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

Iowa News

Obamacare repeal must not turn Iowa’s hospitals, citizens into victims
Congress should work to reverse hospital payment cuts that were reduced as part of the Affordable Care Act. The initial Obamacare cuts to hospital payments came through Medicare and Medicaid. That’s why millions who live in rural Iowa are relying on Congress to restore the hospital payment cuts that were made to help fund the passage of Obamacare. Without restoring these cuts, many local hospitals will be starved of hundreds of billions of dollars and will have no choice but to shut down critical services, putting the health of untold numbers of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens at risk. (Newton Daily News)

County urges Medicaid management company AmeriHealth Caritas not to drop contract
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors is urging one of the three insurance companies that manage Iowa’s Medicaid program not to drop its contract with the county. The board is sending a letter to the company AmeriHealth Caritas in response to news last week that AmeriHealth would be changing its case management model, which could end contracts with current agencies — like Johnson County Case Management — and transition clients to in-house case managers. The move could impact the jobs of Johnson County’s 23 case management employees and more than 500 clients in the area who rely on those case managers for help accessing Medicaid services. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Like an angel coming to help: Osage family grateful for hospice services
Bob Frein’s eyes moisten when he speaks of the deep gratitude he has for the comfort hospice brought to him, his wife, Marlene, and their family more than a decade ago. Marlene was diagnosed with lung cancer and had grown worse, so the Freins contacted Hospice of North Iowa, who sent a representative to talk with the family. “The representative was like an angel coming to help us,” said Frein. “I was going downhill and the kids saw I was going downhill and so the hospice nurse, who came to our home went and talked with Marlene,” Frein said. Marlene knew it was time to go into the Mitchell County Regional Hospital’s hospice room. (Mitchell County Press News)

Hancock County Health System: Influenza widespread in Iowa
Influenza activity in Iowa is widespread, and, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health continues to increase. “Influenza activity has been identified in all six regions of the state,” said Denise Hiscocks, director of Hancock County Health System Community Health. “Just this week alone, the State Hygienic Lab confirmed more than 80 cases of influenza. The most common strain now is influenza A(H3).” (Britt News Tribune)

National News

Connecticut hospitals launch TV ad to protest new tax proposal
Connecticut’s hospital industry launched a new television ad Thursday to protest Governor Dannel Malloy’s proposal to end nonprofit hospitals’ exemption from local property taxation. The commercial, developed by the Connecticut Hospital Association, opens by listing a variety of occupations and one common thread among the people in all of them: they all pay a price when taxes rise on Connecticut hospitals. “The proposed budget, with a scheme to let municipalities tax hospitals, has once again put hospitals and their services at risk,” said Jennifer Jackson, CEO of the hospital association. (CT Mirror)

House committee OKs involuntary hold plan for Kansans in mental health crisis
A bill that would allow treatment centers to detain Kansans in mental health crisis for up to three days moved forward Thursday after months of work to develop a compromise. A committee of law enforcement officers, treatment providers, mental health advocates and others met six times between legislative sessions to come up with a compromise bill that still fulfilled the original goal of providing short-term mental health care. Allowing crisis centers to hold patients for 72 hours will help reduce demand for beds at the state psychiatric hospitals. (KCUR)

Rural health providers head to DC to flex newfound political clout
In the past six years, dozens of rural hospitals around the US have discharged their final patients and turned out the lights, including three in North Carolina. And research shows there’s a persistent gap in life expectancy between rural and urban communities, with data showing that rural areas experience poorer health on almost every measure and have less health care infrastructure to support residents. More than 500 rural health care providers gathered last week in Washington, DC for the annual Rural Health Policy Institute, held by the National Rural Health Association. (North Carolina Health News)

GOP leaders provide new details about Obamcare repeal
House Republican leaders on Thursday presented to their members the most detailed look yet at their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, though some key elements remain to be worked out. A packet distributed to lawmakers at the meeting and obtained by The Hill says the GOP bill will include tax credits, an expansion of health savings accounts, money for high risk pools to care for the sick and a major restructuring of Medicaid to cap federal payments. No dollar figures for any of the Republican proposals have been presented yet. Lawmakers said that is because the Congressional Budget Office is still analyzing the plan. (The Hill)

Trump administration is moving to reshape health insurance on its own
With congressional Republicans struggling to develop an Obamacare alternative, the Trump administration is taking steps on its own to loosen government regulation of the nation’s health insurance markets, a longtime conservative goal. Administration officials said the moves — which were detailed in proposed regulations released Wednesday — are necessary to stabilize Obamacare marketplaces that have been shaken over the last year by rising premiums and insurer exits. But the Trump administration’s moves to relax rules on insurers appear likely to shift additional medical costs onto patients by promoting higher-deductible health plans. (Los Angeles Times)

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