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

Iowa News

Branstad OKs Medicaid oversight, issues vetoes
Governor Terry Branstad approved plans Friday to require increased accountability for Iowa’s newly privatized Medicaid health care program while taking final action on 30 bills and the state’s $7.35 billion general fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The Republican governor vetoed portions of a broader Health and Human Services budget bill. But he left intact all the oversight requirements placed on private companies contracted to manage Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid health insurance program, which helps 560,000 low-income and disabled Iowans. (Des Moines Register)

Family shares concern as Iowa Medicaid case management changes
Changes to Iowa’s Medicaid system means the three managed care organizations in charge of services for more than 560,000 Iowans will shift how case management services are provided. For Dubuque mother Alyson Beytien, whose son Zachary is diagnosed with severe autism, the probability of some families losing case managers they’ve worked with for long periods of time is unsettling. “She knows Zachary’s background, his history, his behaviors. And she knows what services are available to help him in our area,” Beytien said. “That expertise is built up over time.” (KCRG)

Coventry plans 23 percent health-insurance premium increase
About 37,000 Iowans who buy Coventry health insurance could face premium increases averaging 23 percent next year. That’s the amount the insurer has proposed raising rates on most Iowans who buy their own Coventry coverage instead of obtaining it via their employers. The proposal comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this month that Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield intends to increase premiums 38 percent to 43 percent for about 30,000 Iowans who buy individual policies issued in recent years. (Des Moines Register)

Iowans can get free care at newly renovated clinic
Iowans can now get free care at a newly renovated health center. The Doctor Nick Palmer-Jim Ellefson Clinic opened last Wednesday in Des Moines for the first time in several months. It was all funded by the Iowa Clinic Healthcare Foundation, and it will be seen by nearly 1,000 patients this year. “The people that I’ve gotten to know, the patients. It’s really nice to see people the relief that they feel when they come in and they’ve lost their job, need their meds, and just kind of in a panic and they just kind of relax,” said Dr. Phillip Kohler, the volunteer medical director at the clinic. (WHO)

National News

Kansas health care providers to fight KanCare cuts
Kansas health care providers will urge federal officials to reject Governor Sam Brownback’s proposed Medicaid cuts and may challenge them in court. The recently announced cuts would reduce state expenditures for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, by $56.3 million and trigger a loss of approximately $72.3 million in federal funds. “In addition to being bad policy, the administration’s proposal to cut provider reimbursement would be inconsistent with state and federal law,” said Tom Bell, chief executive of the Kansas Hospital Association. (Kansas Health Institute)

Telemental health services on rise, but barriers remain
Millions of Americans suffer from mental health conditions each year, ranging from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder. Many of those go untreated due to missed diagnosis, lack of access and other issues. But new smart technologies and changes in state laws are making it easier for many patients to get mental health services, a recent survey by Epstein, Becker Green shows. While the survey details a rapid rise in telemental health, barriers to providing those services remain. (Healthcare Dive)

Mental health programs gaining momentum
By the end of July, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore hopes to have six behavioral health teams working side-by-side with physicians and nurses to help manage the mental health of patients. The leading nonprofit health system is aggressively pursuing a proactive strategy toward mental health care for patients to reduce length of stay and readmissions. Johns Hopkins Medicine is one of several health systems directing more resources to the mental health care of patients. (HealthLeaders Media)

New overtime rule poses potential challenges to health care providers
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) final overtime rule raises the salary threshold to qualify for overtime from $23,660 to $47,476, affecting 4.2 million Americans. In light of increasing financial pressure on hospitals to reduce costs, as well as a significant physician and nursing shortage, the new rule could significantly affect hospitals’ bottom line. Nancy McKeague, senior vice president and chief of staff for the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, said one hurdle for hospitals will be determining what percentage of time a nurse supervisor is performing exempt-level work versus non-exempt work. (Healthcare Dive)

IRS ruling is obstacle to health care networks promoted by Obama
A ruling by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) creates a significant obstacle for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). In its recent ruling, the IRS denied a tax exemption sought by an ACO that coordinates care for people with commercial insurance. Melinda R. Hatton, senior vice president and general counsel of the American Hospital Association, said the IRS ruling “appears to be a serious obstacle for nonprofit hospitals striving to coordinate care for their communities.” (New York Times)

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IHERFlogo-tagline 300IHA’s Iowa Hospital Education and Research Foundation (IHERF) has awarded $115,500 in scholarships to 33 college students from all parts of Iowa. The students, who are all studying in health care fields, will each receive $3,500 (an increase from $3,000 awarded in previous years) for the upcoming academic year and each student is eligible for an additional $3,500 award. Five of the students are repeat recipients from 2015.

IHA established the IHERF Health Care Careers Scholarship Program in 2004 to help address the ongoing shortage of health care professionals and encourage young Iowans to establish or continue their careers with Iowa hospitals. The first scholarships were awarded in 2005 and now more than 300 students have benefited from the program.

Iowa hospitals also benefit from the scholarship program. In exchange for financial support, scholarship-receiving students agree to work one year in an Iowa hospital for each year they receive an award. Today, more than 200 past scholarship recipients are working in hospitals across the state.

Including these latest awards, the scholarship program has now provided more than $1 million in direct support to students since its inception.

IHA staff, the IHERF Board, hospital leaders and IHA Auxilian/Volunteer Board members from throughout the state evaluated scholarship applications from more nearly 150 students, who were judged on grade-point average, a written personal statement, letters of reference and extracurricular, community and health care-related activities. The students, who are in both undergraduate and graduate programs, will be recognized this summer at IHA’s “Swinging for Scholars” event, which is the primary fundraiser for the scholarship.

This year’s scholarship recipients are listed below:

Dist.

Name

City

Degree Program

A Kayla Bakker Rock Valley Nursing – ADN
A Marissa Morenz Sioux City Nursing – BSN
A Amanda Richard Estherville Nursing – MSN
A Sara Roth Wall Lake Nursing – BSN
B Abbey Devers Rutland Nursing – MSN
B Lynne McKenna Algona Nursing – ADN
B Yuridia McVey Belmond Radiology Technology
B Lacey Verink Ankeny Nursing – BSN
B Deena Zadow Kanawha Nursing – BSN
C Pam Brahn Nashua Nursing – MSN
C Holly Eastman Waverly Nursing – MSN
C Allison J Flaucher Jesup Nursing – BSN
C Valerie Henson Jesup Ultrasound Technician
D Megan Kalene King Corning Dietician
D Kyle Kreger Council Bluffs Nursing – MSN
D Paige Machacek Bellevue Nursing – BSN
D Brennan McNitt Iowa City Physical Therapy
E Adrian Accurso Des Moines Medical Technology
E Brenda Kay Barfels Iowa Falls Nursing – ADN
E Sheena Marie Bauer West Des Moines Nursing – MSN
E Sarah Copple Norwalk Nursing – MSN
E Laura Coyle Des Moines Nursing – DNP
E Shannon Dailey Charles City Nursing – BSN
F Carmen Ertz Mediapolis Physical Therapy
F Jensen Rylee McCarty Keokuk Nursing – ADN
F Patricia Meserole Washington Nursing – ADN
F Summer West Ottumwa Nursing – BSN
G Melissa Bitner Clinton Nursing – MSN
G Heidi Haugland Solon Nursing – BSN
G Kyle Kroymann Pella Physician Assistant
G Lydia Molitor Marion Nursing – BSN
G Amanda Paulson North Liberty Physical Therapy
G Nicole Shatek Stockton Occupational Therapy

 

 

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

Iowa News

Local lawmakers vow to keep an eye on Medicaid managers
The three managed care companies that recently took over administration of Iowa’s Medicaid program are being carefully watched, according to some area lawmakers. “Believe me, there are a lot of eyes making sure this is going to work,” state Senator Tim Kraayenbrink (R-Fort Dodge) said Wednesday evening during a forum. State Representative Rob Bacon (R-Slater) said there’s “a lot of oversight on this.” But he acknowledged that there are questions still lingering about the switch. (Fort Dodge Messenger)

Some small Cedar Rapids providers run into Medicaid issues after privatization
Two months into the $5 billion handover of the state-run Medicaid program to private managed care, several small providers in Cedar Rapids have run into snags affecting their bottom lines. Dan Hernandez, owner of the Way Shuttle — a Non-Emergency Medical Transportation provider — estimates he’s seen a 35 percent drop in business since April 1. Additionally, Cedar Rapids-based Pediatric Center still is ironing out several claims processing issues two-months into the transition, said Chris McAndrew, office administer of the private primary care clinic. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Senator Mathis holding session on Iowa Medicaid privatization
Medicaid members, family members, caretakers and providers have the chance to take part in a listening post and help session on Iowa’s privatized Medicaid. State Senator Liz Mathis (D-Cedar Rapids) is holding the event on May 31. “Iowans are still having problems with the transition from Medicaid, our state’s most important health care safety net, to managed care,” said Mathis. “The May meeting I’m organizing will offer opportunities to both discuss possible improvements and get answers to specific problems Iowa families are having.” (KCRG)

Iowa City company aiding organ donations gets state support
With the aid of state funds, a budding Iowa City company aimed at reducing donor organ loss is nearly ready to launch. Friday, the Iowa Economic Development Authority board approved $25,000 in funding for ORGANizer, launched by entrepreneurs Dalton Shaull and Eric Pahl. ORGANizer is a communication platform aimed at improving information and decision-making between hospitals to ease the process of connecting donor organs with recipients. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Illinois Supreme Court to review hospital taxation issue
The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to review a case regarding the constitutionality of hospital tax exemptions. The 4th District Appellate Court ruled in January that a 2012 state law allowing hospitals to avoid taxes is unconstitutional. The ruling reopened a statewide dispute over whether hospitals should be exempt from paying millions of dollars in income taxes and property taxes to local governments. The Illinois Health and Hospital Association has said taxation would force hospitals operating on thin margins to reduce services, lay off staff and delay the purchase of equipment or facility upgrades. (Modern Healthcare)

Changing the conversation around mental health in New Hampshire
State leaders recently joined the medical and mental health community to launch “Change Direction NH,” part of a national initiative to raise awareness of mental health disorders and eliminate the stigma around these issues.  Long considered an afterthought to physical well-being, mental health has gained recognition as having equal importance, although it’s still not easy for many to discuss or seek help. Change Direction NH attempts to fix that, promoting awareness of the signs of mental illness. (New Hampshire Public Radio)

Telemental health services on rise, but barriers remain
Millions of Americans suffer from mental health conditions each year, ranging from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder. Many of those go untreated due to missed diagnosis, lack of access and other issues. But new smart technologies and changes in state laws are making it easier for many patients to get mental health services, a recent survey by Epstein, Becker Green shows. While the survey details a rapid rise in telemental health, barriers to providing those services remain. (Healthcare Dive)

New superbug detected in U.S. threatens ‘end of the road for antibiotics’
Researchers have identified the first U.S. case of a pathogen that’s resistant to the antibiotic considered to be the last line of defense against so-called superbugs, raising fears that a “post-antibiotic” era will arrive sooner than expected. A 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman tested positive last month in her urine for a strain of E. coli bacteria containing a mutated gene known as MCR-1 that is resistant to colistin, the last-resort antibiotic used against multidrug-resistant pathogens. (Modern Healthcare)

Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill
Senators say they are optimistic that a bipartisan mental health reform bill can reach the Senate floor and pass soon, though they are still working out differences over guns and finances. Multiple Senators said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told them that he is willing to put the bill from Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on the floor but that a consensus has to be built ahead of time so that consideration does not take up too much valuable floor time. (The Hill)

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

Iowa News

New telestroke technology connects Trinity patients to specialists
New technology is linking stroke patients at UnityPoint Health – Trinity with a neurologist specializing in stroke treatment from Loyola University Medical Center. The goal is to close the window of time needed to assess and begin treatment in the emergency department. In January, Trinity began working with Loyola University Medical Center’s Virtual Medicine program to improve access to specialists for stroke patients across the community. The program has recently been expanded to both the Trinity Rock Island and Trinity Bettendorf campuses. (KWQC)

Motion-sensing tools deployed in war on pathogens
For a group of University of Iowa researchers, Microsoft Kinect, a motion-detecting component of the Xbox gaming system, is not a game—it’s a tool to help understand how infections spread in health care settings. By employing Kinect’s computer vision in a hospital room, the research team is pioneering an automated approach to track interactions between health care workers and patients, capturing previously elusive data to support the work of hospital epidemiologists. (Medicine Iowa)

Maquoketa hospital officials plan to build new facility
The old, oversized and inefficient Jackson County Regional Health Center likely will be replaced with a new hospital. Members of the hospital’s board of trustees Tuesday gave facility administrators the go-ahead to solicit bids for an architect and construction manager. The move comes after consultants identified myriad issues. The new facility would be 80,000 square feet, significantly smaller than the current, 131,000-square-foot hospital and it’s unclear whether the new hospital will be built at the existing site. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

National News

Missouri hospitals seek to focus on readmission penalties on patient poverty
Missouri hospitals say Medicare doesn’t play fair because its formula for setting penalties does not factor in patients with socioeconomic disadvantages that contribute to repeated hospitalizations. Hospitals have lobbied Congress and Medicare to change the rules and the Missouri Hospital Association is trying to pull public opinion behind it. This year, the association overhauled its consumer website, Focus On Hospitals, to include not only the federal readmissions data, but also each member’s readmissions statistics, adjusted for patients’ Medicaid status and neighborhood poverty rates. (Kaiser Health News)

Even applying for Medicaid can be an ordeal in Kansas
Not only can it take months for the Brownback administration to process and approve Medicaid applications, but even applying for Medicaid can be an ordeal. No wonder there has been a drop in the number of Medicaid beneficiaries in Kansas. The state’s expensive new online application system and reorganized processing clearinghouse were supposed to make enrolling in Medicaid faster and easier. The opposite happened. Hospitals and other providers also have complained about slow payments from the private insurance companies that manage the state’s Medicaid program. (Witchita Eagle)

Battling mental illness in Florida will take community collaboration
The United Way of Miami-Dade spearheaded a summit of Miami-Dade leaders and mental-health experts earlier this month to examine Community Innovations in Mental Health. The effort is committed to adapting best practices from other communities and bringing them to Miami, promoting mental health and recovery from mental illness. Collaboration among public and private organizations, families, patients, peers, managed care companies and providers is essential to success. (Miami Herald)

Obamacare is helping millions get needed healthcare, new survey finds
More than 60 percent of working-age Americans who signed up for Medicaid or a private health plan through the Affordable Care Act are getting health care they couldn’t previously get, a new nationwide survey indicates. And consumers are broadly satisfied with the new coverage, despite some cost challenges and an ongoing Republican campaign to discredit the law. Overall, 82 percent of American adults enrolled in private or government coverage through the health law said they were “somewhat” or “very” satisfied, according to the report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund. (Los Angeles Times)

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

Iowa News

Transition to Medicaid privatization is anything but smooth
If the Iowa Medicaid Enterprise wanted to make it more difficult for Medicaid beneficiaries to get much-needed items such as catheters, adult diapers, medication and transportation to medical appointments, then Medicaid modernization is a huge success, according to Rhonda Shouse in response to an article from Medicaid Director Mikki Stier. The time frame from announcement to implementation was unrealistic. Research shows most states that have switched to Medicaid managed care have moved only portions of their beneficiaries at a time and over a two- to five-year period. (Sioux City Journal)

Cigarette use drops among Iowa’s youth
Smoking among all adults has reached an all-time low. Nationally, 16.8 percent of adults smoke — down from nearly 21 percent five years ago. Garvin Buttermore with the Iowa Health Department says the Iowa Smoke Law put into effect eight years ago created a smoking decrease in Iowa as well. “Adult smoking rates have remained in Iowa rather stagnant, right around 18 percent, for the last five years,” Buttermore said. “What’s encouraging is youth rates of combustible smoking have gone down, and they are the lowest they have ever been in Iowa.” (KCCI)

National News

Proposed KanCare network changes draw skepticism
A proposal to reimburse some KanCare providers at a higher level based on patient outcomes drew skepticism from a crowd of hundreds who gathered Tuesday. The meeting was the first in a series that state officials are hosting as they prepare to renew their federal application for KanCare, the state’s $3 billion managed care program that privatized all Medicaid services under three insurance companies in 2013. Several of the providers, consumers and caregivers who attended the meeting complained about a lack of specifics on changes the state intends to make in the next round of five-year contracts. (Kansas Health Institute)

Wait times not budging for mental health patients in North Carolina
While the situation reached a crisis point at the beginning of the month, data show that even with efforts by the state Department of Health and Human Services and willingness from Governor Pat McCrory and lawmakers in Raleigh, wait times for care in North Carolina’s public psychiatric hospitals has remained stubbornly high. “It’s gotten worse,” said Mike Stevenson, CEO at Murphy Medical Center, who said long distance from state psychiatric facilities is an exacerbating factor. “But the single biggest factor is the lack of available beds.” (North Carolina Health News)

Doctor uses iPad to conduct surgery
In countries ravaged by conflict, providing international medical expertise on the ground can be almost impossible. But a new software, called Proximie, is enabling surgeons to provide help from wherever they are in the world, all through the screen of an iPad. “I see on my screen the surgical feed that is being captured by the camera in Gaza and I’m able to draw on my screen the incision that needs to be done,” says Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sitta, head of plastic surgery at the American University of Beirut Medical Center. (KCCI)

House bill trims pay for all hospitals to fund leeway in site-neutral Medicare pay
Members of the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday unanimously agreed to cut hospital Medicare payments across the board to pay for allowing hospitals building on-campus outpatient departments to continue receiving higher rates than non-hospital clinics. The bill, which now goes to the full House, would slightly reduce the increase contained in the Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act that is scheduled to go into effect in October 2017. (Modern Healthcare)

Hospitals line up behind Congress’ Patient Care Act
The Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act has bipartisan sponsors in the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, is paid for with offsetting budget cuts, and addresses what its backers say are Medicare reimbursement problems created with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2015. In a letter this week to senior committee members on the House Ways & Means Committee, the American Hospital Association urged the lawmakers to pass the bill, after spelling out the problems created by the BBA. (HealthLeaders Media)

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