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

Iowa News

If Medicaid fixed issues, why are providers still owed money?
Nine months after privatizing the administration of Medicaid, Governor Terry Branstad continues to insist it was a good idea. Sticking to that story requires ignoring serious, recurring problems. Unfortunately, it appears his successor, Kim Reynolds, intends to follow in his footsteps. As of last week, the three private insurers contracted by the state to provide health insurance to more than 500,000 Iowans owed Southwest Iowa Mental Health System more than $300,000. But according to the quarterly Medicaid report praised by Reynolds, all problems are being resolved. (Des Moines Register)

K-12 schools, Medicaid should be spared from budget cuts, Branstad says
With $100 million in state spending cuts looming, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said Wednesday he does not want those cuts to come from spending on K-12 public education, health care for the state’s Medicaid recipients or commercial property tax credits. Branstad conceded state employee layoffs are possible, but he declined to say from which state agency. Tax revenue has grown slower than estimated, so the governor and state lawmakers must agree to roughly $100 million in spending cuts in the current fiscal year, which started on July 1, 2016, and ends June 30, 2017. (Quad-City Times)

Spencer Hospital adds 3D mammography technology
Spencer Hospital has added three-dimensional (3D) mammography technology to its array of diagnostic imaging services for enhanced patient care. While some imaging centers use the 3D capability only when patients meet specific medical criteria, Spencer Hospital will use the 3D system on all mammography patients unless the patient requests traditional two-dimensional mammography. “The hospital and its radiologists are excited to offer 3D mammography to our patients,” said Mary Brosnahan, Spencer Hospital’s Diagnostic Imaging director. (Dickinson County News)

Iowa cancer survivors set for new challenge: Overcoming Mount Kilimanjaro
Three dozen members, many cancer survivors, gathered Monday morning at the Des Moines International Airport. More than twice as many supporters joined them, reminding them fighting cancer is far more than just the patient’s battle. The Above + Beyond Cancer group packed nearly 1,000 homemade flags, which climbers plan to fly when they finish their climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. Each flag honors a cancer survivor or person who didn’t survive the battle. The organization will then bring back the flags when the trip ends in two weeks. (WHO)

The importance of caring for caregivers
Just over a year ago, the Family Caregivers Center of Mercy opened its doors. Their goal: To support East Central Iowans who are caring for a spouse, parent, sibling, other relative or friend with chronic health conditions. Now, the group is looking for volunteers and support to help expand their services. The hope is that more Eastern Iowans step up to help. Founders of the Family Caregivers Center of Mercy wanted to create a caring, resourceful community to surround unpaid family caregivers. To help them learn from each other, connect to resources and feel heard and supported. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

In a small town in Texas, a rural hospital thrives against all odds
Rural hospitals around the country have struggled to stay afloat; at least 80 have shut down since 2010. Thirteen of those closures occurred in Texas, the most of any state, according to the data from the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. But Childress Regional Medical Center in Texas, which has just 39 beds, is a case study in success. It’s solvent. It’s expanding its services. And in an era when medical care seems increasingly fragmented — with high-tech diagnostics and high-priced specialists called in for every ailment — it’s a reminder that the old-fashioned way can work, too. (STAT)

What money will fix in mental health, and what it won’t
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has proposed more than $30 million in new spending for mental health and substance-abuse treatment. But no one should think more money will solve the problem. Re-institutionalizing the mentally ill would invite resistance, especially given the snake-pit-like conditions that led to their deinstitutionalization many years ago. Expanded treatment by community service boards is necessary and requires more state support. Lawmakers should follow up on the governor’s proposal and allocate more funds for mental health professionals, beds and treatment. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Michigan governor fights for Medicaid plan in Obamacare repeal
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder wants Republican President-elect Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress to spare Michigan’s unique form of Medicaid expansion as they consider dismantling the Affordable Care Act, calling it a “successful” program that could serve as a national model. Snyder and Michigan’s GOP-led Legislature signed off on Medicaid expansion in 2013 but added unique requirements for recipients who earn between 100 and 133 percent of the poverty level, including Health Savings Account contributions and co-pays that can be reduced through healthy behaviors. (Detroit News)

New program trains health care interpreters at Maryland community college
As the number of people whose primary language is not English continues to rise — 23 percent of county residents speak a language other than English at home — the need grows for people who can help doctors and patients understand one another. A group of a dozen students are the first ever at Howard Community College in Maryland to enroll in a one-course certificate program specifically designed to train interpreters for work in health care settings. Dr. Mindy Kantsiper, medical director for hospitalists at Howard County General Hospital, stresses the importance of precision in translating in the medical setting. (Baltimore Sun)

Bundled payments work, study finds, but HHS nominee no fan
A recent change in the way Medicare pays for joint replacements is saving millions of dollars annually — and could save billions — without impacting patient care, a new study has found. But the man Donald Trump has picked to be the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) has vocally opposed the new mandatory payment program and is likely to revoke it. The study found that hospitals saved an average of 8 percent under the program, and some saved much more. (Kaiser Health News)

After Obama, some health care reforms may prove lasting
The transformation of American health care that has occurred over the last eight years has a momentum that could prove impossible to stop. Expanding insurance coverage to more than 20 million Americans is among Mr. Obama’s proudest accomplishments, but the changes he has pushed go deeper. They have had an impact on every level of care — from what happens during checkups and surgery to how doctors and hospitals are paid, how their results are measured and how they work together. (New York Times)

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