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

Iowa News

Medicaid firms won’t need big raises to make up for losses, Branstad says
Private Medicaid-management firms shouldn’t need large infusions of extra taxpayer money to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars they’re losing in Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad said Monday. But reports filed with the Iowa Insurance Division last week showing that two of the companies lost nearly $280 million in Iowa in the first nine months of 2016. Democratic legislators predict the deep losses could lead the companies to seek sharp increases in their payments from the state, or attempts to leave the market. State Senator Amanda Ragan (Mason City-D) said she is bracing for the management companies to demand big increases in public payments in the budget for next year. (Des Moines Register)

UI EMHA program creating health care leaders
Greg Lehmann knew that if he wanted to advance in his field, he would need a broader background in health care administration. Lehmann was among the first 10 students from a variety of clinical and health care management backgrounds who graduated in August from the new University of Iowa (UI) Executive Master of Health Administration program (EMHA) degree program. “The EMHA curriculum is case-based, interdisciplinary and team-focused with the goal of preparing current health care professionals to move into leadership positions,” says Ian Montgomery, director of the EMHA program. The program is open to any working health care professional who has at least five years of relevant experience. (Iowa Now)

Iowa Insurance Commissioner to step down at the end of the year
Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart — who led the state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act — announced Monday afternoon that he will be stepping down from his post at the end of the year. He oversaw the division as Iowa worked to expand Medicaid as well as held hearings — and eventually approved — sharp premium increases insurers sought to deal with rising prescription and health care costs. Deputy Commissioner Doug Ommen will serve as the interim insurance commissioner. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Medicaid expansion? Nah. Get ready first for a fight over a Georgia ‘bed tax’
Georgia lawmakers are readying for a brutal debate over whether to extend a tax that plugs a gaping hole in the state Medicaid system in the opening days of next year’s legislative session. Donald Trump’s election – and his vows to gut Obamacare – have sidelined talk about a Medicaid expansion under the imperiled Affordable Care Act. Most lawmakers talk of a wait-and-see approach toward health policy after Trump’s election. But legislative leaders say there’s a consensus brewing to quickly take on a vote over a fee on hospitals, known as the “bed tax,” designed to leverage more federal Medicaid funding. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

How a Colorado health care provider is battling the opioid epidemic with non-pill pain treatments
Since January 2015, Kaiser Permanente clinic in Colorado has been running what it calls a one-of-a-kind integrated pain-service class aimed at helping its high-risk opioid patients better manage their pain through alternative treatments and understand the risks of the drugs. The idea is to show patients they don’t necessarily need a pain pill to manage their pain. With Colorado and the nation in the grips of a prescription painkiller epidemic — which has been blamed for a resurgence of heroin and skyrocketing overdose deaths — those running the program hope it can be a way to stem the rising tide and prevent overdoses and addiction. (Denver Post)

Baltimore public health experts make case for federal health programs
With a host of federal health programs on the line with the incoming Trump administration, some public health experts in the Baltimore region are both bracing for big changes and offering their take on how to better spend taxpayer funds to improve outcomes for millions of Americans. A panel of policy experts gathered this week at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and argued that increased attention on the root causes of addiction, violence, mental health, infant mortality and public health emergencies would greatly reduce expenditures in the future. (Baltimore Sun)

In House Majority Leader’s California district, many depend on health law he wants to scrap
U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act first and replace it sometime later. That doesn’t sit well with some constituents who in McCarthy’s rural California district. When McCarthy returns later this month to his Congressional district, a mostly agricultural region in California’s Central Valley including the city of Bakersfield and Edwards Air Force Base, he will likely face many confused and frustrated constituents. Two counties represented by the Republican leader are among the most heavily dependent on Medi-Cal in the state. (Kaiser Health News)

Virtual reality becomes reality
Virtual reality has been around for decades, but until now its use in health care was not practical. Big players such as Facebook, Samsung, and Microsoft are getting in on virtual reality and creating more affordable and accessible devices that provide high-resolution graphics. Virtual reality has applications in the clinical setting and can play a role in neurosurgery pain management, treatment of phobias and substance abuse. “The future’s amazing with this,” says Patrick McGrath, clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. “It’s going to be the next wave of things that we’ll be able to do.” (HealthLeaders Media)

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