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

Iowa News

Ruling overturns state law mandating pharmacy benefits manager pricing oversight
An Iowa law that required pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) companies to provide pricing transparency to their network pharmacies and to disclose their pricing methodology to the Iowa Insurance Division was overturned Wednesday by a federal appeals court. The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association filed suit against the state, seeking a declaration that the statute places restrictions and requirements on PBMs that impermissibly refer to or are connected with the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 plans. (Des Moines Business Record)

VBCH expands services with UI Health Care Virtual Hospitalist Service
Van Buren County Hospital (VBCH) has partnered with University of Iowa (UI) Health Care to launch the Virtual Hospitalist Service. The service provides access to hospitalists at UI Hospitals and Clinics via a secure telemedicine connection between both hospitals. The program aims to support local providers, enhance inpatient care and keep patients in their local hospital. VBCH providers and nurses collaborate with a UI hospitalist—a physician focused on inpatient care—in Iowa City through secure video conferencing and a shared electronic health record. (The Loop)

HCHS installs sound masking system, promotes healing, enhances satisfaction
In an effort to promote faster healing, enhance patient satisfaction and continued patient privacy, Hancock County Health System (HCHS) has installed a sound masking system in its medical-surgical inpatient unit. The sound masking system introduces a spectrum of noise which gently raises the ambient background sound in order to cover speech and other noises. Comfort is achieved through the quality and range of the sound produced. Installing the sound masking system is just one of many programs HCHS has implemented to increase privacy and enhance patient satisfaction. (Britt News Tribune)

Buena Vista Regional Medical Center ambulances receive grant money
Four Buena Vista Regional Medical Center ambulances have been rewarded with $25,000 grants from the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline, a community-based initiative aimed at improving the system of care for heart attack patients throughout rural Iowa. Ambulances in Albert City, Sioux Rapids and Storm Lake received the funding from the program, which is financed nationally with $6.1 million in funding, including a $4.6 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. (Sioux City Journal)

Doane’s 50 years in health care, a testament to an ever-changing world
Carol Doane has seen a myriad of changes in health care over the 50 years she’s lived and worked in Mitchell County as a health care professional. Doane grew up in the Cresco and Decorah area and has worked at several hospitals, but most recently Mitchell County Regional Health Center (MCRHC) upon her return from their honeymoon. Doane retired the first time in 2005; however, returned to MCRHC after a short break and continues to work as a licensed practical nurse and activity coordinator for the in-patient unit. Doane said the biggest change over all her 50 years has been the ever-changing technology. (Mitchell County Press News)

National News

Kansas lawmakers racing clock to expand Medicaid
It very well might be too late, but some Kansas lawmakers are moving ahead on a plan to expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. The House Health and Human Services Committee voted Thursday to introduce an expansion bill at the request of Representative Susan Concannon. The bill, largely crafted by the Kansas Hospital Association (KHA), would expand KanCare coverage to between 100,000 and 150,000 low-income Kansans. “KHA’s website has a running calculation of the federal dollars that we’ve missed by not expanding,” she said. “It’s at $1.6 billion and adding up as we speak.” (KCUR)

Alabama seeks federal OK to delay switch to managed care
Alabama wants to delay plans to move its Medicaid program to a managed care model with regional care organizations (RCOs) due to financial issues. Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved an 1115 waiver that provided up to $748 million over five years to move Alabama away from traditional fee-for-service health care delivery. Even with the federal dollars, the state told the CMS it does not have money to help providers switch to RCOs in a notice posted by the agency Monday. (Modern Healthcare)

Pennsylvania to test fixed-rate funding model for rural hospitals
Pennsylvania will be testing a new payment model for rural hospitals designed to improve the health of residents and help the hospitals they depend on stay financially solvent. With $25 million funding from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model will try an innovative payment structure in which hospitals will be paid a fixed amount each month, instead of being reimbursed for services provided. Six Pennsylvania hospitals will be selected in the spring to participate in a pilot project to launch in 2018. Then 24 hospitals will be added in the next three years. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Sponsor of Georgia’s rural hospital donor law seeks to expand tax credit
The lawmaker who created Georgia’s new tax credit program for rural hospitals wants to boost the incentives for donors. State Representative Geoff Duncan has introduced a House bill that would raise the tax credit from 70 percent to 90 percent for individuals and corporations who donate money to rural hospitals. Five rural hospitals have closed in Georgia since the beginning of 2013, and many more are in financial trouble. Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in the state, said that under the current tax credit rate, the donations have not come in as hoped. (Georgia Health News)

House expected to follow Senate’s lead on rush to repeal health law
The House is expected to give final approval on Friday to a measure that would allow Republicans to speedily gut the Affordable Care Act with no threat of a Senate filibuster, a move that would thrust the question of what health law would come next front and center even before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. The House vote would come after the Senate narrowly approved the same measure, a budget blueprint, early Thursday morning. Democrats said the rush to repeal was the height of legislative irresponsibility and would endanger the health of millions. (New York Times)

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