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

Iowa News

Mental health report does not paint rosy picture, as governor claims
Mental Health America recently issued its State of Mental Health Care in America report, based on data from 2014. The governor’s office widely distributed a press release, stating that Iowa’s overall ranking had moved from 13th to 7th in the nation with respect to a combination of 15 measures. The premise is that states with higher rankings have lower prevalence rates and higher rates of access. However, the report is based on data obtained between 2011 and 2014 and, therefore, does not take into account Iowa’s transition to a privatized managed care system. How will Iowa rate once 2016 data is taken into account? (Des Moines Register)

DMACC and Iowa Wesleyan University enter innovative nursing partnership
Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) and Iowa Wesleyan University signed an innovative agreement resulting in the first-ever bachelors of science in nursing (BSN) completion program in the state of Iowa. This partnership enhances health care across Iowa and advanced health care education. As a result of this agreement, DMACC nursing graduates will be able to complete their BSN degrees in one year online, allowing them to stay in central Iowa and work. Also, there are financial aid opportunities through the Iowa Tuition Grant program. (DMACC)

Trump tags consultant who helped Iowa privatize Medicaid
A national consultant who helped the state of Iowa make the controversial shift to private Medicaid management is Donald Trump’s choice to run the federal government’s giant health insurance programs. Seema Verma leads an Indianapolis consulting firm that works with state governments on health care programs. Trump announced Monday that he would nominate her to lead the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Iowa’s Department of Human Services has twice hired Verma’s firm, SVC Inc., to help the state redesign its Medicaid program. (Des Moines Register)

Meet the nuns bringing prayers, smiles to Mercy patients
Nuns started working at Mercy Medical Center back in 1893, but they haven’t walked the halls there for 25 years until now. Sister Rose Hellen works as a patient care tech on the oncology floor at Mercy Medical Center. She is one of four nuns from a congregation in Kenya who traveled all the way to Des Moines to work at the bedside of some of the sickest Iowans. “When we are caring for the sick, we are fulfilled and we feel happy,” Hellen said. Nuns have been a part of Mercy since they started the hospital more than 120 years ago, but this is the first time in 25 years they are serving patients at the hospital. (KCCI)

National News

After decades of rivalry, Charlotte hospitals partner to help the poor
Chief executives of Charlotte’s two competing health systems – Carolinas HealthCare System and Novant Health – have launched a first-of-its-kind partnership that appears to signal a new era after decades of sometimes bitter rivalry. The hospital CEOs have met several times to talk about ways their systems can collaborate to improve access to health care for under-served communities in Charlotte. They invited leaders from more than 40 businesses, religious and educational institutions, local government agencies and nonprofits to meet Monday night to discuss ways to improve the health of Charlotte’s communities. (Charlotte Observer)

GE, Children’s Hospital form medical software venture
Boston Children’s Hospital is teaming up with General Electric Co. (GE) to produce software that will help doctors more accurately interpret brain scans of young patients. Under a deal set to be announced Monday, Children’s and Boston-based GE’s health care division will develop the system over the next 18 months, then market it to hospitals around the world. The effort is part of GE’s Health Cloud, which is launching this week and is expected, over the next three to five years, to house hundreds of different “apps” that doctors can use to sort through medical data. (Boston Globe)

Legislation to improve mental health care for millions faces congressional vote
Efforts to strengthen the country’s tattered mental health system, and help millions of Americans suffering from mental illness, are getting a big boost this week, thanks to a massive health care package moving through Congress. Key provisions from a mental health bill approved last summer by the House of Representatives have been folded into the $6.3 billion 21st Century Cures Act, which aims to speed up drug development and increase medical research. The legislation also aims to make mental health a national priority and coordinate how mental health care is delivered. (Kaiser Health News)

CMS’ star ratings for hospitals linked to social, economic factors
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS’) hospital quality star ratings have been strongly criticized by industry stakeholders and Congress as unfairly tarnishing the reputations of hospitals in low-income communities. A new study reinforces the concerns, concluding that a hospital’s rating is heavily influenced by its location’s socio-economic conditions. Hospitals with relatively low star ratings from the CMS were located in cities with high “stress” levels, according to the study, published Monday in JAMA. The stress levels of cities were determined using an analysis that measured socio-economic conditions like unemployment and poverty rates in 150 cities across the country. (Modern Healthcare)

Paul Ryan’s plan to change Medicare looks a lot like Obamacare
President-elect Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan agree that repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replacing it with some other health insurance system is a top priority. But they disagree on whether overhauling Medicare should be part of that plan. Medicare is the government-run health system for people aged 65 and older and the disabled. Trump said little about Medicare during his campaign, other than to promise that he wouldn’t cut it. Ryan, on the other hand, has Medicare in his sights. The irony of the Ryan Medicare plan is that it would turn the government program into something that looks very much like the structure created for insurance plans sold under the ACA. (NPR)

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