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Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.
Iowa News
Hospital In Primghar Gets Grant; Will Use To Connect To eEmergency Service
An O’Brien County hospital has received a grant toward technology that is to improve their emergency service. Baum Harmon Mercy Hospital in Primghar received word not too long ago that they had been selected to receive a grant of over $244,000 from the Helmsley Charitable Trust. The hospital will use the money toward hooking up their facility with emergency personnel in Sioux Falls, when they don’t have enough or the right personnel available in an emergency in Primghar. (KIWARadio)

CCH Foundation Receives $500,000 CCDC Matching Grant
Clarke County Hospital Foundation was recently awarded a $500,000 matching grant by the Clarke County Development Corporation (CCDC) to support funding for the hospital’s expansion project. The grant will match donations from the community on a dollar to dollar basis up to $100,000 per year for five years. (Osceola Sentinel Tribune)

National News

So Far, 6.4 Million Obtain Health Care Coverage for 2015 in Federal Marketplace
The Obama administration said Tuesday that 6.4 million people had selected health insurance plans or had been automatically re-enrolled in coverage through the federal insurance marketplace. New customers accounted for 30 percent of the total, or 1.9 million. For 2014 enrollees who took no action by Dec. 15, coverage was automatically renewed for 2015 by the federal government. (New York Times)

Providers Not Completely Off the Hook in Wage Ruling
Home healthcare providers scored a victory in federal court Monday when a judge said the U.S. Department of Labor can’t force them to pay minimum wage and overtime to some workers. But that doesn’t mean providers are necessarily off the hook. The judge didn’t address another part of a rule issued this year by the U.S. Department of Labor that significantly narrows the definition of companionship services, which have long been exempt from wage and hour protections. (Modern Healthcare)

As Docs Face Big Cuts In Medicaid Pay, Patients May Pay The Price
Andy Pasternak, a family doctor in Reno, Nev., has seen more than 100 new Medicaid patients this year after the state expanded the insurance program under the Affordable Care Act. But he won’t be taking any new ones after Dec. 31.  That’s when the law’s two-year pay raise for primary care doctors like him who see Medicaid patients expires, resulting in fee reductions of 43 percent on average across the country, according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute.(Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

UIHC trains, preps for the worst at mock Ebola treatment center
A handful of emergency medical services providers assembled in a University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics ambulance bay last week, each having transported and cared for thousands of patients over the years. But this new undertaking would look different. “We would move slowly, we would move deliberately,” Mike Hartley, UIHC emergency management coordinator, told the room EMS providers Friday. “This isn’t a trauma.” (The Gazette)

NewLink Ebola vaccine gains $30 million from feds
Federal authorities have awarded $30 million to help an Ames company push forward with its Ebola vaccine. Newlink Genetics announced Monday that it had received the contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The money is to help NewLink and its much larger partner, Merck, move ahead with testing of their vaccine against Ebola, which has killed several thousand people in West Africa this year. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Head of Medicaid to exit
The head of the country’s biggest public insurance program and a champion of health care access for the poor will step down next month after five years. Cindy Mann, the deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), has earned praise nationwide as a fierce advocate for health care access and a key leader in the rollout of Obamacare. Under her leadership, the government made its “biggest improvements to the Medicaid program since its inception,” the agency wrote in a statement Friday announcing her departure. (The Hill)

Teaching hospitals hit hardest by Medicare fines for patient safety
Medicare has begun punishing 721 hospitals with high rates of infections and other medical errors, cutting payments to half of the nation’s major teaching hospitals and many institutions that are marquee names. Intermountain Medical Center in Utah, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, the Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, NYU Langone Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago are all being docked 1 percent of their Medicare payments through next September, federal records show. In total, hospitals will forfeit $373 million, Medicare estimates. (NPR)

Supreme Court to hear Obamacare subsidy challenge in March
The highly anticipated case challenging Obamacare’s subsidies will officially reach the Supreme Court on March 4. Justices will hear arguments in King v. Burwell in just under three months, according to the court’s schedule posted Monday afternoon. The case, led by conservative groups, questions whether the federal government can legally hand out health care subsidies in 34 states that have opted out of creating their own exchanges. (The Hill)

Hospital hopes medical tourists will come to Idaho
A hospital in North Idaho is marketing itself to Canadian tourists — medical tourists, that is. Most of the patients who come into Northwest Specialty Hospital in Post Falls, Idaho, are from the local area — plus a few from Washington and Montana. But hospital CEO Rick Rasmussen is thinking big — Canada big. A little Canadian flag was recently added in the upper right of the hospital’s website. The link goes to a list of procedures with some of the longest wait times north of the border. Total knee, total hip, total shoulder, ACL repair — all with the prices listed. (Twin Falls Times-News)

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

Iowa News

Flu hospitalizations surge, especially among seniors
The number of Iowans hospitalized for flu complications has more than doubled in recent weeks, and senior citizens are being hit especially hard, state health officials reported Friday. More than half of Iowans being hospitalized for the flu are 65 or older, according to the report from the Iowa Department of Public Health. The latest report, which covers the week ending Dec. 13, said 65 Iowans were hospitalized for the flu at a set of hospitals the department monitors. That was up from 50 the previous week, and 26 the week before that. (Des Moines Register)

Improving health care quality and safety
The phrase “first, do no harm” is a guiding principle for doctors, nurses and health care providers the world over. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy. Immunity-weakened patients are susceptible to opportunistic illnesses, human error can be compounded in the blur of life-and-death seconds and waiting rooms and hospitals can be campgrounds for germs. The brutal reality is thousands of Americans die from infections acquired while they were in the hospital and many, many more are injured. Physicians and hospital leaders know we have to do better — and we can do better. (The Gazette)

African-Americans, Latinos struggle with health care access
Isaiah Newsome likes to play sports and hang out with friends, like any 17-year-old. But most of the time these activities are cut short as his body, stricken with sickle cell anemia since birth, fills with pain. “It just randomly happens,” Newsome of Des Moines said. “There’s no really preventing it or seeing it coming.” Getting insurance to cover his health care adequately all of these years has not been easy, but at least he has had insurance the past year. Some other African-American families in Iowa with low incomes do not, adding to difficulties they face getting health care. (Des Moines Register)

Hospital employees bring joy to patients, each other during holiday season
Shiny strands of green garland are strung over doorways in Mercy Medical Center’s Wound Center. Snowflakes hang from the ceiling. Tiny red, white and green stockings dot the beige walls. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, hospital staff have made the hospital’s floors more festive to brighten the spirits of patients struggling with illness and injury. Hot chocolate and apple cider are flowing as various departments host “cookie parties” for patients and their families. Christmas cards handmade by school children land on meal trays. Carolers wind through the units. “We really try to dismiss as many people as we can, but the people who are left here usually are really sick,” explained Barb Hansen, clinical nurse manager of the surgery and urology unit. “They have to be here, so we become their family.” (Sioux City Journal)

National News

Top five healthcare stories of the year
It was a frenetic year in the healthcare world as ObamaCare took root and Ebola fears swept the country. While the healthcare law survived a rough first year, the Obama administration was faced with new uncertainty as the Supreme Court decided to consider the validity of the insurance subsides it provides. And in an added headache for ObamaCare defenders, consultant Jonathan Gruber became a household name thanks to viral clips of him insulting voters when discussing passage of the law. Here are the five healthcare stories that mattered this year. (The Hill)

Why single payer died in Vermont
Vermont was supposed to be the beacon for a single-payer health care system in America. But now its plans are in ruins, and its onetime champion Gov. Peter Shumlin may have set back the cause. Advocates of a “Medicare for all” approach were largely sidelined during the national Obamacare debate. The health law left a private insurance system in place and didn’t even include a weaker “public option” government plan to run alongside more traditional commercial ones. So single-payer advocates looked instead to make a breakthrough in the states. Vermont under Shumlin became the most visible trailblazer. (Politico)

 

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

Iowa News

Health care law changes hospital focus to life cycle
While Jones Regional Medical Center hasn’t been on the receiving end of a financial windfall since parts of the nation’s new healthcare law have been implemented, the conversation about patient care has changed. You can unequivocally say that it [the Affordable Care Act] has changed the conversation for the better,” Jones Regional Medical Center CEO Eric Briesemeister said. (Anamosa Journal-Eureka)

Study offers suggestions to bolster Iowa economy
Iowa’s economy is struggling more than it should and the state needs to simplify its tax code, find cash for roadway projects and establish incentives to lure workers to Iowa, the Battelle Memorial Institute found in an 18-month study. The governor-appointed Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress commissioned Battelle to update a decade-old look at Iowa’s approach to economic development. This time, Battelle found a state with a dozen promising industry clusters and solid growth, but lagging pay, worker shortages and a complex and pricey corporate tax system. (Des Moines Business Record)

Flu activity expected to increase
As of Thursday morning, the flu was considered widespread in Illinois. Meantime in Iowa, health officials in Iowa have classified it as regional at this point. In the Quad Cities, there have been several reports as well. A doctor at Genesis Health System told TV6 that doctors are seeing a lot of patients with influenza at this time. Symptoms include body aches, fevers, coughing, running nose and sore throat. (KWQC)

National News

Home care for the holidays
An innovative team-based model of patient care keeps frail and elderly patients at home, reduces costs, builds trust between providers and patients, and reduces emergency department visits. Fifteen years in, the results are clear. A study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, looks at the middle five years of a program that began in 1999 at MedStar Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center, a 926-bed hospital that is part of the MedStar Health system. (HealthLeaders Media)

How the high cost of medical care is affecting Americans
Over the past two years, the New York Times series Paying Till It Hurts has examined the high costs of ordinary medical care in the United States, exposing the reasons and chronicling the human fallout behind the nation’s extraordinary $2.9 trillion medical bill. But how does a collection of often heartbreaking, often startling tales reflect national experiences and attitudes? The available data did not answer all of my questions. So, using reader comments as a starting point, The Times designed a questionnaire with CBS News and conducted a national poll this month. (New York Times)

AMA ‘appalled’ by scale of meaningful use penalties for EPs
The recent announcement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that more than 257,000 eligible professionals would be subjected to Medicare payment adjustments in 2015 has the American Hospital Association “appalled,” according to an official statement released midweek. Yesterday, CMS revealed that more than 257,000 EPs would soon be receiving letters informing them of upcoming 2015 Medicare payment adjustments as well as information about petitioning the federal agency to reconsider its evaluation. (EHR Intelligence)

Doctors dole out prescriptions for exercise
Doctors are working exercise counseling into office visits and calling exercise a “vital sign” to be measured when they take readings like pulse and blood pressure. Rather than just explain the dangers of inactivity, they suggest the right amount of exercise, and in some cases refer patients to certified trainers or physical therapists who can design regimens for different medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes that might limit certain activities. (Wall Street Journal)

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

Iowa News

Adair County Health System joins Mercy, partners for innovation award
Effective Jan. 1, Adair County Health System will officially be a participant member of Mercy Accountable Care Organization (ACO). In July 2012, Mercy ACO became a recognized Accountable Care Organization under the Medicare Shared Savings Program. With the program’s focus of improved quality of care and increased patient value, the shared savings program was a logical next step in the evolution of Mercy’s health care model. (Creston News Advertiser)

Mercy Iowa City acquires Coralville facility
Mercy Iowa City has purchased a medical office building in Coralville that houses several of its clinics and affiliates, the hospital announced this week. Mercy acquired the Coral West Health Center, at 2769 Heartland Dr., a three-level, 68,000-square-foot building that opened in 2011. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Veterans and suicide
As a psychologist, Dr. Dan Courtney with the Mental Health Center of North Iowa knows all too well how scary suicide can be. “The emotional complications in their lives becomes too much,” said Dr. Courtney. Dr. Courtney says that can ring true for those who are coming home from serving overseas. “Research shows that the majority of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from war is referred to as moral PTSD. People have had to do things that are just so inconsistent with their sense of who they are, what their values are.” (KIMT)

National News

CDC: 12.2% of U.S. residents uninsured, down from 14.4% last year
An estimated 12.2percent of U.S. residents (38 million) were uninsured when interviewed in the first six months of 2014, down from 14.4percent (44.8 million) in 2013 and 16percent (48.6 million) in 2010, according to a report released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The 2014 estimate includes 17percent of adults under age 65 and 6.1percent of children. The report updates estimates for 15 selected health measures based on the January-June 2014 National Health Interview Survey and presents estimates for 1997 through 2013 for comparison. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

For cash-strapped rural hospitals, survival is uncertain
The local hospital in Milan, Missouri, Sullivan Country Memorial, has been around since 1953. Joe McCarty, a local resident and now patient in Sullivan’s long-term care unit, has lived in Milan almost his entire life – he’s turning 100 this year. Joe made his living as a cartoonist and up until just a few months ago he worked for the local newspaper. Joe also happens to be one of the hospitals original board members. (Missouri Public Radio)

Bring in the nurses, stat
Some of the largest health care systems in America do not have any nurses serving on their boards of directors. That is a huge oversight, especially in a time of rapid change in health care delivery, when consumers and providers would benefit from having nurses’ frontline perspective present in boardrooms as health care policy decisions are made. (McClatchy DC)

Copper bedrail could reduce hospital infections
The World Health Organization estimates that “each year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world are affected” by health care-acquired infections. In the United States, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in the Health and Human Services Department estimates that 1 in 25 inpatients has a hospital-related infection. In developing countries, estimates run higher. Hospital bed safety railings are a major source of these infections. That’s what Constanza Correa, 33, and her colleagues have found in their research in Santiago, Chile. They’ve taken on the problem by replacing them, since 2013, with railings made of copper, an anti-microbial element. (National Public Radio)

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