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

Iowa News

Boattenhamer to leave Iowa Hospital Association
The Iowa Hospital Association’s (IHA) point man at the statehouse for the past two decades is moving on. Greg Boattenhamer, the IHA’s senior vice president of government relations and advocacy, announced he will leave the organization on December 16. “I’ve been here 30 years and I think it’s just time to find some new adventures while I’m still young enough to do that,” said Boattenhamer, 58. He joined the organization in 1986 as communication director. “I think we’ve accomplished a lot in this time to the benefit of Iowans and the Iowa health care system.” (Des Moines Business Record)

SMC unveils new renovations
December 14th was a big day for Shenandoah Medical Center (SMC) as a major renovation project was unveiled to the public. SMC officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon to highlight the completion of phase one of the hospital’s $22 million expansion project. SMC President and CEO Karen Cole addressed a large crowd and expressed her thanks to everyone involved with the project, including the hospital’s board of directors. “They are people who have shown great leadership and have been supportive to the entire medical center as long as I’ve been here and as long as I’ve known them,” Cole said. “I’m just really grateful for their support.” (KMA Land)

Number of uninsured Iowans falls 46 percent
The number of uninsured Iowans has dropped by 46 percent since 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was launched, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) data released Tuesday. That means about 132,000 Iowans have picked up coverage who didn’t have it before the ACA, HHS officials said. “Whether Iowans get coveage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Governor outlines priorities for 2017 legislative session
Republican Governor Terry Branstad offered hints about his 2017 legislative priorities during a stop in Waverly on Wednesday. But they came with a warning. Speaking with more than a dozen community leaders gathered at the Cobblestone Inn, the governor said the budget is tight and cuts may be necessary in the current fiscal year. Jim Atty, chief executive officer of Waverly Health Center, asked Branstad how hospitals can work with the administration to improve health care, particularly under the recently implemented Medicaid privatization. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Iowa City nurses union suing Board of Regents, University of Iowa
A local union representing 3,500 professional and scientific University of Iowa Health Care employees has filed a lawsuit accusing the Iowa Board of Regents and university managers of denying their right to discuss union membership away from patients and visitors. A registered nurse with the university – who was on leave to help the union with its outreach to members and to encourage others to join – was repeatedly asked to leave or be escorted away during discussions in non-patient care areas this summer, according to the lawsuit filed in Johnson County District Court. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Expand KanCare to create jobs, lower health costs
In Kansas, there is an issue central to the success of local businesses and the growth of the state’s economy. It is expanding the state’s Medicaid program, KanCare. Without KanCare expansion, the state’s uninsured will continue to seek health care in the most expensive place – the emergency room – leading to increased costs for all Kansas taxpayers. Hospitals and providers are strained because they are providing care without reimbursement. As a result, Kansas saw one hospital close earlier last year. (Wichita Eagle)

Want a glimpse into the possible future of Medicaid? Head to Indiana
To better understand what the future of Medicaid could look like, you might come to Indiana. The state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was designed by Seema Verma, a consultant who has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the US agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid. And with congressional Republicans seeking to repeal and replace the ACA and make other changes to Medicaid, Indiana’s system could be seen as a template for a Medicaid overhaul in other states. (STAT)

Washington Governor wants $300 million to fix mental health system in state budget plan
Washington Governor Jay Inslee has proposed adding hundreds of millions of dollars to the troubled mental health system and eventually downsizing the state’s two psychiatric hospitals by moving patients into community based facilities. The governor’s plan to reshape Washington’s mental health system was the centerpiece of a 2017-19 state operating budget proposal that would total $46.7 billion over the two-year budget cycle. A lack of bed space in the state psychiatric hospital has put pressure on regional mental health facilities. Meanwhile, some patients in the hospital can’t be discharged because there’s nowhere in the community for them to go. (Seattle Times)

Will the 21st Century Cures Act level the playing field on hospital readmissions?
Nestled within the 994 pages of the 21st Century Cures Act that President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday is an opportunity for hospitals to change the way they are judged when patients are unnecessarily readmitted. Hospitals have been at fault if patients return to the hospital for the same reason they were originally admitted. But some hospitals are located in impoverished areas, and many of their patients cannot afford to buy medication or healthy food or they lack transportation to attend checkups with primary care doctors. Hospital and medical groups hope the 21st Century Cures Act will ensure funds are not unduly taken from hospitals that need it most. (Modern Healthcare)

Some GOPs really want to keep expanded Medicaid
As congressional Republicans begin to face the consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act early next year, GOP members of the powerful Senate Finance Committee signaled on Tuesday, they were open to proposals for preserving expanded Medicaid coverage for millions of adults and children, even while cutting other vital elements of Obamacare. Nearly half of the 31 states and the District of Columbia that agreed to expand their Medicaid coverage under Obamacare are dominated by Republicans. Many of those states’ governors have voiced alarmed at the prospects of abruptly losing millions in federal funding to provide Medicaid coverage. (Fiscal Times)

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