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

Iowa News

UnityPoint Health teaching kitchen to feature Alemao’s cooking classes
Luann Alemao’s next cooking class Thursday will be in new digs. The food and nutrition educator and host of local cable TV’s “Get Fit” is taking her Blue Zones-inspired menus to the new teaching kitchen at UnityPoint Health-Prairie Parkway clinic in Cedar Falls. “Their mission here is to restore health, and it’s monumental that a health-care facility thinks eating right is important enough to a have a kitchen for this sort of program. That’s a huge statement in the scope of wellness, and a message that how and what people eat is a big component of their well-being,” said Alemao. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Flu has killed five Iowans so far this winter
Flu has claimed the lives of five Iowans so far this winter, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported Friday. All five people were older than 70, and most had other health problems, said Patricia Quinlisk, the department’s medical director. Several strains of the flu virus have been spreading throughout Iowa for weeks, and hospitals have been increasingly busy. “It looks like it’s just going up and it’s going up with all of our neighbors,” Quinlisk said. Quinlisk said this winter’s version of the flu shot should offer good protection against the strains of the virus that are circulating. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Insurers press case for fix to Massachusetts hospital cost variations
Massachusetts health insurers and employers say new regulations are needed to narrow the wide variation in prices charged by hospitals for the same services. In a new report, a consultant for the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans said market-based solutions haven’t been enough and that temporary regulatory fixes, including payment rate caps, could help. But the president of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, Lynn Nicholas, said the analysis was based on incomplete and misleading data. Among other problems, it compared Massachusetts to states with which it shares few characteristics, she said. (Boston Globe)

Bipartisan fear of Medicaid block grant threat to Virginia
Virginia administration officials and Republican budget leaders agreed Monday that the adoption of a block grant to replace the Medicaid program could put Virginia at a severe disadvantage in funding services ranging from children’s health to treatment of mental illness. Hospitals already have raised concerns about the potential for a block grant program. “Simply basing Medicaid funding amounts on historical precedent would not only disadvantage Virginia, but it would continue the trend of spending more funds on states with higher costs and poorer outcomes,” wrote Sean Connaughton, president and CEO of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Bill would let Indiana hospitals require flu vaccinations for clinical workers
A bill in the Indiana General Assembly would allow hospitals to require workers to get vaccinations for the flu and other contagious diseases, or else take a hike. It would authorize a hospital to impose as a condition of employment a requirement that a worker have an immunization. The hospital can terminate an employee if he or she doesn’t get an immunization, but does provide certain exceptions. The Indiana Hospital Association says it isn’t pushing for the bill. The association supports immunization for health care workers, but said the legislation is not the right away. (Indianapolis Business Journal)

Fear spurs support for health law as republicans work to repeal it
President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans appear to have accomplished a feat that President Obama, with all the power at his disposal, could not in the past seven years: They have galvanized outspoken support for the Affordable Care Act. People who benefit from the law are flooding Congress with testimonials. Angry consumers are confronting Republican lawmakers. And Democrats who saw the law as a political liability in recent elections have suddenly found their voice, proudly defending the law now that it is in trouble. (New York Times)

Trump, Price and Hill GOP at odds on Obamacare
Donald Trump and his pick to lead the Obamacare repeal effort, Representative Tom Price, share a vision that the current health care system needs to be completely uprooted. But the two men have articulated wildly divergent visions for what comes next — and that’s making it hard for Hill Republicans to figure out where to start on a coherent replacement plan once Obamacare is gone. Trump said he wants to substantially expand coverage once Price is confirmed as Health and Human Services secretary. But the Georgia Republican wrote one of the most conservative visions for health care, although his plan never included universal coverage as a stated goal. (Politico)

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