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

Iowa News

Iowa’s rural hospitals bracing for effects of Obamacare repeal
Repealing Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), could have a big impact on thousands of Iowans insured through the program and hospitals that provide the care. And many small, rural hospitals in Iowa are watching the repeal and replace efforts with interest because those changes could carry a financial risk. Marengo Memorial in Iowa County is one of those hospitals watching the political activity in Washington very carefully. Matt Murphy, the hospital’s chief financial officer, says with the ACA insurance exchanges, mandates and subsidies have dropped the uninsured rate to about one to two percent of patients more recently. (KCRG)

Block grants on the way for Medicaid?
One thing is becoming clear about the GOP’s replacement of the Affordable Care Act — they will pursue a Medicaid block grant. The federal government now covers about 60 percent of Iowa’s Medicaid costs, while the state covers the remaining 40 percent. Under a block grant program, the federal government would set baseline financing, effectively locking in states wherever their Medicaid programs currently stand and then increase that funding at a specified fixed, annual rate. The Cedar Rapids Gazette highlights three key take-aways about Medicaid block grants and what they could mean for Iowa. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Spencer Hospital discusses rising drug prices
Rising drug costs have become a concern for both patients and providers in recent years. The Spencer Hospital Board took a closer look at the issue Thursday as the members examined the costs of certain medications and processes that could potentially counter the spike in drug costs. Spencer Hospital Pharmacy Director Derek Grimm was able to provide further insight and statistics on the subject. Grimm, armed with a 2016 report that was commissioned by the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals, explained that overall spending in hospitals has increased by more than a third in the last two years. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

Mercy Medical Center adds programs to prevent heart disease
Two recently added programs at Mercy Medical Center are helping patients prevent, and in some cases reverse, heart disease. Vice President of Patient Care Services Amy Berentes says that the hospital’s new HEART score program for people that come to the emergency room with chest pain is giving doctors more time to help patients with serious cardiovascular events. It also is helping patients who have less serious problems, but whose symptoms are similar to a heart attack, avoid time-consuming, expensive and unnecessary tests. (Clinton Herald)

Unemployment rate drops for third straight month
The state’s unemployment rate dropped in December, the third straight month the rate has declined. Iowa Workforce Development says the unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent in December from 3.8 percent in November. A report from Workforce Development says Iowa’s economy has grown at a slower rate than in the past — but growth in construction, finance and health care offset losses in other areas. The total number of working Iowans decreased to 1,650,800 in December. This figure was 4,000 lower than November and 4,800 higher than one year ago. (Radio Iowa)

National News

Governor Rick Scott wants to eliminate Florida CON laws
Florida Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday called for the elimination of the Certificate of Need (CON) process for building hospitals, nursing homes and hospice facilities. Under the CON process, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration reviews proposed health care projects and determines whether they will be granted approval to move forward. Many public and safety-net hospitals worry eliminating CON laws would create conditions in which new hospitals are built in affluent areas, while older safety-net facilities would be left to care for the majority of low-income and uninsured patients, according to the report. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Ohio hospitals concerned about Trump administration’s block grant plans
The Trump administration’s plans to change the way Medicaid is funded to a lump-sum or “block grant” payment could once again leave a lot of Ohioans uninsured and burden an already-strained safety net, according to local hospitals, health policy analysts and managed care providers. And local and state health advocates as well as area hospitals warn that the economic impacts of rolling back Medicaid expansion in Ohio would be dire. Last year, about $95.5 million in federal dollars came to the region each month due to Medicaid expansion. Its loss could have impacts on healthcare spending, employment and patient services. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Health care advocates in Maine want Medicaid expansion on ballot
Health care advocates in Maine say they have more than enough signatures to get a referendum to expand Medicaid coverage on the November ballot. Now it’s up to the Secretary of State’s office to verify the signatures. The Mainers for Health Care campaign said Wednesday the additional federal funding would cover tens of thousands of state residents who can’t afford health insurance but have been denied coverage through Medicaid. Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon said that an expansion to cover about 70,000 more Mainers would make more than $500 million in new federal funds available to reimburse health care in the state. (Oklahoman)

Hospitals worry repeal of Obamacare would jeopardize innovations in care
Much has been written about the 20 million people who gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and what could happen to these patients if the ACA is repealed without a replacement. But some people don’t realize that hospitals nationwide could take a big financial hit on several fronts, too. The American Hospital Association estimates that hospitals across the U.S. could lose more than $160 billion from the reduction in Medicaid revenue and the increase in unpaid medical bills. The ACA has also used financial incentives to encourage hospitals to experiment with ways to improve their care of patients, while reducing health care’s cost. (NPR)

At party retreat, GOP still searching for health law consensus
Republicans from the House, Senate and White House gathered in Philadelphia this week searching for some agreement on how exactly to “repeal and replace” the federal health law. By the end of the second day of the three-day retreat, however, it was clear they were not yet singing from the same hymnbook. House and Senate Republican leaders did seem to settle on a timing strategy for overhauling the Democrats’ health care law that could take them through the summer, even if they were light on specifics. “We don’t want to set arbitrary deadlines on things,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “We want to move quickly, but we want to get things right.” (Kaiser Health News)

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