Hospital Association, a trade group. The combined total is up nearly 21 percent from the 2012 report of $33 million. (Sioux City Journal)

Bagged salads blamed for cyclospora food-poisoning outbreak
Prepackaged salad mix apparently was the source of a cyclospora parasite that sickened hundreds in Iowa and Nebraska in recent weeks, state investigators say.  “The evidence points to a salad mix containing iceberg and romaine lettuce, as well as carrots and red cabbage as the source of the outbreak reported in Iowa and Nebraska,” Steven Mandernach, food-safety chief for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, said in a press release. (Des Moines Register)

ADHD abuse rises, prompting physicians to stay alert
Popping a few Adderall or Ritalin once in a while to help study for a college exam might seem harmless, but medical professionals say the stimulates commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could lead to a dangerous addiction. Steven Joyce, a physician with Mercy Medical Center Internal Medicine & Pediatrics, said college students and adults seeking treatment for ADHD should be “strongly scrutinized” because they are likely abusing these medications for their stimulant effects. (Sioux City Journal)

Genesis hospitals train for active shooter
Groups are learning defense tactics like using distractions, fighting back, or evacuating. Several local school districts are getting trained on ALICE (which stands for Alert Lock down Inform Counter and Evacuate), but now the program is spreading to local businesses, government buildings, hospitals and more. Today, more than 30 staff at Genesis hospitals were trained in ALICE and staff from Saint Ambrose University, Oscar Meyer, and other local employers are training this week too, applying this knowledge to other public buildings– beyond just schools. (KWQC)

Workers, skills still a mismatch in Iowa
The first anniversary of the Skilled Iowa Initiative comes with no change in the percentage of Iowa workers qualifying for middle-skilled jobs, although the share of positions requiring those workers is increasing. Iowa Workforce Development reports the percentage of Iowa jobs that require workers with training beyond a high school diploma has grown to 56, up from 50 percent reported last year. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Orszag: Critics wrong about Medicare payment board
For Medicare, this has been a summer of good and bad news. On one hand, the program’s costs continue to rise remarkably slowly. So far this fiscal year, they have gone up by only 2.7 percent in nominal terms, the Congressional Budget Office reports. On the other hand, opposition to the Independent Payment Advisory Board — created as part of the Affordable Care Act — continues to mount. And opponents continue to mischaracterize the whole point of the board. (Bloomberg)

Delay of employer mandate will cost $12B
President Barack Obama’s decision to delay implementation of part of his healthcare reform law will cost $12 billion and leave a million fewer Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance in 2014, congressional researchers said Tuesday. The report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is the first authoritative estimate of the human and fiscal cost from the administration’s unexpected one-year delay announced July 2 of the employer mandate – a requirement for larger businesses to provide health coverage for their workers or pay a penalty. The analysts said the delay will add to the cost of “Obamacare’s” insurance-coverage provisions over the next 10 years. (Baltimore Sun/Reuters)

For surgery, big and famous hospitals aren’t always the best
In the first effort of its kind, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine released ratings of 2,463 U.S. hospitals in all 50 states on Wednesday, based on the quality of surgical care. The group used two measures: the percentage of Medicare patients who died in the hospital during or after their surgery, and the percentage who stayed in the hospital longer than expected based on standards of care for their condition. (Reuters)

NC makes move to improve health cost transparency
Beginning next year, North Carolinians should have more insight into what their hospital bill might be before care is delivered. Passed last week in the waning days of this year’s legislative session, the Health Care Cost Reduction and Transparency Act of 2013, or House Bill 834, will create an online database of what hospitals are paid, on average, for the 100 treatments they perform most frequently. (Charlotte Business Journal)

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

Iowa News

Iowans express support for health care expansion
Iowa residents are largely expressing support for a plan to expand low-income health care, although there are still questions about some of the details. About 75 people attended a public hearing Monday in Des Moines on the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan.  Under the plan, the state will accept federal dollars offered to states that expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. That funding will be used to provide health coverage for as many as 150,000 low-income residents by putting some on a new state-run program and to pay the premiums for others to get private insurance on the new health care exchanges. (Associated Press/Omaha World-Herald)

Fix the Medicare funding disparity
The Institute of Medicine released a new report last week on the geographic variation in health-care spending. Over the last three decades, researchers have documented significant disparities in how Medicare pays doctors and hospitals across various regions. The existing geographic disparity in Medicare funds is certainly a grave issue that needs to be addressed immediately because it limits health-care quality in specific regions, such as Iowa. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

Spike in female drug overdose deaths
In Cedar Rapids, St. Luke’s Hospital’s emergency room has seen a growing number of drug overdoses by both men and women. Doctors say it’s gone up even more in the past three months. They say while some patients don’t understand the dangers of some painkillers, a drug monitoring program is helping stop patients who fake an illness to get the drugs. (KCRG)

National News

White House touts slow increase in health care costs
Personal health care costs rose in the 12 months ending in May at the slowest rate in the last 50 years, as spending on hospital and nursing home services declined, the White House announced Monday. Personal consumption spending rose 1.1 percent, Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said. Hospital readmissions rates dropped from an average of 19 percent to 17.9 percent for Medicare patients since the passage of the 2010 health care law, Krueger said. (USA Today)

Obamacare shutdown ‘suicidal political tactic’
House Deputy Whip Tom Cole thinks shutting down the government to defund Obamacare is a “suicidal political tactic.”  “Shutting down the government is a suicidal political tactic. Eventually it will be reopened, but the president will not have capitulated and you will have discredited yourself and along the way you will have hurt the American people,” Cole (R-Okla.) said Monday on MSNBC’s “Now with Alex Wagner.” (Politico)

Making sense of geographic variations in health care
Since 1973, when Jack Wennberg published his first paper describing geographic variations in health care, researchers have argued about both the magnitude and the causes of variation.  The argument gained greater policy relevance as U.S. health care spending reached 18 percent of GDP and as evidence mounted, largely from researchers at Dartmouth, that higher spending regions were failing to achieve better outcomes.   The possibility of substantial savings not only helped to motivate reform but also raised the stakes in what had been largely an academic argument.   Some began to raise questions about the Dartmouth research.  Now, the prestigious Institute of Medicine released a committee report, that weighs in on these issues. (Health Affairs)

Older smokers should get CT scans for lung cancer, panel recommends
The draft recommendation, by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said people aged 55 to 79 with a lengthy history of at least moderate smoking should be screened if they have smoked in the past 15 years. That population is most at risk for lung cancer and would get significant benefits while experiencing relatively little harm from the low-dose radiation used in chest CT scans, and from false positive tests, the panel said. (Washington Post)

Program compelling outpatient treatment for mental illness is working, study says
For some people with severe mental illness, life is a cycle of hospitalization, skipped medication, decline and then rehospitalization. They may deny they have psychiatric disorders, refuse treatment and cascade into out-of-control behavior that can be threatening to themselves or others.  Now, a study has found that a controversial program that orders these patients to receive treatment when they are not hospitalized has had positive results. (New York Times)

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

Iowa News

Study confirms regional Medicare disparities in Iowa
A study sought by Iowa lawmakers when the Affordable Care Act was passed three years ago acknowledges that there are significant geographic disparities in how Medicare pays doctors and hospitals. But it rejected the idea that payments should be adjusted by a geographically based value index. The study, released last week by the Institute of Medicine, said the disparities are driven primarily by the use of post-acute care, including skilled nursing facilities, home health care and hospice. A lesser amount is caused by acute, or inpatient, care. (Quad-City Times)

Iowa’s cyclospora response criticized
State and federal investigators should have been able to quickly pinpoint the source of a food poisoning outbreak that has sickened more than 140 Iowans since mid-June, a nationally known expert said Friday. “This one is very solvable. This is one of the easy ones,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “If this same number of cases had happened in Minnesota as happened in Iowa, this would have been solved weeks ago.” (Des Moines Register)

Covenant program guards babies from whooping cough
At Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo, Amanda Kalb and her husband, Joshua, decided to receive a pertussis booster vaccine, an immunization that protects against whooping cough. “I work with little kids, so I know what it’s like,” Kalb said. The Family Birth Center at Covenant began a new program called “Cocooning” on July 1. Through the program, family members and others who provide care or interact daily with a newborn can receive a pertussis booster vaccine. The idea is that by protecting themselves from whooping cough, they’ll also protect the babies from the virus. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

UI prepares for new health care rules
Under the Affordable Care Act, large employers like UI will be required to cover employees who work at least 30 hours per week starting January 1, 2015. That’s created a lot of unanswered questions for the university — which already covers regular employees who work at least 20 hours per week — including how many more part-timers will qualify for benefits and how it will calculate hours for faculty members who don’t work on an hourly basis. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Hospital cancer center on board with boat crew
Life is Bliss, the team representing the William R. Bliss Cancer Center, is composed of 20 cancer patients, survivors and caregivers from Mary Greeley Medical Center and McFarland Clinic. For the second year, the team will be traveling to Kennedy Park in Fort Dodge to participate in the Badger Lake Dragon Boat Bash, where teams from across the country can race in friendly competition. “We gather together to row and raise awareness about breast cancer and its effect on people in the community, raise support and educate women,” said team member Brittany McCall. “It’s time to have fun and have a little competition in August, but it’s all light-hearted.”

National News

No Medicaid expansion, no coverage for some
Thousands of Nebraskans will check out their health insurance options beginning Oct. 1, but many of those who were intended to benefit from Obamacare are expected to be left out. They likely will earn too little to buy subsidized private insurance on the federal exchange, and they will continue to make too much to receive Medicaid. Wendy Lewis of Omaha is among them. (Omaha World-Herald)

Judge denies injunction on Kentucky Medicaid expansion
A Franklin Circuit Court judge ruled Friday that expansion of Kentucky’s Medicaid program can move forward while the court considers a legal challenge from the tea party. Gov. Steve Beshear said in May that Kentucky will add about 308,000 beneficiaries to Medicaid rolls next year under the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Tea party activist David Adams has filed suit, challenging Beshear’s decision and seeking a temporary injunction to halt the expansion. (Louisville Courier-Journal)

Berwick names 11 monsters facing hospital industry
“We’re scared of the truth, the next wave of what we have to do to transform health care. And it crosses some scary landscape. It’s stuff we don’t want to think about and don’t want to talk about,” he told some 1,400 executives assembled for the American Hospital Association’s Leadership Summit in San Diego last week. That “stuff” involves grasping the extent of the industry’s greed, ignorance, excess, overutilization and waste, Berwick admonished. (HealthLeaders Media)

Obamacare canvassers hit the streets to reach uninsured
Tammy Spencer did a double take when she read the address on her paper and looked at the house in front of her. Spencer, a volunteer with the nonprofit Enroll America, was spending a hot and humid Saturday morning knocking on doors in this mostly posh South Florida city looking for people without health coverage. She wanted to let them know about new online insurance marketplaces that open for enrollment Oct 1. (Kaiser Health News)

The hype over hospital rankings
Last week U.S. News and World Report released its annual list of “Best Hospitals.” Websites are being updated to celebrate victories. (Johns Hopkins ranks No. 1!) Magazines will be plump with advertising. (NewYork-Presbyterian is first in New York and tied for seventh nationally!) And, because I am a reporter covering health care, my in-box is accumulating e-mails from the “Honor Roll” of the Top 18 hospitals. But what does this annual exercise mean for patients? And what does it say about American health care? After all, Harvard and Princeton, which tied for No. 1 in the magazine’s 2013 Top 10 national universities list, didn’t take out ads to proclaim their triumph; they will fill their classrooms no matter. (New York Times)

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

Iowa News

Nationwide campaign on mental health begins
In response to the recent shootings and rise in teen violence, the National Association of Broadcasters started a campaign called OK2TALK Thursday.  Their aim is to raise awareness about the struggles among young Americans who deal with mental illness. “I feel like when people say mental illness, everyone thinks you’re going to grab the nearest pair of scissors and go after them,” said Ara Robinson, a psychiatrist.  A website OK2TALK.org was launched, and they run public service announcements on local TV and radio. (WOI)

Group says federal cuts will hurt dialysis patients
Among the scores of programs facing federal budget cuts under sequestration, Medicare and Medicaid will see a funding loss of more than nine-percent for the care of dialysis patients. Jack Reynolds, a central Iowa native and vice president of the non-profit group Dialysis Patient Citizens, says more than 2,300 Iowans need dialysis three times a week to stay alive. (Radio Iowa)

National News

Movement to defund ObamaCare grows
A growing group of congressional Republicans is pushing leaders to defund ObamaCare in the next government spending bill, setting the stage for a showdown in September, when the current continuing resolution expires. Twelve Senate Republicans sent a letter Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declaring they would not support a government funding bill unless it excludes funds for the healthcare law. (The Hill)

Study: Automated quality reporting fails to live up to promise
The current approach to automated quality reporting fails to deliver on the promise of a feasible way to generate valid and reliable quality data, according to a study released today by the American Hospital Association. The study by iParsimony LLC describes the experience of four hospitals – large and small, urban and metropolitan – using electronic health records to generate electronic Clinical Quality Measures, as required for Stage 1 meaningful use under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. (American Hospital Association)

Telemedicine may help cure Kentucky’s overburdened healthcare system
After suffering with skin problems most of her young life, Jewel Harmon saw a pediatric dermatology expert from Louisville Wednesday — without ever leaving her hometown of Morehead, Ky., 150 miles away. The 5-year-old visited the doctor through “telemedicine,” using videoconferencing to link patients and physicians from distant locations. “It is wonderful,” said her mother, Jessica Noble, 29. “It’s hard for me to get around. And I can’t drive all the way to Louisville; I don’t have reliable transportation to drive that far.” (Louisville Courier-Journal)

Hospitals balance patient satisfaction with path to healing
The Affordable Care Act ties millions in Medicare funding to patient satisfaction. But the mandated patient surveys may have unintended consequences, critics say. (NBC News)

 

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

Iowa News

Adding 200,000 jobs difficult unless Iowa population grows
Adding 200,000 jobs in the five years through 2016 — a key goal for Gov. Terry Branstad — will be difficult without bringing more workers into the state, according to Debi Durham, the governor’s economic development chief.  Durham talked about the goal as Iowa hit an employment milestone last week: The state has regained the number of jobs lost during the recession. While good news, it underscores a challenge for Branstad. The state’s pace so far in adding jobs won’t get the state to his goal, and neither will full employment with the current population. (Des Moines Register)

UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s named Blue Zones Worksite
UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s in Sioux City was named a Blue Zones Worksite Wednesday during a news conference in the hospital’s atrium. “We really want to see Siouxland get healthy,” said St. Luke’s president and CEO Peter Thoreen. “Our mission is to improve the health of Siouxland. We’re excited about having this designation.” (Sioux City Journal)

National News

Feds say it’s not too late for Medicaid expansion
The Obama administration reminded Florida lawmakers Wednesday that it’s not too late to expand Medicaid to more than 1 million residents in the state. Health and Human Services officials laid out many of their same talking points during a telephone conference with reporters. The state will receive more than $50 billion federal dollars and the feds will pick up the tab for the expanded Medicaid population for the first three years and 90 percent after that as part of The Affordable Care Act. (Associated Press/Kansas City Star)

Don’t shift payments by Medicare, panel says
Adjusting Medicare payments to reward doctors and hospitals in regions that provide high-quality care at low cost would be a bad idea, the National Academy of Sciences said Wednesday. After a three-year study, the academy’s Institute of Medicine rebuffed arguments by members of Congress from states like Minnesota and Iowa who say Medicare has shortchanged their health care providers for decades. (New York Times)

MU stage 2 requirements ‘overly burdensome,’ say AHA, AMA
With Meaningful Use Stage 2 implementation deadlines looming in the next few months, the nation’s two largest provider associations this week asked the federal government for “flexibility” to meet the program’s “all-or-nothing” requirements. In a joint letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association pledged their support for the widespread adoption of electronic health records. (HealthLeaders Media)

Rural life can be hazardous to your health
A study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine finds that the risk of injury death is about 20 percent higher in rural areas when compared with large cities. “I was definitely surprised by the findings,” says Sage Myers, MD, lead author of the study: Safety in Numbers: Are Major Cities the Safest Places in the U.S? (HealthLeaders Media)

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