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

Iowa News

Iowa mother helps mentally ill kids
Tammy Nyden realized when her son was very young that he was mentally ill. And unlike most other people with mental illness, he was violent. As years passed and diagnoses changed, she knew she had to do something to prevent him from spiraling into disaster — and at the same time help other young people suffering from mental illness. With others, Nyden created Parents Creating Change in Iowa, and NAMI Iowa Children’s Mental Health Committee. They formed the NAMI Iowa Casserole Club, an online support group for parents and caregivers of children and adolescents with mental health needs. (Washington Post)

Kim Reynolds on mental health system: “It’s not perfect”
In a sit-down interview with Local 5 following the governor’s final Condition of the State on Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds talked about one of the big issues facing the Legislature this session: dealing with the struggling mental health system. Reynolds admitted that with two mental health hospitals closing in Iowa, there are people left without nearby facilities and work still needs to be done. Reynolds did not say if a proposal or a bill was in the works this session to continue reforming the mental health system. (We Are Iowa)

Bipartisan mental health coalition hopes to tackle funding disparities
An informal group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers met at the Capitol Wednesday to begin seeking solutions for mental health funding inequities across the state. At the top of the group’s agenda is addressing disparities in the way counties use property taxes to support mental health services in their region. But lawmakers who attended Wednesday’s meeting said they hoped to discuss other mental health funding issues across the state, including a workforce shortage for mental health professionals and a shortage of beds at mental health facilities. (Des Moines Register)

‘Access center’ jail diversion campus takes shape
Officials are inching closer to developing a new center that would provide comprehensive assistance to people experiencing behavioral or substance-related health crises. Plans for what officials are calling an access center — which would be an all-in-one site that would include a sobering center, short-term mental health crisis observation beds and a year-round low-barrier homeless shelter — have been in the works for months as part of a push by local governments and nonprofits to change the way Johnson County approaches policing. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

DHS director: Iowa Medicaid insurers paid ‘fair’ and ‘appropriate’ rates
The state believes it’s paying the three private insurers now caring for its Medicaid population “fair,” “appropriate” and “actuarially sound” rates despite documents that show the managed care organizations (MCOs) describing the program as “drastically underfunded.” In early December, two of the tree MCOs reported hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. What’s more, correspondence between the MCO leaders and Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) officials reveal that the insurers have been lobbying for increased rates since the start of the transition. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Planned mental health hospital in Illinois ‘long overdue’
A new facility planned in New Lenox, Illinois could help provide mental health services to area residents, as well as help alleviate pressure on Will County programs dealing with mental health and drug addiction issues. Silver Cross Hospital plans to partner with a national firm to build a $22 million behavioral health hospital to help address the need for such services in Will County. “This is going to be a vast improvement for mental health services in Will County,” Silver Cross Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Pawlak said. (Chicago Tribune)

Repeal of health law will affect those treating mental illness in Ohio
More than 220,000 people in Ohio may be unable to afford care for mental illness or drug addiction if congressional Republicans scrap the 2010 health care law without passing a substitute measure, a new report says. Ohio Governor John Kasich expressed his concerns Wednesday about simply gutting the Medicaid expansion that he embraced and fought to institute in Ohio. “It’s really allowed people the ability to treat people who might not have been treated,” including the “destructive cycle” of mental illness and drug addiction, Kasich told hundreds of people at the Ohio Behavioral Health Conference at the Hyatt Regency Downtown. (Columbus Dispatch)

Rural hospitals brace for damage from health law repeal
The health care law expanded Medicaid to tens of thousands of previously uninsured patients, providing new revenue streams for rural hospitals, which often serve a poorer, sicker patient population. Rural hospitals have long operated on the edge. In the past six years, more than 70 such facilities have closed, citing financial duress. Almost 700 more have been deemed at risk of following the same path. “All these rural hospitals are operating on thin margins. The removal of any income source or coverage, or expansion of bad debt, is going to create significant financial hardship,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association. (Kaiser Health News)

Senate takes majors step toward repealing health care law
Senate Republicans took their first major step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, approving a budget blueprint that would allow them to gut the health care law without the threat of a Democratic filibuster. The vote was 51 to 48. During the roll call, Democrats staged a highly unusual protest on the Senate floor to express their dismay and anger at the prospect that millions of Americans could lose health insurance coverage. The approval of the budget blueprint, coming even before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated, shows the speed with which Republican leaders are moving to fulfill their promise to repeal the law. (New York Times)

Could changing the way doctors are paid help narrow health disparities?
A Harvard Medical School study suggests that changing the way doctors are paid could narrow some of the health disparities between poorer and wealthier patients. The study suggests that one solution may lie in the way health care providers are compensated by insurers and that the way payments are structured has the potential to improve the health of those who need care the most. That is a promising sign as other health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid continue to the move to accountable care models, which tie payments to budgets and quality scores. (Boston Globe)

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