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

Iowa News

Republicans secretly fear health repeal
The Washington Post obtained a leaked audio recording of congressional Republicans at a closed-door retreat in late January. The topic of discussion: the GOP strategy to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The 93-minute peek behind the political curtain instills no confidence in a listener that lawmakers have any idea what to do next. Despite the public vows and votes some have made to do away with the law, it is dawning on them that following through brings numerous political and financial challenges. (Des Moines Register)

Flu has now killed 25 Iowans, up from 14 a week ago
The number of such deaths jumped from 14 reported a week ago. Most of this winter’s flu deaths have been among elderly people with other underlying health problems, the Iowa Department of Public Health said. By early February of last year, the department had been notified of just six flu deaths. However, the difference might be partly explained by more efficient methods of reporting such cases. (Des Moines Register)

Coalition urges Iowa Legislature to adopt ‘hands-free’ distracted driving law
Iowa lawmakers seemed generally favorable to a pitch to prohibit motorists from using hand-held communication devices, but didn’t agree on the best way to stop drivers from texting while driving. A coalition of law enforcement, insurance companies and wireless phone service providers on Thursday encouraged the House Transportation Committee to start by making texting while driving a primary offense. It’s now a secondary offense in Iowa, one of five states where drivers cannot be stopped for texting. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

ISU to take part in center of excellence focused on vector-borne diseases
Iowa State University will take part in a new consortium aimed at producing research and training programs related to vector-borne diseases such as those transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks. The Upper Midwestern Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases, funded by a $10 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will provide new opportunities for collaboration and boost surveillance and prevention efforts regarding vector-borne disease, or illnesses spread by the bite of infected insects. (Iowa State University)

National News

Repeal or repair? GOP tries to clarify message on Obamacare
Two top Republicans long expected to lead the Senate’s role in repealing the Affordable Care Act said publicly this week that they are open to repairing former president Barack Obama’s landmark health-care law ahead of a wholesale repeal, which has been a GOP target for eight years. Coming one week after a closed-door strategy session in which Republicans expressed frank concerns about the political ramifications of repealing the law and the practical difficulties of doing so, statements this week by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., brought into public view the political and policy challenges the GOP is facing. (Washington Post/Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Employers fret job-based coverage vulnerable to fallout from GOP health overhaul
Employer-sponsored medical plans still cover more Americans than any other type, typically with greater benefits and lower out-of-pocket expense. Recent cost increases for job-based coverage have been a tiny fraction of those for Obamacare plans for individuals. Now, as President Donald Trump promises a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that will provide “insurance for everybody,” employers worry Republican attempts to redo other parts of the insurance market could harm their much larger one. (Kaiser Health News)

CDC seeks controversial new quarantine powers to stop outbreaks
The new powers are outlined in a set of regulations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published late last month to update the agency’s quarantine authority for the first time since the 1940s. The outlined changes are being welcomed by many health lawyers, bioethicists and public health specialists as providing important tools for protecting the public. But the CDC’s increased authority is also raising fears that the rules could be misused in ways that violate civil liberties. The update was finalized at the end of the Obama administration and was scheduled to go into effect Feb. 21. (WBUR)

Hospitals turn to staff to ensure that facilities are designed for optimal operations
From bottlenecks in emergency departments to communication breakdowns between departments to lengthy walks down corridors, hospitals face daily inefficiencies that can affect patient care, staff performance and their own bottom lines. But many hospitals are headed down the right path as they work to streamline the processes that can make or break a facility, according to Health Facilities Management’s 2016 Hospital Construction Survey, conducted in cooperation with the American Society for Healthcare Engineering. (Health Facilities Management)

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