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

Iowa News

Ommen appointed Iowa Insurance Commissioner
Governor Terry Branstad on Monday tapped Doug Ommen to lead the Iowa Insurance Division. Ommen — who has served as the interim Insurance Commissioner — will replace Nick Gerhart, who stepped down at the end of 2016. Before serving as interim Insurance Commissioner, Ommen also had been Deputy Insurance Commissioner in Iowa since 2013. “I’ve spent my career in public service ensuring that consumers are protected and I’m very happy to continue that work for Iowans,” Ommen said in a statement. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Task force will review future of IPERS’ pensions
Commitments already made to state and local government workers will be honored, but a task force will be established to review possible long-term changes to Iowa public employees’ pension programs, Governor Terry Branstad confirmed Monday. Branstad said the review will include the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS), which has 350,000 members and $28 billion in assets. Branstad and Reynolds said Monday they plan to appoint a group of citizens to study the pension issues, but they do not expect the Iowa Legislature to act on bills to implement major changes in public employees’ pension plans this session. (Des Moines Register)

National News

A day in Kansas City’s new mental illness crisis center reveals a daunting road ahead
The new Kansas City Assessment and Triage Center is struggling to meet a pressing need: aiding people in severe mental distress whom police in the past too often delivered to the county jail or the nearest hospital emergency room — usually bad choices. The first two months of operation have brought 328 referrals including 245 unduplicated patients to the center, and it is preparing to serve more — an effort welcomed by the police who understand this work is hard. The biggest problem is figuring out what to do with their wards once they are stabilized. (Kansas City Star)

Political uncertainty adds to challenges of rural hospitals
With repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) looming, the health care world is buffeted by an unusual level of uncertainty. Georgia’s rural hospitals, already in precarious financial situations, are feeling the anxiety acutely. And lawmakers in the General Assembly are looking at different financial tools to ease this pressure on rural medical providers. Some of the rural hospitals that have hung on are in a daunting financial predicament. Georgia has the third-highest rate of uninsured people, who often cannot pay for the hospitals’ services. Many other patients have high deductibles and, after getting the hospital services, wind up as bad debt. (Georgia Health News)

Obamacare repeal uncertainties worry central Ohio hospitals
As President Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress work to dismantle and replace the Affordable Care Act, hospital officials nationwide are watching to see how that will affect their work to provide health care and what a replacement will mean to their bottom line. In Ohio, the state’s expansion of the Medicaid health-insurance program for low-income people provided coverage to 713,521 additional residents, and approximately 212,000 Ohioans obtained private insurance coverage through the marketplace program, said Ohio Hospital Association spokesman John Palmer. (Columbus Dispatch)

Hours after landing in U.S., Cleveland Clinic doctor forced to leave by Trump’s order
Hours after landing in New York on Saturday, a doctor at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic was forced to leave the country based on an executive order issued by President Donald Trump that bans visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days. Her flight to Saudi Arabia took off minutes before a federal judge in New York put a temporary stay on turning back people in such situations. Suha Abushamma, 26, is in the first year of an Internal Medicine residency program at the clinic and held an H-1B visa for workers in “specialty occupations.” (HealthLeaders Media)

Trump’s actions on Obamacare threaten to undermine insurance markets
The Trump administration’s decision to pull television ads urging Americans to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act is stoking fears that the White House is trying to sabotage the nation’s insurance markets in an effort to hobble the program, jeopardizing coverage for millions. The move follows Trump’s executive order last weekend in which he suggested his administration wouldn’t implement rules crucial to sustaining viable markets. Senior Republicans have been pressuring health insurers to publicly declare that Obamacare is failing, according to industry officials. (Los Angeles Times)

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