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

Iowa News

Certificate of Need law should remain untouched
A significant reason for health care excellence in Iowa has been state oversight of institutional health care services through the Certificate of Need laws which were first enacted in 1977 for the express purpose of providing for economical development of health care services, thereby avoiding unnecessary duplication of services, controlling the growth of overall health care costs and ensuring the stability of community hospitals. These regulations have been re-examined multiple times and each time the same conclusion was reached: Iowa needs Certificate of Need. (Fort Madison Daily Democrat)

AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa cutting reimbursement rates to some Medicaid providers
In an attempt to “establish a more sustainable program,” one of the three private insurers managing the state’s nearly $5 billion Medicaid program is lowering reimbursement rates for in-home care providers, saying it no longer will reimburse them for services based on previously negotiated and contracted rates but instead will pay them the Medicaid rate floor — or the lowest acceptable payment set by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Senator Liz Mathis (D-Cedar Rapids) said the announcement is yet another example of a flawed plan. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

More than a shot in the dark
With colds and flu sweeping the nation during this season, sicknesses and diseases are not too far from most people’s minds. In the Iowa Legislature, however, these topics are beginning to be discussed in a different way: A bill is in the works that would allow parents to not vaccinate their children. Representative Vicki Lensing (D-Iowa City) said Iowa’s vaccination law allows children to be exempt for religious reasons, but the new proposal would allow exemptions for any parents’ personal convictions about vaccinations. She said the bill is currently in the Human Resources Committee and not scheduled for the floor just yet. (Daily Iowan)

National News

How health care and Medicaid fare in proposed Connecticut budget
About 9,500 parents would lose Medicaid, fewer seniors would receive home care, mental health and substance abuse treatment providers would receive millions of dollars less from the state and school-based health centers would see a 10 percent funding cut under the budget plan Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy proposed Wednesday. His proposal includes a $4.7 million annual cut to grants for mental health and substance abuse services. Mental health treatment providers have warned that cuts could lead to program closures or decisions to stop taking new clients.  (CT Mirror)

Company to aid TennCare’s aim to improve member communication in Tennessee
TennCare is enlisting Nashville’s health tech scene to find companies with technologies to improve communication with members. Health:Further, as part of the TennCare Innovation Program, will be using its in-house resources to find companies that can aid the managed care organizations that administer the state’s Medicaid program. The program is the first of its kind, said Marcus Whitney, CEO of Health:Further, a Nashville initiative that links startups, the established health care industry and policymakers to the disparate factors and sectors that impact health. (Tennessean)

House panel advances Medicaid reform bills
A House subcommittee on Tuesday advanced two bills that tweak the rules to limit who is eligible for Medicaid. Republicans say the bills will help prioritize beneficiaries who most need the federal health care program for the poor, but Democrats criticized the bills for being “trivial” in the scope of broader GOP plans to reform Medicaid and overhaul the Affordable Care Act. Both bills were approved by the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee along party line. (Morning Consult)

How Republicans might ‘repair’ Obamacare before repealing it
Ardent conservatives and their allies in the party leadership want to level the thing right away and build a new overpass immediately—or as quickly as legislatively possible in the slow-motion ways of Congress. However, Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is talking up a different approach. He wants first to repair the law—to prop it up for as long as two or three years—to protect Americans who currently rely on its provisions while lawmakers figure out how to replace it. He’s actually been advocating his go-slow approach on Obamacare since the first days after the election. (Atlantic)

Judge blocks Anthem-Cigna merger
A federal judge blocked the proposed $54 billion tie-up between national insurers Anthem and Cigna late Wednesday, saying the combination would harm competition in the national employer market. In a 12-page order, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the merger would eliminate the firms’ head-to-head competition for the administrative services business of large employers and result in higher prices and reduced innovation in the market. Further, she questioned the combined company’s ability to negotiate lower rates from health care providers. (Modern Healthcare)

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