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

Iowa News

Iowa health care leaders say reform will encourage collaboration
Three of central Iowa’s top health-care leaders met Thursday morning with Register writers and editors to discuss the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Here are their thoughts on what Iowa’s health-care system will look like in five years. (Des Moines Register)

Preparing the public for the Affordable Care Act
At Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, “you name it, we’re doing it,” said Steve Davis, director of marketing and planning. “We have a communications campaign to alert people to the availability of insurance exchange options — what they are, how they function, how they would benefit people. We and a number of community agencies are here to help.” Mercy’s communications campaign includes mailings, public events, advertising and information on the Mercy-North Iowa website. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Siouxland providers prepare for patient surge from health law
In the evenings, the line of patients waiting to see a doctor at the Siouxland Community Health Center often spills outside the doors of the walk-in clinic at 1021 Nebraska St. “All you have to do is look at our parking lot. That will tell you about the demand,” interim CEO Mari Kaptain-Dahlen said about the clinic, which charges for services on a sliding-fee scale, based on ability to pay. (Sioux City Journal)

Providers gear up with more doctors, nurses
Local medical systems are adding health professionals to their teams to prepare for the thousands of residents in the Quad-Cities who soon will be able to use health insurance to help pay for medical care. The hiring of primary care physicians and nurses is paired with the training of new employees who will help consumers actually purchase the insurance. There are different names used for those positions.  “Navigators” is the term used at Genesis Health System; they are “outreach and enrollment coordinators” at Community Health Care, Inc.; and “certified application counselors” at UnityPoint Health Trinity. (Quad-City Times)

Lung transplant patients walk with physicians at Principal Park
As participants arrived Saturday morning at Principal Park for the American Lung Association’s annual Fight for Air 1-mile and 5K walk, many introduced themselves not by name, but by number. “I’m number 6,” said Pete Wilgenbusch, of St. Charles. “You look good. I’m 83,” said Don Reed, of Bettendorf, as the men shook hands. Their numbers were the order in which they underwent lung transplants at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ lung transplant program. (Des Moines Register)

More options, healthier choices: Restaurants zeroing in on Blue Zones
When Rick Washburn began his career more than 15 years ago, the Kahill’s Steak and Chopshop food and beverage manager said he couldn’t have predicted a time when quinoa cake would make its way onto his menu. “Nah, the Midwest was all about pizza, wings and stuff from the deep fryer,” he said, shaking his head. “Quinoa wasn’t even on my radar back then.” (Sioux City Journal)

National News

Insurance exchanges will open to scrutiny, curiosity, confusion
Tuesday is a big day for the White House. That’s when new open in every state, where people can buy the insurance the Affordable Care Act requires next year. They will also see if they qualify for new subsidies to help them afford it. The day will be met by both intense scrutiny and complete cluelessness. Policy wonks will be watching like scientists running lab rats through a maze. Camped on the virtual sidewalk outside the new exchanges, just waiting for the online doors to open, are people like Caroline Pearson, a vice president at Avalere Health, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm. (National Public Radio)

Nurses push to prep would-be patients on new health care law
The new health care law will bring a lot of questions for those who do not know about the many different aspects of the upcoming legislation. In order to get answers about the law, patients are turning to people in the hospital industry they can trust: nurses. Groups of nurses are going to gathering places to explain the Affordable Care Act to people who have concerns about the soon-to-be law. The nurses are primarily explaining the ACA to those who never had health insurance. (NBC News)

Survey shows confusion over health law but support for Medicaid expansion
A day before the new health care exchanges open across the country, a new report shows that the more people understand it, the more they’re inclined to participate. But while most people are aware of the law’s requirement to buy insurance or face a penalty, a much smaller number have any understanding of the insurance exchanges opening on Tuesday or of the financial aid available to help people buy insurance. (New York Times)

Arkansas is using this weird trick to expand Medicaid
There are about 200,000 Arkansans who qualify for the Medicaid expansion. Instead of having them enroll in the public program, like other states will do, Arkansas will send them to their new health insurance marketplace to buy individual plans. When they get to the point of purchase, the Medicaid agency will foot the tab for their health insurance coverage. (Washington Post)

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

Iowa News

Iowa still awaiting full federal waiver on new Medicaid option
Iowa may have to delay implementing part of its bipartisan Iowa Health and Wellness Plan if federal officials do not grant a full waiver on the program by next week, Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday. Branstad said he had a “very frank” meeting with officials in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services when he was in Washington, D.C., earlier this week, but federal officials still have not signed off on a piece of Iowa’s program that sets “very modest” insurance premiums for low-income participants that is paid for with Medicaid money providing they engage in a health-risk assessment designed to contain costs. (Quad City Times)

Mason City meeting set on Affordable Care Act
Information about the Affordable Care Act and federal requirements for health insurance in 2014 will be provided at a free program at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, 1000 Fourth St. S.W. The Health Insurance Marketplace Town Hall Public Meeting, one of a series being held around the state, is in the East Campus Auditorium. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Dental clinic needs volunteers
Each year the Iowa Mission of Mercy hosts the massive clinic in different parts of the state. This year, people can line up for free dental care on October 18-19 at the Varied Industries Building on the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Dr. Zachary Kouri says, “We’ll be providing things like extractions, filings, replacing some teeth with partials, simple root canals, cleanings and general health care like that.” Organizers expect to provide $1.4 million worth of services to 1,400 patients in two days. Dr. Kouri says. (WHO-TV)

Cedar Rapids pink lighting event set
Mercy Medical Center and Alliant Energy are teaming up in Cedar Rapids next week to light as much of the city as possible in pink to observe the beginning of National Breast Cancer Awareness month. At 7 p.m. Oct. 3 a power of pink event will be held at Mercy’s Hall-Perrine Cancer Center featuring a lighting ceremony and free giveaways to promote breast cancer awareness and early detection. Alliant Energy will give away energy-saving pink light bulbs to be displayed in residential porch lights for the month of October. (KCRG)

National News

Obama denounces ‘irresponsible’ health care critics
President Obama denounced “irresponsible” Republican critics of his health care law Thursday, saying efforts to “blackmail” him into changing the plan could trigger a government shutdown and a U.S. credit default. “Now they’re threatening steps that actually would badly hurt our entire economy,” Obama said during a health care speech in Largo, Md. The speech came on the same day the administration announced a change in the online rules for small businesses: Some small-business owners wishing to enroll in new health care exchanges opening Oct. 1 will not be able to do so online at first. (USA Today)

Glitches hold up elements of health care sign up process
Small-business health exchanges run by the federal government will not open for online enrollment until November, the Obama administration said Thursday. But applicants may still enroll by phone, mail or fax beginning Oct. 1. The White House had initially planned to launch these marketplaces, which serve businesses with fewer than 50 employees, on Tuesday, the same day that individual marketplaces go live. (Washington Post)

California becomes laboratory for Affordable Care Act
A national health policy nonprofit on Thursday announced it is making California the focal point of a long-term research project to examine whether the Affordable Care Act lives up to expectations for the uninsured. The Kaiser Family Foundation released the initial results of interviews with 2,000 randomly selected Californians who had lacked health insurance for at least two months. The study will follow the respondents for two years, as they examine their options under the federal health care law. (Associated Press/Boston Globe)

Report: More hospital employees getting flu shots
An estimated 83 percent of hospital workers report receiving a flu vaccine for the 2012-13 flu season, up from 77 percent in 2011-12 and 71 percent in 2010-11, according to a survey released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest estimate includes 93 percent of hospital physicians, 87 percent of hospital nurses, 98 percent of hospital pharmacists and 81 percent of other hospital clinical personnel. Coverage for health care workers in all settings was 72 percent, up from 67 percent in 2011-12 and 64 percent in 2010-11. Hospitals achieved a higher vaccination rate than physician offices (73 percent) and long-term care facilities (59 percent). Coverage was 95 percent among workers in hospitals requiring vaccination, compared with 78 percent in those that promoted but did not require vaccination.

Medical supply chain company Premier rises in market debut
Shares of Premier Inc rose 15 percent in their market debut on Thursday as investors bet on the medical supply-chain management company’s cost-effective services that complement a broader regulatory goal of lower health care spending. Premier’s initial public offering valued the company at about $4.40 billion. The company’s stock was up 14 percent at $30.72 in late-morning trading after touching a high of $31. About 14 million shares changed hands, making Premier one of the heavily traded stocks on the Nasdaq. (Reuters)

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

Iowa News

Denison hospital offers free assistance as insurance exchanges open
Beginning Oct. 1, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will open the state health insurance exchanges for business. Popularly known as “Obamacare,” the requirements of the act include an individual mandate to purchase health insurance if insurance is not available through an employer or other private purchase options. To help people comply with Obamacare, Crawford County Memorial Hospital has been approved as a Certified Application Counselor organization. (Mapleton Press)

Several health systems participating in new Iowa health information network
Iowa’s movement into the use of electronic health records has reached a milestone as three major health systems have signed participation agreements with the Iowa Health Information Network, known as the IHIN. Henry County Health Center in Mount Pleasant is the first health care facility to go live with a full IHIN connection. The Health Center began registering each new patient visit, notifying the IHIN, in August. (KCRG)

Mental health care network forming in SE Iowa
There could soon be a mental health care network operating in the southeast corner of Iowa. Representatives of seven counties (Lee, Des Moines, Henry, Louisa, Van Buren, Keokuk and Washington) have been meeting for months to come up with a solution to the state’s plan to regionalize services. The result is Southeast Iowa Link. (TriStates Public Radio)

National News

HHS reports on health plan choice, premiums in 48 state marketplaces
Individuals and families may be able to choose between six and 169 qualified health plans in 2014 in the 36 states with a federally facilitated or supported health insurance marketplace, or exchange, the Department of Health and Human Services reported. On average, eight different health insurance companies are expected to participate in each federally facilitated exchange. In 48 states, including 12 implementing their own exchange, monthly premiums for the second-lowest-cost silver plan average 16 percent below an HHS-derived Congressional Budget Office projection of $392. (Department of Health and Human Services)

Individuals will define Obamacare’s fate
On the day in 2010 that he put his signature to the biggest domestic achievement of his presidency, President Obama declared: “After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, health-care reform is no longer an unmet promise. It is the law of the land.” Now, we get to see whether it works. Starting Oct. 1, more than 40 million Americans who lack medical insurance will have their first chance to sign up for coverage under the new system that has come to be known as Obamacare. (Washington Post)

Consumer groups criticize Anthem’s narrow network in Missouri marketplace
Patient advocates say the exclusion of one of Missouri’s top hospital systems from policies offered by the region’s biggest insurer under the Affordable Care Act could hinder treatment for some patients and force others to switch doctors. The network for the Anthem BlueCross BlueShield plans, which will be sold through Missouri’s “Obamacare” marketplace, does not include BJC HealthCare and its 13 hospitals — among them Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the area’s premier academic medical center, and St. Louis Children’s Hospital. (Kaiser Health News)

New debt limit deadline is Oct. 17
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned congressional leaders Wednesday that he will exhaust emergency borrowing measures “no later than Oct. 17,” leaving him with less than $30 billion on hand to pay the nation’s bills. In a letter sent to all members of Congress, Lew urged immediate action to raise the federal debt limit, which stands at $16.7 trillion. Without additional borrowing authority, Lew warned, cash on hand “would be far short of net expenditures on certain days, which can be as high as $60 billion.” (Washington Post)

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

Iowa News

Iowans and health insurance: Are we ready?
State officials estimate anywhere from less than 100,000 to 350,000 or more people will sign up for plans through the exchange, also called the marketplace, before they are required to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. “Thing is, this is new for everyone,” said Tom Alger, spokesman for the Iowa Insurance Division. “We don’t know how it’s going to work out until we get there.” (Muscatine Journal)

Lakes Regional Healthcare expansion set for spring completion
Lakes Regional Healthcare officials say a nearly $20 million, 10,000-square-foot expansion of Lakes Regional Healthcare is nearly complete. The completed project will feature a new birth and surgery center as well as a spruced up front entrance. Construction that began in the fall in 2012 should tentatively be completed by late spring 2014. (Dickinson County News)

New vaccine available this flu season
It’s that time of year when we start hearing sneezes and coughs all around us. Doctors and pharmacists say now is the time to get a flu shot. This year, however, there’s a new vaccine. For the first time, some health departments and doctors’ offices are offering that new vaccine. It’s called the quadrivalent flu vaccine, simply meaning it will protect you from four different flu viruses. Up until now, the flu shot only protected you against three strains. (KCRG)

Be the Match chapter comes to UI campus
The University of Iowa has become the first college campus in the state to establish a chapter of Be The Match, a national registry for bone-marrow donors. The national project Project Marrow has been in place at UIHC for the past 10 years. Be The Match is the recruiting branch that will encourage a broader student participation.  (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

Doctor discusses ovarian cancer
Dr. Carl Christie, a gynecologic oncologist at Mercy Cancer Center, treats women with ovarian cancer — also known as the “silent killer” because of its lack of obvious symptoms. He will speak at the Break the Silence ovarian cancer conference at Mercy Medical Center on Wednesday. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Average Obamacare premiums will be lower than projected
Just days before new online health insurance markets are set to open, the Obama administration Wednesday released a look at average premiums, saying rates in most states are lower than earlier projected — and that 95 percent of consumers will have at least two insurers to choose from. The report – released the same day that President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton touted the law’s benefits — comes as part of a stepped-up administration effort to explain and defend the health law as congressional Republicans target it for defunding. (Kaiser Health News)

How will exchanges change options for kids’ health coverage?
As the scheduled launch of the state health insurance marketplaces on Oct. 1 approaches, many parents have questions about covering their children. Here are a few we got recently. (Iowa Public Radio)

Brooklyn grapples with struggling hospitals and demand for health care
A new vision for Brooklyn health care was unveiled two years ago with much fanfare: Several struggling hospitals would merge with others, a state panel proposed, and less-expensive outpatient clinics would spring up in their place. Little of that has come to pass. Two hospitals are in danger of closing. Often lost in the rhetoric of the high-profile fights against shutting them is a little-discussed fact: There aren’t enough clinics to replace those hospitals if they close, according to state officials, health-care experts, community groups and unions. (Wall Street Journal)

Delivering safety over convenience
The well-heeled women planning to give birth at 451-bed Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., have been a tough crowd to please. Most are affluent, with 95% covered by private insurance, and many work in high-pressure jobs 25 miles away in Manhattan. “They have things they do in their lives every day, and they schedule everything, including how and when they have their babies,” says Claire Grande, RN, Valley’s assistant vice president of women’s and children’s services. “They’d say they need to schedule their deliveries early because on their regular due date they need to attend a conference.” (HealthLeaders Media)

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IHA will announce the Iowa Hospital Heroes for 2014 at our Annual Meeting in October.  With that in mind, we’d like to continue introducing those who received the award last year.
Zena Olerich prof photo 8.16.12
Zena Olerich, a social worker and patient advocate, spends her time and dedication mending the hearts and souls at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in Storm Lake. She works with patients receiving treatment for cancer, geriatric patients in Hope Harbor, the geriatric psychiatric unit, and employees needing services through the employee assistance program.

Zena’s ability to be in-tune with the nursing staff makes the job of caring for patients much easier.  With often just a look, nurses can signal to Zena that a patient needs something extra today.  She naturally steps in with just the right words and support.

Zena-Oelrich-Oncology-Cart2Nurses work endless hours on the medical treatment of a patient, but often do not have the time to also heal the emotional side of living with cancer.  As one nurse said, “Zena completes the treatment of the entire person.”

The oncology supervisor tells a story of a patient who suddenly lost her husband while undergoing treatment, explaining, “We immediately thought of Zena, who spent countless hours assisting her with paperwork, financial planning, listening to emotional issues and assisting her with family issues.  Mostly, this was all donated time by Zena, in an effort to help someone we see in our clinic.”

In Hope Harbor, Zena works with patients during their stay and assists to make sure their living arrangements after treatment are in the best situation possible. Patients’ loved ones also receive support from Zena.  Patients in Hope Harbor can sometimes be admitted for weeks, but she stays in contact weekly with families on the status and care plan for their loved ones.

The most important thing Zena has is her open ear.  Employees can often feel frustrated with juggling work, home and always having a good day around patients who need so much from them.  A health secretary said, “She is there for me when I need to talk and makes sure to follow up on our conversation.  No request is too small for her to help me have a good day.”

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