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Iowa News

Loebsack calls on CMS to rescind Iowa’s Medicaid waiver
Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA) today called on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for granting the State of Iowa the waiver to privatize its Medicaid program, to rescind the waiver. A report published today by the Des Moines Register shows that payment shortages have created a ‘catastrophic experience’ for the program’s private managers. This new report comes on top of continued complaints from patients about access to services and providers about delayed reimbursements. (KWQC)

Iowa Medicaid payment shortages are ‘catastrophic,’ private managers tell state
The for-profit companies running Iowa’s Medicaid program have been complaining to state administrators that the controversial project is “drastically underfunded” and that the situation has been a “catastrophic experience,” newly released documents show. One managed care executive wrote that Iowa’s recent offer to give the companies an extra $127.7 million in state and federal money this budget year “is not acceptable.” He added that without major changes, the privately run Medicaid program could be unsustainable. None of the three companies has agreed to accept the state’s revised rate offer. (Des Moines Register)

Agency projects $14.5 million Medicaid shortfall
An Iowa Legislative Services Agency report released Wednesday estimates Iowa’s Medicaid program needs a $14.5 million budget boost still this fiscal year. And for the next budget year that begins July 1, the shortfall would grow to $109 million, the agency forecasts. However, Governor Terry Branstad expressed confidence that any losses in the state’s program — along with concerns from the three private insurers handling Iowa’s managed care — could be ironed out. The governor said he would not offer additional higher rates for the insurers. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

State to expand mental health regions?
Diane Buss, coordinator of disability services, Monday morning described to the Appanoose County Board of Supervisors what she sees as a disturbing development if the state gets what it wants with its mental health and disability services regions. The state is divided up into 14 approved mental health and disability services regions, according to a map on the Iowa Department of Human Services website. Appanoose, Davis, Wapello and Mahaska counties are in the South Central Behavioral Health region. Buss said the state is going to move toward larger regions of at least 200,000 in population. She said the four-county region Appanoose County is in has about a 78,000 population. (Daily Iowegian)

National News

Missouri one of eight states participating in mental health treatment expansion pilot program
Missouri will be one of eight states participating in a pilot program expanding access to mental health services in community health clinics. It’s the next step in the Excellence in Mental Health Act. Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and Pennsylvania are the other seven states chosen Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services. Vikki Wachino, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said the demonstration program will allow state to have more access for behavioral health services for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program recipients. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Staff vacancies down but still a concern at state psychiatric hospitals
State officials say conditions for staff and patients at Kansas’ two state-run psychiatric hospitals are improving but still need work. Representatives from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, Osawatomie State Hospital, Larned State Hospital and the Kansas Organization of State Employees spoke to a legislative committee overseeing the hospitals. The committee made six recommendations for the Legislature to consider during the 2017 session, including requirements for private contractors bidding to operate Osawatomie State Hospital and support for programs addressing staff shortages at both hospitals for Kansans with severe mental health issues. (Kansas Health Institute)

North Carolina mayor fights to save a small-town hospital: ‘It’s life or death’
He was born in Pungo District Hospital in the sleepy town of Belhaven, N.C. Decades later, as mayor of Belhaven, he counted on the hospital to provide not just health care, but scores of jobs. In his rural stretch of coastal North Carolina — beautiful but isolated, with a painfully high poverty rate — he saw Pungo as the “heartbeat” of the community. That is, until the hospital was shut down on July 1, 2014, less than three years after a much larger health system had purchased it. Ever since, O’Neal has fought to revive the hospital. His last chance may come Wednesday as Belhaven residents go to court to try to block its demolition. (STAT)

Medicaid expansion delivers ED care more quickly, study says
Researchers determined that Medicaid expansion provides patients with greater choice in hospitals and reduced average travel time to emergency departments (EDs), according to a study published Tuesday by Annals of Internal Medicine. Hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid say a 47.1 percent drop in uninsured ED visits in the 12 months following expansion and Medicaid visits increased 125.7 percent. The results could translate into improved outcomes for patients. (Healthcare Dive)

Latest hospital injury penalties include crackdown on antibiotic resistant germs
The federal government has cut payments to 769 hospitals with high rates of patient injuries, for the first time counting the spread of antibiotic-resistant germs in assessing penalties. The punishments come in the third year of Medicare penalties for hospitals with patients most frequently suffering from potentially avoidable complications, including various types of infections, blood clots, bed sores and falls. This year the government also examined the prevalence of two types of bacteria resistant to drugs. The reductions apply not only to patient stays but also will reduce the amount of money hospitals get to teach medical residents and care for low-income people. (Kaiser Health News)

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