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

Iowa News

Southwest Iowa mental health service lacks capacity for high-need patients
The abrupt closure of two of Iowa’s mental health institutes on July 1, 2016, along with limited community residential programs have left the state without the capacity to serve all of its high-need patients, local officials said last week. “I think we knew this was coming,” said Suzanne Watson, CEO of the region. As a result, patients are being held in hospitals and jails – some for months at a time – until beds become available at the state’s remaining facilities, Watson said. The situation is awkward for hospitals with psychiatric beds, said Denise McNitt, chief nurse executive at CHI Health Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs. (Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil)

Administration, medical, education experts talk about mental health
Cellphones and microphones were out during the Mental Health at Iowa State: A Conversation panel Monday night. More than 50 community members sat scattered around the Sun Room to open up conversation regarding mental health and the stigmas that surround it. Panelists included Mark Rowe-Barth, Student Wellness director; David Vogel, professor of psychology and Kristen Sievert, psychologist at Student Counseling Services. “We want to eliminate the disconnect between Iowa State and other students,” Pfister said. “We want to really bring the student community together to understand what’s actually happening and what can be approved upon.” (Iowa State Daily)

Obamacare enrollment dips amid uncertainty
The number of Iowans who signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace fell this year, according to federal figures. The decline comes amid confusion about the future of the law known as Obamacare and the transition to a new president who has vowed to repeal the law. A total of 51,573 Iowans signed up for health insurance between November 1 and January 31, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That’s down from 55,089 last year. The decline matches the drop nationwide from 9.6 million to 9.2 million. Those figures don’t include the states that run their own online marketplaces. (Quad-City Times)

National News

Tough budget situation makes new funding unlikely for Kansas mental health system
A key Kansas lawmaker says the state doesn’t have the money to fix problems in its mental health system, which a new report says are getting steadily worse. The report, the second from a task force created in 2015 to advise the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, says the system has continued to deteriorate. A lack of supervised living arrangements for people who are too ill to live on their own but who don’t need to be in a hospital is one of the most critical gaps in the system, said Amy Campbell, a task force member who lobbies on behalf of the Kansas Mental Health Coalition. (KCUR)

Ohio transition center could save lives
For years, Ohio has had a desperate shortage of psychiatric resources, leaving those with mental illness and behavioral issues waiting in line for help. Sometimes with tragic results, such as suicides and fatal drug overdoses. Not only do people wait in line to see doctors and counselors, there is a shortage of psychiatric beds for those needing in-patient care. This is why a facility such as the proposed Adam-Amanda Mental Health Rehabilitation Center in Athens is so welcome. It is designed to be a kind of psychiatric halfway house for those released from psychiatric hospitals, but not yet prepared to return to independent living. (Columbus Dispatch)

Plan to restore KanCare cuts comes with delay
Kansas legislators are weighing plans to restore cuts to Medicaid, but health care providers may not see the extra boost until 2018 or even 2019. The Senate’s budget committee heard testimony Monday on a bill which would increase a fee on health maintenance organization insurance plans to draw down federal funds and replace the cuts made to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Chad Austin, the Kansas Hospital Association’s vice president of government relations, said the bill would at least provide assurance that the cuts are temporary and maybe convince providers who are on the fence about staying in Medicaid to stick it out for another year. (KCUR)

In rural Minnesota, hospitals balk at tight networks
Rural hospitals are crying foul over health insurance rules that could steer local patients away from their medical centers and toward doctors and hospitals in faraway communities. The concerns are directed at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota in the state’s individual health insurance market, where people in health management organizations are pushed to get care from a subset of providers. As a result, some patients must pay much higher costs for “out-of-network” care from hometown doctors and hospitals, or drive dozens of miles for care from “in-network” providers. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Obamacare sign-ups declined for 2017 as Republicans eye repeal
Fewer people in the U.S. signed up for Obamacare coverage for this year, according to a preliminary report, as enrollments slowed after the Trump administration vowed it would do away with the health law. In the 39 states where Affordable Care Act sign-ups are done on the HealthCare.gov website, 9.2 million people enrolled in individual insurance plans – about 400,000 fewer than last year. States like New York and California that run their own sign-up systems are reporting their data separately. The deadline to enroll was January 31. Until Trump took over in January, sign-ups had been trending higher. (Bloomberg)

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