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

Iowa News

Broadlawns to hold enrollment fair to help IowaCare participants
Broadlawns Medical Center staff will help IowaCare participants enroll in the new Iowa Health and Wellness Plan at an enrollment fair Saturday, according to a Broadlawns Medical Center news release. At the fair, IowaCare participants will be guided one-on-one by certified Broadlawns staff members, the release stated. The staff will assess patients’ situations, review the patients’ options and answer questions. (Des Moines Register)

Poor Iowans still in health insurance limbo
Iowa hasn’t heard back from Washington yet about whether the Iowa Medicaid expansion plan is OK. So while a poor person in California has filled out the paperwork and knows he will receive Medicaid coverage in a few months, a poor Iowan is still waiting to see whether she will have coverage. Nevertheless, state officials have decided it’s OK to send letters to tens of thousands of Iowans telling them they are being enrolled in this new program, even though it does not officially exist yet. (Des Moines Register)

Health reform is fertile ground for scams
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is warning Iowans that confusion over the new federal Affordable Care Act may be providing an opening for scam artists. Miller, during a stop in Waterloo on Wednesday, expressed concern about scammers who may falsely claim that their health care offerings are affiliated or compliant with the Affordable Care Act. (Muscatine Journal)

Capstone taking extra steps to prepare for Iowa’s regionalization efforts
With counties all over Iowa forming mental health service regions, Capstone Behavioral Healthcare has been taking extra steps to ensure they are best prepared to serve the citizens of the Central Iowa Community Services Region. Capstone has been in Newton since 1966, and Center Director Julie Smith talked about some of the current services they provide and some new methods they are implementing. (Newton Daily News)

UI Sports Medicine study will compare injury rates for youth flag and tackle football
The crux of the attention being given to this issue is that so little is known about concussions, says Kyle Smoot, M.D., from University of Iowa Sports Medicine. “Most of the data have been on professional, collegiate, high school and some junior high athletes but there is very little data on the grade school/youth football-aged population,” he says. Accordingly, Smoot and a UI Sports Medicine colleague, Andrew Peterson, M.D., are conducting their own study starting this fall. (University of Iowa)

New brace to help children worldwide
A University of Iowa-based organization has inspired local doctors to develop a new method to expand the availability of treatment for clubfoot worldwide. After three years of work, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is ready to unveil the Iowa Clubfoot Brace. This new technology, based on the Ponseti International Association’s method, is aimed at creating a higher quality and more affordable alternative for people diagnosed with clubfoot. (University of Iowa Daily Iowan)

National News

Sebelius: ‘Hold me accountable’ for Obamacare debacle
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that America “deserves better” than the botched Obamacare rollout and said she’s accountable for fixing HealthCare.gov problems that were far worse than the administration anticipated. “You deserve better. I apologize. I’m accountable to you for fixing these problems and I’m committed to earning your confidence back by fixing the site,” Sebelius told a House panel. (Politico)

Why insurers cancel policies, and what you can do when it happens
No one knows how many of the estimated 14 million people who buy their own insurance are getting such notices, but the numbers are substantial. Some insurers report discontinuing 20 percent of their individual business, while other insurers have notified up to 80 percent of policyholders that they will have to change plans. Here is a guide to help you understand the bigger picture, including why your premiums and benefits are likely to change next year and what you should consider as you shop for a new policy. (Kaiser Health News)

Health care prices remained flat from August through September
Overall U.S. health care prices remained relatively unchanged from August to September 2013, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS’ Producer Price Indices measure average changes in selling prices received by domestic producers for their output. The September PPI report indicated that prices across the range of health care industries were essentially equivalent to those in August, although 1.0 percent higher than a year ago. (Healthcare Finance News)

Changing light patterns in hospital rooms may ease patients’ pain and fatigue
Helping hospitalized patients get a better night’s sleep and reducing the amount of pain they’re in may be as simple as exposing them to more natural light, according to a study published online this week in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. A team of researchers led by Esther Bernhofer, a nursing education specialist at the Cleveland Clinic who specializes in pain management, sought to find out what role, if any, the hospital lighting environment played in a patients’ mood, sleep, and pain while they were in the hospital. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

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

Iowa News

Obamacare success: coverage is a ‘pleasant surprise’
After weeks of reports of complaints and inquiries into the Affordable Care website, some Iowans are finding success. Jerry Harrison of Fort Dodge is one of the lucky ones.  It only took the retiree a few minutes to sign up for Obamacare. After he keyed in all of his info, he found out he is eligible for about $530 per month in subsidies. (WHO-TV)

Insurance division gives lesson on Affordable Care Act
All the health care plans on Iowa’s Affordable Care Act marketplace are vetted by the Iowa Insurance Division. On Tuesday, folks from that agency were in Sioux City to field some questions. In just over 60 days, the Affordable Care Act coverage begins. Open enrollment has been going on all month and folks in Sioux City have some questions. (KCAU)

National News

Official apologizes for health site delays, cites progress
More than 700,000 people have created accounts to buy health insurance on state and federal health care exchanges since they opened Oct. 1, the director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Tuesday, although the site has been plagued by problems. Marilyn Tavenner apologized for the site’s problems in her testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, but said the agency is steadily adding more capacity to the system. “The experience on HealthCare.gov has been frustrating for many Americans,” Tavenner said. (USA Today)

Obama accused of breaking promise to consumers as health plans cancel policies
A new controversy over the president’s health-care law is threatening to overshadow the messy launch of its Web site: Notices are going out to hundreds of thousands of Americans informing them that their health insurance policies are being canceled as of Dec. 31. The notices appear to contradict President Obama’s promise that despite the changes resulting from the law, Americans can keep their health insurance if they like it. Republicans have seized on the cancellations as evidence that the law is flawed and the president has been less than forthright in describing its impact. (Washington Post)

How Vermont plans to push further on health
As states open insurance marketplaces amid uncertainty about whether they’re a solution for health care, Vermont is eyeing a bigger goal, one that more fully embraces a government-funded model. Two years ago, the state passed a law to launch the nation’s first universal health care system. Highlights of the plan: Beginning in 2017, the state will offer a set package of coverage benefits to every Vermont resident under the program, called Green Mountain Care. – A five-member board created under the law has already launched four pilot projects designed to bring down health care costs. (Associated Press/Las Vegas Sun)

Doctors use euphemism for $2.4 billion in needless stents
The American College of Cardiology is changing its guidelines for when implanting coronary stents is appropriate — by banishing the term “inappropriate.” Next year, the main U.S. heart-doctor group will remove the word it has used since 2009 to describe cases where people don’t need the metal-mesh tubes in their blood vessels. The label has become a liability in treatment disputes with insurers and regulators, said Robert Hendel, who led the effort that updated the wording. (Bloomberg)

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

Iowa News

Nonprofit Telligen to become an employee-owned company
When Telligen CEO Jeff Chungath and his executive team began looking into new ownership models for the 40-year-old nonprofit, becoming an employee-owned company quickly rose to the top of the list.  The West Des Moines-based nonprofit, which was known as the Iowa Foundation for Medical Care until rebranding itself two years ago, was founded by physicians as a peer review organization. However, over the past four decades, the organization’s mission of improving health care quality and reducing costs has broadened significantly. (Des Moines Business Record)

Free help available for health plans
UnityPoint Health, parent company of Trinity Muscatine hospital, has added a new toll-free number for people who want to set appointments to meet with specially trained Certified Application Counselors. The counselors can help walk applicants through the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange marketplace enrollment process. There is no cost for an appointment. (Muscatine Journal)

National News

Health site puts agency leader in hot seat
Ten days before HealthCare.gov opened for business, Marilyn Tavenner, the obscure federal bureaucrat whose agency oversaw the creation of the troubled online insurance marketplace, had a bad omen. It was a Sunday, and her mobile device was on the fritz, forcing her to go into the office. “It reminded me that I can still be brought to my knees by a malfunctioning BlackBerry,” she joked in late September, recounting her technology woes to a group of insurance executives. Nobody at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency Ms. Tavenner runs, is joking now. (New York Times)

Groups urge Congress to protect access to hospital care
Nine national hospital organizations, including the AHA, today urged the congressional budget conference committee, House and Senate leadership and committees of jurisdiction to protect critical funding for hospital care. “America’s hospitals are striving to maintain access to essential care in the face of excessive Medicare and Medicaid cuts, but we are at a crossroads and the actions you take in the next several weeks and months could have profound effects on your communities,” the organizations wrote. (American Hospital Association)

White House OKs limited waiver on health penalty
With website woes ongoing, the Obama administration Monday granted a six-week extension until March 31 for Americans to sign up for coverage next year and avoid new tax penalties under the president’s health care overhaul law. The move had been expected since White House spokesman Jay Carney promised quick action last week to resolve a “disconnect” in the implementation of the law. It comes as technical problems continue to trouble the website designed as the main enrollment portal for people who don’t get health care at work. (Boston Globe)

Should hospital ratings be embraced, or despised?
Few things in health journalism make me cringe more than news releases touting hospital ratings and awards. They’re everywhere. Along with the traditional U.S. News & World Report rankings, we now have scores and ratings from the Leapfrog Group, Consumers Union, HealthGrades, etc. I typically urge reporters to avoid writing about them if they can. If their editors mandate it, I suggest they focus on data released by their state health department or on the federal Hospital Compare website. I also tell reporters to be sure to check whether a hospital has had recent violations/deficiencies identified during government inspections. (ProPublica)

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

Iowa News

Siouxland residents grow frustrated with insurance exchanges
Donna Hollingshead, a financial counselor at Mercy Medical Center – Sioux City, said she came close to completing the enrollment process with a homeless man. After answering verification questions such as, “Where were you born?” and “Where did you go to high school?” she said the website couldn’t identify the man. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! Here were go. I’m so excited,’ and it froze up,” recalled Hollingshead, who has tried to enroll 10 people. So far, she and two staff members have fielded about 20 calls and several emails from people seeking help. (Sioux City Journal)

Cedar Rapids’ MedQuarter plan moves closer to reality
The MedQuarter was designed to promote economic development, improve the quality of health care and contribute to the growth of Cedar Rapids, said Scott Freres, a principal with the Lakota Group, a Chicago-based urban planning and design company, during a 15-minute presentation outlining the project’s goals. “How do we get young doctors here?” Freres said. “What do we have that people want?” Possible ideas for the MedQuarter include building a new hotel for patients and their families, adding bike lanes, employee housing and a large park. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Keokuk has a jewel in hospital
Do you realize we have a real jewel of a treasure right here in Keokuk? It seems that many do not even try to find it for themselves. They look everywhere else but right here in their own home town. That’s a shame. Just imagine how rich they and our town would be if everyone would take the time to find this valuable jewel for themselves. This jewel, right here in Keokuk, is our Keokuk Area Hospital. Yes, you heard me right. Our own hospital. (Keokuk Daily Gate City)

Oskaloosa nurse practitioner balances work, family
No matter how busy one area of life gets, there are people who find ways to be strong in every facet of their lives. Melissa Lamb, a nurse practitioner in the allergy and pulmonary office at Mahaska Health Partnership, is one of those people. Lamb has two children, Nora, who will soon be 5, and 2 ½-year-old Miles. Her husband, Cory, serves as a system administrator for MHP’s Information Technology Department. In addition to working normal business hours Monday through Friday, Lamb’s office takes after-hours calls. (Oskaloosa Herald)

Proposed hydrocodone restrictions draw mixed reviews in Iowa
Proposed restrictions on a common prescription painkiller could have mixed effects on patients, Iowa health officials said Friday. The FDA recommended Thursday that medicines containing hydrocodone face the same restrictions as other narcotic painkillers, such as Oxycontin and morphine. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Mapping patient-nurse interactions could minimize infections
These days, the term ‘social networking’ is practically synonymous with ‘social media,’ calling to mind buzzing Twitter alerts and updating Facebook statuses. But by analyzing a hospital’s social network, in the traditional sense of the phrase, researchers have discovered a new model that may help to minimize infections. The study, developed by two researchers from the University of Maryland and one from American University, created computer models that simulated interactions between patients and healthcare workers to determine if the interactions were a source for spreading multi-drug resistant organisms. (HealthLeaders Media)

America’s ‘other’ health care revolution
From taking tighter control over the health insurance market themselves to pushing decisions and costs down to individuals, businesses are experimenting with a host of new ways to offer health-care coverage, spurred in part by the launch of the Affordable Care Act, but also by the inexorable rise in the cost of medical care in the United States. The moves promise to change a social compact that has existed between employers and employees over health-care coverage for more than a half century. (Christian Science Monitor)

Patients, firms shop for better health care deals
Paul Freeman drove 600 miles last year to save himself — and his employer — thousands of dollars on his surgery. Freeman’s insurer covered his travel costs and the entire bill because a medical center in Oklahoma City could remove the loose cartilage in his knee for about 70 percent less than a hospital closer to Freeman’s Texhoma, Okla., home. At first, the community bank CEO hesitated because he thought the lower price would mean lower quality. But he knew if he didn’t make the roughly 10-hour roundtrip trek, he’d pay about $5,000 out of pocket. (Associated Press/ABC News)

Why hiking the age for Medicare wouldn’t save much
By 2023, about 70 million people will get health care paid for by Medicare, and their tab is expected to hit about $1.1 trillion in that year. So it’s no surprise that the idea of raising the eligibility age for Medicare to 67 from 65 keeps getting floated as a way to trim federal spending. The Congressional Budget Office, the scorekeeper for federal finances, had said in early 2012 that raising the eligibility age to 67 would trim about 5 percent from Medicare spending over the long haul. Well, there is a problem, it turns out. (Iowa Public Radio)

Bloody attack on doctors triggers protest in China
The latest act of violence against medical professionals in China—a patient’s stabbing of three doctors, one fatally—touched off a noisy demonstration by hundreds of people demanding better hospital security. Photos from local media and bystanders posted on social media sites showed people dressed in the white lab coats of medical swarming outside the No. 1 People’s Hospital in the eastern city of Wenling. They carried placards that said “Guarantee Medical Workers’ Safety.” (Wall Street Journal)

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

Iowa News

Iowa receives $1 million health insurance planning grant
Iowa received a $1 million grant this week to support its transition to a state-based health insurance marketplace by 2016. In addition to the District of Columbia, other states receiving a total of $188 million in funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, are: Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Rhode Island and Minnesota. (Quad-City Times)

Dealing with health care
Steve Kammeyer has a word of advice to farmers who are worked up over implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known to many as ObamaCare. “Take a deep breath,” says Kammeyer, director of health insurance services at Farm Bureau Financial Services. There is a great deal of misinformation out there regarding the new law, he says, and many people are still arguing about the politics of it. He notes: “It’s here. It’s the law.” (Iowa Farmer Today)

University of Iowa Hospital serving more patients with help of outpatient services
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is serving more people this year compared to last, but it’s not because more people are going to the main hospital campus. In fact, fewer people are seeking care at the hospital thanks to the new outpatient clinic that opened on the Iowa River Landing in Coralville. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

A Closer Look: Bob Ritz (President, Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines)
Bob Ritz assumed the role of president of Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines in July; it’s his fourth executive role in a health administration career that has spanned more than 25 years. Most recently, he served four years as president and CEO of St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill. Prior to graduate school, the West Virginia native chose to spend a year working in a hospital kitchen to learn the business from the ground up. (Des Moines Business Record)

National News

Obamacare applications near 700,000, official says
About 700,000 applications have been submitted for U.S. health care coverage being offered through new exchanges created by President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, a U.S. official said on Thursday. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released the number during an update for journalists about the health care marketplace, which has had a rocky rollout since enrollment in the new plans began on Oct 1. (Reuters)

Health care law fails to lower prices for rural areas
As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans. While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. (New York Times)

Nonprofit hospitals swap breaks for mergers under law
Some nonprofit hospitals are finding it easier to give up their tax exemption and merge with a for-profit company than to meet the charitable-care rules of the new health law. State regulators from Ohio to Rhode Island say they’re getting more requests from hospitals to weigh in on potential deals and expect another increase as more companies see the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Bloomberg BNA reported. (Bloomberg)

Medical school enrollment climbs 2.8%
Enrollment in U.S. medical schools grew 2.8 percent in 2013 to a record 20,055 students, the Association of American Medical Colleges announced today. Four new medical schools welcomed their first classes this year, contributing to about half of the enrollment increase. Applications to U.S. medical schools rose by 6.1 percent, to 48,014. “At a time when the nation faces a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors by the end of the decade and millions are gaining access to health insurance, we are very glad that more students than ever want to become physicians,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch, M.D. (American Academy of Medical Colleges)

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