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

Iowa News

Branstad rejects ‘catastrophic’ comments about Medicaid managed care
The Des Moines Register has obtained new documents showing the for-profit companies running Iowa’s Medicaid program are complaining about “drastic” losses. One company’s manager describes the process as a “catastrophic experience,” according to the newspaper. Governor Terry Branstad is downplaying the report. “I’m confident that it’s going to work out,” Branstad says. Branstad’s current state budget plan is based on more than $100 million worth of savings from switching to privately-managed care for Medicaid patients. (Radio Iowa)

Genetic Testing helps Siouxland hospital offer improved pain management
Every person reacts to medicine differently. And, because of that, medical professionals in one Siouxland hospital are taking a look at pain management from a different angle. Lakes Regional Healthcare in Spirit Lake is using genetic testing before surgery to treat their patients more effectively. It’s not a new concept, but it is new to smaller, rural hospitals. Genetic testing before surgery is available at Lakes Regional through an outreach program of Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls. The process helps the professionals here find out how pain meds will affect their patients. (Siouxland Matters)

University of Iowa nursing college gets $5.25 million from former dean
Long before former University of Iowa (UI) College of Nursing Dean Rita Ann Frantz died, she and her husband wrote into their will a UI donation supporting an endowed chair. As their funds grew over the years — through monthly contributions and wise investments — the couple discussed supporting a College of Nursing professorship as well. But it wasn’t until after Frantz died at age 68 on September 7 that her husband realized they had enough to support the professorship, two scholarships and two endowed chairs. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

As Iowa records first flu death of season, residents urged to get vaccinated
Iowa’s first flu-related death of the season should spur residents to be vaccinated, the Iowa Department of Public Health warned Monday. The victim was described as an elderly woman from central Iowa. Her name and hometown were not released. The flu season has been relatively mild so far, but that could change quickly. Even relatively healthy young people can be felled by flu complications, such as pneumonia or bacterial infections. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

National News

Montana may be model for Medicaid work requirement
Montana State Senator Ed Buttrey is a no-nonsense businessman from Great Falls. Like a lot of Republicans, he’s not a fan of the Affordable Care Act, nor its expansion of Medicaid. Buttrey wrote a Medicaid expansion bill for Montana that linked the health coverage to a job training program. He wanted everyone getting benefits to have to meet with a labor specialist who would help them figure out how to get a job or to get a better paying job. But so far, federal officials said states can’t make participation in a work program mandatory for Medicaid recipients. Montana, instead, had to make its job training component voluntary. (Kaiser Health News)

California hopes $3 billion experiment will improve health of neediest
California has approved plans in 18 counties intended to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits and hospital stays among these groups. The effort, known as “whole person care,” is part of an agreement between California and the federal government. It gives the state flexibility to try to improve the efficiency and quality of care in the state’s Medicaid program — known as Medi-Cal — which provides health coverage to low-income people. The projects are designed to blend physical care, mental health care and social services for the participants, who are among the neediest and costliest in the state. (Kaiser Health News)

In Texas, students help provide health care for refugees
Each Wednesday at St. Francis Episcopal Church on the north side of San Antonio, dozens of refugees from all over the world come for free care at the Refugee Health Clinic. Students and faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio have teamed up to operate one of the only student-run refugee clinics in the country. In the past six years, more refugees have resettled in Texas than in any other state. That was before the State of Texas pulled out of the refugee resettlement program in September, citing concerns over terrorism. (Iowa Public Radio)

How hospitals are trying to improve the patient experience
At Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, the facility’s maternity ward provides perks for new parents, such as champagne with chocolate-covered strawberries to celebrate the birth of the baby. Improving the patient experience helps promote healing and makes good business sense, says Joe Leggio, director of patient and customer experience at Lenox Hill. “It is important for every organization that serves the public to give the customer their best possible service,” says Nancy Foster, vice president for quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association. (U.S. News & World Report)

Education partnerships could produce better prepared health care employees
There is a disconnect between the needs of health care organizations and the skills delivered by educational institutions that leaves many entry-level health care jobs unfilled, according to a new report from The Advisory Board Company. Health care organizations are having trouble filling many non-clinical, entry-level positions because there are either too few candidates or available candidates don’t have the desired skills, according to the report. Partnering with educators to better prepare students for roles in health care could give them opportunities for middle class incomes. (Healthcare Dive)

Obamacare enrollment is beating last year’s early pace
Despite the Affordable Care Act’s rising prices, decreased insurer participation and a vigorous political threat to its survival, consumer enrollment for 2017 is outpacing last year’s, according to new federal data and reports from state officials around the country. Americans’ anxiety about how a new Republican-controlled Congress and President-elect Donald Trump will repeal and replace the health law is helping fuel early enrollment gains in the online marketplaces that sell individual coverage, state exchange officials and health consultants said. (Kaiser Health News)

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