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

Iowa News

New UnityPoint building serves patients where they live
UnityPoint-Pinnacle Prairie, UnityPoint Health’s latest move — and part of a trend in the health care industry — will bring health care to people where they live. It’s 90,000 square feet, or 30,000 per floor over three floors. The building was scheduled to open in December and a grand opening celebration is anticipated for January. “There’s a number of specialty offices and urgent care, primary care,” UnityPoint CEO Pam Delagardelle said. “It’s all clinic based and ancillary based, but it’s not hospital-based services. It’s really a health and wellness campus. We’re really set up to deliver care to keep people healthy.” (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Obstetric unit to come to Marengo hospital
A unanimous vote was collected after hearing the Marengo Memorial Hospital’s (MMH) presentation before the State Health Facilities Council on Tuesday October 11, to propose converting two medical/surgical beds to add a two-bed obstetrics unit. The application included a written analysis that would help provide obstetric services for women with low risk pregnancies in and around the surrounding communities of Marengo. The formal letter for approval was received last week. According to MMH, the closest location for delivery is approximately 32 miles from Marengo, requiring women to travel more than 60 miles roundtrip for their numerous prenatal visits and to deliver their babies. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Sioux City hospitals delivered $42M in benefits
The two hospital systems based in Sioux City contributed a total of $41.6 million in community benefits in 2015, according to a new report. UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s provided nearly $15.6 million in benefits and Mercy Medical Center—Sioux City provided another $26 million in benefits in Siouxland, according to a recently completed assessment of those programs and services by the Iowa Hospital Association. Mercy provided $6.2 million in uncompensated care and St. Luke’s provided $4.5 million in uncompensated care. (Sioux City Journal)

GOP’s state trifecta has its own challenges
It’s a Republican reunion, 20 years in the making. In 2017 and 2018, at the least, the Iowa Capitol will be ruled by Republicans. After the November 8 elections, the GOP took control of the state government trifecta — majorities in the Iowa House and Iowa Senate and a Republican in the governor’s office. Republicans who were on the legislative front lines 20 years ago say there is much professional joy in being able to advance a policy agenda without political opposition, but that intraparty challenges remain. “You can get some good things done, but it’s not all roses and sunshine,” said Brent Siegrist, the House majority leader then. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Small-town hospital closings leave rural Texans far from medical care
Since 2013, 15 rural hospitals — located in counties with no more than 60,000 residents — have closed across Texas. Rural hospitals face many challenges, including competition for doctors from larger cities and ever-increasing student debt for doctors coming out of medical school. There’s also uncertainty about another round of government reimbursement cuts. If Texas legislators cut Medicaid payments in the upcoming session as they did in 2011, more rural hospitals could fail. At a September 13 hearing of the state’s Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, legislators discussed the future of rural health care. (Fort Worth Star Telegram)

Nevada’s rural residents face fraying safety net
The dearth of hospitals is just one of the issues threatening the well-being of the roughly 300,000 Nevadans who live in small towns and rural communities. A shortage of medical professionals, an increasingly strained emergency care network and escalating costs of health care are threatening to turn them into health care “have-nots” who pay a steep price for their rural lifestyle. Across the nation, residents of rural areas are experiencing health-outcome disparities, including “higher incidence of disease and disability, increased mortality rates, lower life expectancies and higher rates of pain and suffering,” according to the Rural Health Information Hub. (Raleigh News & Observer)

Republican states that expanded Medicaid want it kept
Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer fought her own Republican party in the state Legislature for months to push through a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Arizona is one of 31 states that expanded Medicaid, many of them run by Democrats. Republicans have blocked expansion in the remaining 19 states. Among the GOP-led states that expanded Medicaid, many officials are strong proponents of the program that has brought insurance to about 9 million low-income Americans who can’t possibly afford to buy it themselves. States that strongly oppose Medicaid expansion, however, continue to do so. (Associated Press/Washington Post)

Managed care plans increasingly taking over Medicaid long-term care
States are increasingly turning to private firms to provide managed long-term supports and services (MLTSS). Their goal is to rein in costs and increase budget predictability. Officials say it enables delivery of more coordinated care and prevents sending people to expensive nursing home settings. But some advocates are claiming that they are seeing care suffer under the model. Until recently most state Medicaid programs have excluded people with disabilities from managed care because of their complex needs. Twenty states now have shifted their MLTSS program to private managed care companies. (Modern Healthcare)

A frenzy of lobbying on 21st Century Cures Act
The 21st Century Cures Act set for a House vote Wednesday is one of the most-lobbied health care bills in recent history, with nearly three lobbyists working for its passage or defeat for every member on Capitol Hill. More than 1,455 lobbyists representing 400 companies, universities and other organizations pushed for or against an earlier House version of a Cures bill this congressional cycle, according to federal disclosure forms compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. A compromise version was released over the holiday weekend. (Kaiser Health News)

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