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

Iowa News

Obamacare opponents need to move on
Though the law is not perfect, opponents’ never-ending challenges create uncertainty for individual Americans, states, businesses, hospitals, doctors and the U.S. economy. Their more than 50 attempts in Congress to repeal or defund Obamacare have been unsuccessful. The Supreme Court has twice sided with the Obama administration in lawsuits. There is public support for major provisions in the law. The most compelling reason for opponents to stop challenging the law: It is working for average people. (Des Moines Register)

Free summer meals available to Iowa kids in need
By the end of this summer, the Iowa Department of Education expects to distribute a million meals and snacks to kids in Iowa who might otherwise go without a nutritious lunch now that school is out. And it’s still not enough, officials say. When the final bell dismissing classes for the summer rings, many school-age children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at school face a problem: finding a consistent, nutritional meal for lunch. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Hospitals react to SCOTUS decision
When the Supreme Court struck down the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, jubilant board members meeting at Trinity Health burst into cheers and applause. “We’re ecstatic,” says Ben Carter, chief financial officer of the Livonia, Illinois-based not-for-profit Catholic hospital system with 84 hospitals in 21 states. “A total victory for working people. That’s what we’re celebrating.” (U.S. News & World Report)

New Jersey hospital loses property tax court case
Morristown Medical Center should pay property taxes on virtually all of its 40-acre property in town, a tax court judge ruled Friday in a decision closely watched by other hospitals across New Jersey. Tax Court Judge Vito Bianco ruled that the hospital failed to meet the legal test that it operated as a non-profit, charitable organization for the tax years 2006 through 2008. Only the auditorium, fitness center and the visitors’ garage should not be assessed for property taxes, he said. (

Obama plans to expand overtime eligibility for millions
The Obama administration plans to raise the wages of millions of Americans who work more than 40 hours a week by requiring their employers to pay them overtime. Workers who earn as much as $970 a week would have to be paid overtime even if they’re classified as a manager or professional, based on draft rules to be announced as soon as Tuesday, said an administration official. (Bloomberg)

Patient safety in children’s hospitals: The journey to zero harm
In contemporary society, we like to talk about thinking outside the box. Sometimes, though, you have to build an entirely new box. Such is the case for children’s hospitals working to improve patient safety in their facilities. Since the Institutes of Medicine first published “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” their report on patient safety in 1999, health care has struggled with how best to protect those cared for in our system. Now, 16 years later, the search for how to do just that might be close to finding that elusive treasure. (U.S. News & World Report)

IOM issues recommendations to promote timely health care appointments
Wait times for health care appointments vary widely in the United States, ranging from same day service to several months, according to a report released today by the Institute of Medicine. Causes for delays include mismatched supply and demand, the current provider-focused approach to scheduling, outmoded workforce and care supply models, priority-based queues, care complexity, reimbursement complexity, and financial and geographic barriers, the study committee said. (Institute of Medicine)

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

Iowa News

Medicaid changes in Iowa: An uncertain future
There are many questions about private contracting for Medicaid, which Gov. Branstad expects to save the state up to $100 million per year. With the 15 percent administrative overhead that most private insurers have (which would be a $615 million cost for Iowa) it is going to be interesting to see how these two to four managed care companies will perform. (Ames Tribune)

Grieving father: Stop jailing people for mental illness
No one believes Jeff Cornick was thinking straight when he drunkenly carried up to a dozen gas cans into his Des Moines house, stalked around rooms with a lit candle and ranted to police that he was going to blow himself up. “Shoot me!” he yelled to an officer, a police report shows. The question is: Did this bizarre behavior make him a serious criminal? Or just a person who needed serious psychiatric treatment? (Des Moines Register)

Why Iowa should open the jailhouse doors and release those with mental illness
Story County could help re-write a sad chapter in the nation’s history of caring for persons with mental illness. But it will need a little help from Des Moines. The county has been one of the nation’s bright spots in dealing with the dismal national problem of those with mental illness being sent to jail in droves. How dismal? Since state psychiatric hospitals were closed, jails have earned a somber moniker: “de facto mental hospitals. (Des Moines Register)

Sioux City program helps elderly fend off loneliness
“I just couldn’t find who I was,” Colleen Rolfes said. “If it wasn’t for PACE I would probably not even be alive.” Rolfes was introduced to Siouxland PACE, a program of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s that offers care for frail individuals 55 years of age and older, when her late husband, Leonard, fell and broke his hip. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

6 new health care topics to debate now that Obamacare’s been upheld
The country finally has an opportunity to change the subject on health care, after the Supreme Court again upheld President Barack Obama’s law. There’s no shortage of pressing issues, including prescription drug prices, high insurance deductibles and long-term care. But moving on will take time, partly because many Republicans want another chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act if they win the White House and both chambers of Congress next year. (Associated Press/Salt Lake Tribune)

Ruling revives calls for Medicaid expansion in Georgia
The U.S. Supreme Court preserved thousands of subsidies in the Augusta area last week for people who purchased health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but it didn’t help Wallace England, 55, of Grovetown. (Augusta Chronicle)

Where federal health insurance fails autistic children
When Matt Crockett’s 2-year-old son, Mark, was diagnosed with autism, the Air Force Reserve technician assumed his government insurance would help cover the cost of the treatment. He discovered the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program encourages — but does not require — insurance carriers to cover the cost of the leading treatment for autism. In fact, only 23 states offer federal health insurance plans that cover Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, which leaves federal employees trapped in a patchwork of coverage that costs tens of thousands of dollars a year. (USA Today)

Fixtures provide germ-zapping light for hospitals
A Kenosha company is poised to begin marketing bacteria-killing light fixtures that could open a new front in the war on hospital-acquired infections. Light, though not the visible variety, already has joined the fight. Many hospitals, including some in Milwaukee, have recently deployed robot-like devices that disinfect rooms with powerful pulses of ultraviolet radiation. Kenall Manufacturing Co. is taking a different approach. Unlike ultraviolet lights, its fixtures can be left on continuously and be used while people — and the bacterial baggage they often bring with them — are in the room. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Blood donors in Sweden get a text message whenever their blood saves someone’s life
With blood donation rates in decline all over the developed world, Sweden’s blood service is enlisting new technology to help push back against shortages. One new initiative, where donors are sent automatic text messages telling them when their blood has actually been used, has caught the public eye. (The Independent)

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

Iowa News

Supreme Court upholds key insurance subsidies for Iowans
Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling to keep health care subsidies intact for 6.4 million people in 34 states — including some 39,000 Iowans — brings a sense of stability to Iowa before the next Open Enrollment season, some in the health care field say. But the decision was not without political controversy. In a 6-3 ruling, the court said that the federal tax credits provided to those in states that did not create their own insurance exchanges are legal. (KCRG)

Supreme Court ruling spares health subsidies for 108,000 tri-staters
During a brief pause between her two retail jobs, Beth Jones took a few moments Thursday to relish the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows her to keep her medical insurance. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a component of President Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul, saying that millions of Americans, like Jones, of Ida Grove, who enrolled in federal insurance exchanges are eligible for tax subsidies to help pay for the coverage, regardless of where they live. That helps Jones, who was hit with a severe case of Influenza B in March. (Sioux City Journal)

Local hospital reacts to SCOTUS decision on Obamacare
In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold tax subsidies within the Affordable Healthcare Act. The case stems from original language in the law that left it unknown in subsidies could be given to patients in all states or just states that participate in the federal health insurance marketplace. Montgomery County Memorial Hospital Public Relations Director Dave Jennings said the decision is positive for the people of southwest Iowa. (KMA)

Loring Hospital’s CEO hits the ground running
Loring Hospital in Sac City welcomed new CEO Brian Martin to the helm earlier this month, but Martin said the relationship and hiring process began much earlier. Martin, a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, spent four years in the ROTC, which led to placement in the Medical Services Corps for the Army. He credits his experience in the service with honing him for this new position. A former Sac City resident, Martin and his wife wanted to come back to a great place to raise their family. (KCIM)

Optimae completes mental health services transition
Story County’s transition to using a private mental health system under Optimae LifeServices Inc. has been completed, with a majority of the employees working for the county’s previous Community Life Program retaining their jobs with the new company. The transition was sparked by the regionalization of mental health services by the Iowa Legislature in 2012, when it passed a law to move away from a county-based approach to in an effort to pool resources and create statewide standards while still allowing counties local control in who manages mental health services. (Ames Tribune)

National News

Obamacare’s next five hurdles to clear
In its first five years, the Affordable Care Act has survived technical meltdowns, a presidential election, two Supreme Court challenges — including one resolved Thursday — and dozens of repeal efforts in Congress. But its long-term future still isn’t ensured. Here are five of the biggest hurdles left for the law. (Kaiser Health News)

Burwell says payment policies next push in Obamacare implementation
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said on Thursday the Obama administration will focus on improving quality over quantity in the nation’s healthcare system in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court ruled earlier on Thursday to uphold the nationwide availability of tax subsidies that are crucial to President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, also known as Obamacare. In a conference call with reporters, Burwell said the administration planned to push further on a patient-centered approach. (Reuters/Yahoo News)

Hospital stocks leap after Supreme Court upholds health care overhaul subsidies
Investors in hospital stocks rejoiced Thursday after the Supreme Court upheld a key portion of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and eliminated the prospect of a sudden influx of uninsured patients seeking care. Shares of big hospital operators like HCA Holdings Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp. surged after the court announced a decision that maintained in several states tax credits that play a key role in helping millions of Americans pay for health insurance. (Associated Press/U.S. News & World Report)

AHRQ teeters on the brink of extinction
The Agency for Healthcare Quality Research (AHRQ) says its mission “is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable.” But that mission may soon be over. A congressional subcommittee wrote the agency out of the 2016 Health and Human Services budget last week, and the full committee approved the plan on Wednesday. Despite lobbying efforts by health service researchers and their supporters, the future of AHRQ, pronounced “ARK” by those in the know, is uncertain. (HealthLeaders Media)

Opposed to Medicaid expansion? Why it could cost you
Dallas County property owners paid more than $467million in taxes last year to Parkland Health and Hospital System, the county’s only public hospital, to provide medical care to the poor and uninsured. Their tax burden likely would have been lower if the state of Texas had elected to expand Medicaid. If more low-income patients at Parkland had been covered by Medicaid, then federal and state taxpayers would have picked up more of the costs. (The Fiscal Times)

Doctors and hospitals need to talk more; this app can help
As an intern fresh out of medical school at Columbia University, Joe Mayer says one of the most frustrating tasks in the ER was spending hours trying to track down a patient’s primary care physician. It was tedious, yes. But more than that, it was just one more obstacle to making a decision about that patient’s care in an already byzantine healthcare system. And so, during his intern year, Mayer, who had worked for and founded several healthcare IT companies in the past, started work on a company to cut through this complexity. (Wired)

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A while back, a certain Iowa newspaper ran an online quiz of sorts, using a slide show of building exteriors and interiors and challenging readers to determine which images were from hotels and which were from hospitals. Suffice to say, the buildings were quite extravagant and none were located in Iowa.

This is illustrative of an attitude with which hospital leaders have become well acquainted. Sometimes the attitude lives just below the surface, as with this misdirected “quiz.” Other times, it reveals itself more blatantly through half-informed critiques that accuse hospitals of crossing some ill-defined line of financial restraint.

Of course, being on the receiving end of half-informed attacks and ill-defined limits, all generously provided by those well outside the industry, is a fact of life for hospitals. And it’s not really the outsiders’ fault – well, not completely – because hospitals live in a business world unlike any other.


Hotel or hospital?

This is why folks struggle to compare health care with other industries. Is health care like the auto industry, because of similar struggles and solutions with regard to efficiency? Is health care like the airlines, because safety is paramount? Is health care like retail, because retailers are suddenly health care providers? Perhaps health care is most like the auto body repair industry, which is driven largely by insurers and specialty suppliers and, because of that, is far from transparent.

The answer is “none of the above” because no other business functions in an environment that combines a large-scale non-profit enterprise with a massive (relatively), labor-intensive service provider; a highly-skilled, highly-regulated professional staff and a high-profile, community-based organization that is held accountable by everyone from the local coffee klatch to the president of the United States. Perhaps the real answer to “what is a modern hospital” is “everything.”

But let’s return to the hotel comparison, because that raises a question:  What’s wrong with a hospital being like a hotel? Good hotels are, after all, customer-centered and value-conscious. Good hotels have learned that the little things matter, especially in the world of Twitter, Yelp and Google. Good hotels know that it’s all about relationships and those must be cultivated beyond building walls and dates of stay.


Hospital or hotel?

But then the question becomes:  Fine, maybe hospitals should act like hotels, but do hospitals have to look like hotels? One might respond with a question:  Are the two really separable? Can a hospital have the service excellence of a Ritz Carlton but the aesthetics and comfort of the Bates Motel? Doesn’t seem likely. And even if a hospital could manage it, who would go there?

Some people want to pretend that surface features don’t matter in certain applications, usually taxpayer-funded spaces like schools, police and fire stations, government offices and infrastructure. But we now know it does matter for both the people who work (and learn) there and the people who visit; it’s a matter of self-respect and community pride (not to mention productivity).

Hospitals may be the last stand for the “it doesn’t matter how they look” crowd. Somehow, some people have failed to see the important healing qualities of thoughtful architecture, natural light, pleasing color palettes, comfortable furniture and inspiring artwork. They view hospitals as unsightly “institutions” that should fade into the background.

On the contrary, whether measured economically or socially, hospitals are centerpieces of their communities and at the forefront of quality of life wherever they are located – and they should look the part.

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

Iowa News

Iowa politicians react to Supreme Court decision on Obamacare
More than 45,000 Iowans will continue to receive federal financial assistance to pay for their health insurance, thanks to a ruling delivered Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled, 6-3 that federal financial assistance provided to residents of states such as Iowa that did not create their own insurance markets are legal. Reaction in Iowa to the highly anticipated Supreme Court decision was divided, predictably along party lines. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Burgess Health Center opens two new public gyms
If you live in Onawa or Mapleton, Iowa, and are interested in the gym, you’ll have a new option when it comes to becoming a member. Burgess Health Center opened two Medically Oriented Gyms, known as M.O.G.’s, at each of those locations. The concept of the gym is to make access to working out less complicated and educational. “We’re kind of a mixture of a regular gym and a physical therapy gym,” said Jon Young, the Exercise Program Coordinator. (KTIV)

Hospital’s summer program teaches kids driving rules
A program that’s been around for about two decades will finish another session this Friday. Mercy Medical Center’s Safety Village teaches the rules of the road to children ages five to seven. About 200 will finish the curriculum this week at Grant Wood Elementary. The kids practice driving in a miniature town, equipped with a post office, law enforcement, a library and more. Director Stacy Rustvold says she sees a noticeable improvement by the end of the program’s two weeks. (KCRG)

Hospital’s ‘Be The Match’ drive looks to sign up potential bone marrow donors
Mercy Medical Center hosted a ‘Be The Match’ bone marrow donor drive this morning in Cedar Rapids. Be The Match is an international non-profit organization that matches peripheral blood stem cell and bone marrow donors to patients battling blood cancers. Anyone between the ages of 18 to 44 were able to register at the event. Those between 45 and 60 are asked to register online because of the high demand of donors younger than 45. (KCRG)

National News

Supreme Court rules Obamacare subsidies are legal
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday handed the Obama administration a major victory on health care, ruling 6-3 that nationwide subsidies called for in the Affordable Care Act are legal. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” the court’s majority said in the opinion, which was written by Chief Justice John Roberts. But they acknowledged that “petitioners’ arguments about the plain meaning … are strong.” (National Public Radio)

Does Medicaid make a difference?
As millions of Americans gain Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, attention has focused on the access to care, quality of care, and financial protection that coverage provides. This analysis uses the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2014, to explore these questions by comparing the experiences of working-age adults with private insurance who were insured all year, Medicaid beneficiaries with a full year of coverage, and those who were uninsured for some time during the year. (Commonwealth Fund)

How Obamacare has impacted the uninsured rate
An annual survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded the sharpest drop in uninsured adults in 2014 since the survey began in 1997. The uninsured rate among adults under 65 dropped from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 16.3 percent in 2014. The uninsured rate among adults 19-25, especially, saw progress from 31.3 percent uninsured to 26.9 percent in 2014. (Fortune)

Tackling the very high costs of big health care users
Imitation is the highest form of flattery—and it may end up helping greatly reduce the highest source of health-care costs in the U.S. A new project is aiming to identify the kinds of treatments and models of care that lead to the best results for so-called high-need patients, and then try to replicate those results on a broad scale. Such high-need patients, often senior citizens and frequently suffering from multiple chronic health conditions, with multiple medical providers treating them, represent a very large fraction of total health-care spending in the U.S. (CNBC)

Medicare slow to adopt telehealth due to cost concerns
Nearly 20 years after such videoconferencing technology has been available for health services, fewer than 1 percent of Medicare beneficiaries use it. Anthem and a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center health plan in western Pennsylvania are the only two Medicare Advantage insurers offering the virtual visits, and the traditional Medicare program has tightly limited telemedicine payments to certain rural areas. And even there, the beneficiary must already be at a clinic, a rule that often defeats the goal of making care more convenient. Congress has maintained such restrictions out of concern that the service might increase Medicare expenses. (Kaiser Health News)

3 out of 4 medical residents clueless on cost
Only about 25 percent of internal medicine residents say they know where to find costs estimates for tests and treatments and that they can share those estimates with patients, according to a survey by the American College of Physicians. The cross-sectional survey questioned more than 18,000 U.S. internal medicine residents who took the Internal Medicine In-Training Examination in October 2012. The study was published in the June issue of Academic Medicine: The Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. (HealthLeaders Media)

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