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

Iowa News

Medicaid in Iowa is crumbling
Collapse: It’s the best description of Iowa’s Medicaid network and Governor Terry Branstad’s ideological crusade to gut the program. Providers have raged since Branstad this year privatized the bulk of the program that provides health care insurance for roughly 20 percent of Iowans. Anecdotes about slow payments and rejected services are piled high. Democrats demanded more oversight of handover of the $4.2 billion to a trio of private insurers. In March, federal regulators urged Branstad to postpone the shift, citing the state’s unreadiness. But Branstad wasn’t having any of it. (Quad-City Times)

Broadlawns psychiatrist leads rare expansion of mental health services
Janice Landy knows how it feels to be kept in the background. The veteran psychiatrist helps patients with the kind of mental health problems many other people don’t like to think about. She’s regularly worked in faded, tucked-away areas of hospitals where patients with ailments such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or addictions often are sent. But Landy is leading mental health care into the forefront at Polk County’s public hospital. At a time when many other hospitals are trimming or eliminating such programs, Broadlawns Medical Center has doubled its mental health staff and is adding inpatient psychiatric beds. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy, Linn-Mar partner to offer urgent mental health services to students
A year-old partnership between Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids and the Linn-Mar school district gives students greater access to mental health resources. The program — now in its second year — offers students struggling with urgent mental health problems immediate, free access to the hospital’s counseling services. Under the partnership, school counselors can recommend students to Mercy therapist Libby Dunnigan, who will see the student within two to three days. The student and his or her family receive three free sessions with Dunnigan. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

‘Intensive, ongoing’ Medicaid scrutiny essential
One big Medicaid question has been hanging in the air since Republicans took control of the Iowa Statehouse this past November: What will oversight look like? The state handed over management of its $5 billion Medicaid program with more than 600,000 enrollees to three private insurers in April. Since then, providers have complained of late and inaccurate payments, and the managed care organizations have reported more than $100,000 in losses. The first several months of the managed care transition were plagued by reports of providers receiving inaccurate and late payments and some issues still remain. (Quad-City Times)

National News

Rural health care crisis puts critical care out of reach for many Kansans
In 2010, Mercy Hospital in Independence, Kansas couldn’t provide critical care and had limited bed space, ultimately leading to closure. Hospital closings only portray part of the rural health issue in Kansas. But the State Legislature and individual communities are trying to find solutions. In addition to Mercy, 31 other hospitals in Kansas are at risk of closing too, according to the Kansas Hospital Association. Hospital administrators indicated that Medicaid expansion could have saved Mercy Hospital, whereas Kansas Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer said expanding Medicaid would not provide much help to Kansas rural hospitals. (Hays Post)

Rural New Mexico exports mentoring model for physicians
Leslie Hayes and her colleagues treat more than 200 patients for drug-use disorders involving heroin and prescription opioid pain medication at a rural clinic in New Mexico’s Espanola Valley. Hayes’ ability to effectively treat opioid addiction would not be possible without years of regular videoconferences with specialists at a major medical center in Albuquerque under a program known as Project ECHO. Project ECHO’s long-distance training for physicians, their assistants and nurse practitioners mimics the mentoring that interns and residents receive at elite urban hospitals. (Associated Press)

Report cites gains from Ohio’s Medicaid expansion
With President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans planning to repeal Obamacare, Governor John Kasich’s administration released a report Friday saying that Ohio’s 2014 Medicaid expansion has improved the health and reduced financial hardships for hundreds of thousands of poor Ohioans. Expansion has pushed Ohio’s Medicaid roll to more than 3 million, at a total cost of $25.3 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s up from enrollment of 2.4 million and a total tab of $20 billion in the previous year. (Columbus Dispatch)

MassHealth may force seniors to make hard choice
Hundreds of disabled seniors in Massachusetts may soon face a daunting choice if they want services under the state’s Medicaid program: Ditch the trusts they set up to pay for extras, such as dental work and a home health aide, or risk losing public benefits. MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid health insurance program for nearly 2 million low-income and disabled residents, is considering changes in eligibility requirements that would make it harder for residents older than 65 to establish special-needs trust accounts and still qualify for nursing home care and other health services from state and federal government agencies. (Boston Globe)

Drones could soon get crucial medical supplies to patients in need
Aerial drones could one day ferry life-or-death medical supplies between hospitals now that Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have figured out how to keep blood, medications and vaccines consistently cool during the flights. Interest in the use of drones has surged in recent years as companies, including retail giant Amazon, explore the use of the unmanned aircraft to efficiently and cheaply transport goods above traffic, through bad weather or to otherwise inaccessible or remote areas. (Baltimore Sun)

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