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

Iowa News

Medicaid management firm hopes for more money from Iowa under Gov. Reynolds
The national leader of a Medicaid managed-care company expressed optimism Wednesday that the firm will have more luck in negotiating millions of dollars in higher payments from Iowa once Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds takes the reins from Gov. Terry Branstad. The message to investors came from the parent company of Amerigroup, one of three health-insurance companies that have reported “catastrophic” losses of hundreds of millions of dollars since taking over management of Iowa’s giant Medicaid program last April. (Des Moines Register)

Hancock County Health System expands heart center
Hancock County Health System has opened a heart and vascular center as well as new services in order to help prevent heart disease. It is located on the first floor and will offer services such as cardiovascular testing, screenings and treatments. Amy Frohling, director of the center, says being able to provide care locally for the deadly disease will be great thing for the community. “Hancock County in our area does have a slightly higher rate of obesity as well as smoking, so there’s definitely some local risk factors that I’m hoping that we can address.” (KIMT)

Storm Lake hospital uses technology to bridge the language gap
The 12,000 residents in the northwest Iowa town of Storm Lake speak more than 25 languages and the community hospital is using advanced technology to communicate with its patients. Katie Schwint, spokeswoman for the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, says they’re among Iowa’s first hospitals to use a video remote interpretation service. The Wi-Fi tablet on a wheeled stand can be rolled right up to a patient, one button on the touch-screen is pressed to reveal the various language options, and after a selection is made, a medically-trained interpreter appears on-screen within 30 seconds. (Radio Iowa)

National News

Indiana, Pence’s home state, seeks federal OK to keep Medicaid expansion
As Congress weighs repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the home state of Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday sought to keep its conservative-style Medicaid expansion under the federal health law. Indiana applied to the Trump administration to extend a regulatory waiver and funding until Jan. 31, 2021, for its innovative package of incentives and penalties that are intended to encourage low-income Hoosiers on Medicaid to adopt healthy behaviors. Indiana’s effort to continue its Medicaid expansion demonstrates how states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA are counting on additional federal dollars to pay for those expansions. (Kaiser Health News)

GOP Medicaid plan could mean big trouble for states
When millions of Americans lost their jobs and their health insurance in the Great Recession, Medicaid opened its arms, adding 6.7 million members from December 2008 to December 2010. Medicaid’s open-ended federal funding helped pay for that 15 percent growth, ensuring coverage for all eligible applicants. But under proposals from congressional Republicans, Medicaid beneficiaries would no longer automatically get that federal funding when enrollment spikes. If approved by Congress, “block grants” would give states a fixed amount of federal dollars each year to run Medicaid, the state- and federally funded health plan for poor people and those with disabilities. (McClatchy DC)

Hospital fee (or is it a tax?) cruising through Georgia Senate
Georgia state senators on Monday twice voted overwhelmingly in favor of continuing to make hospitals pay toward a fund that helps to generate nearly $1 billion for health care in Georgia. The measure – dubbed the “bed tax” by opponents and a “provider fee” by supporters – is said to be Governor Nathan Deal’s top health care priority this legislative session. Monty Veazey, president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, said in a statement that “the provider fee has made a critical difference in (the hospitals’) ability to stay open.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Why some KC-area hospitals are still throwing their hat into ACA payment model
A Kansas City-area health network may benefit from its new designation through a pilot program created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — if it isn’t repealed. As an accountable care organization (ACO), physicians affiliated with the Prime Healthcare ACO in Kansas and Missouri could benefit from cost-sharing incentives for Medicare patients. Specifically, providers and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would split the savings from reducing costs for a patient through coordinated care. But if the ACA goes away, ACOs will, too. Whether or not the model would be included in replacement legislation is also unknown, given its mixed results. (Kansas City Business Journal)

Medicaid could struggle to cover breakthrough treatments under GOP’s plans
Under the GOP’s vision for overhauling Medicaid, the program could struggle to afford expensive breakthrough treatments, cutting off its recipients from the latest medical innovations, warn policy experts and patient advocates. The most recent versions of the GOP plan would institute a per-capita spending cap, meaning states would receive a set dollar amount for each person eligible for the program. But critics of GOP plans say a spending cap would hinder Medicaid’s ability to cover revolutionary new treatments in the future. (STAT)

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