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

Iowa News

As state funding wanes, local stakeholders left to address mental health needs
As mental health and substance abuse funding shifts in Iowa, the problem is neither trivial nor is it going away. Spurred by the July 2015 closures of state-run mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda, communities across Iowa have been left to shoulder the brunt of services to the mentally ill, who often battle substance abuse addictions. Mount Pleasant’s institute was the only state-run facility in Iowa providing dual-diagnosis inpatient care to people battling addiction and mental illness. Now that the facility is closed, hospitals have been left scrambling to pick up the pieces. (Burlington Hawk Eye)

Iowa bill to keep volunteers secret faces criticism
Iowa would make the names of public volunteers confidential under a fast-moving bill that critics warn could protect criminals who are found working for government and public institutions. The bill applies to governments and public institutions, including publicly owned hospitals. It is a product of the lobbying efforts of the Iowa Hospital Association, which contends that public disclosure has a possible “chilling effect” on volunteer efforts. The move is in response to an Iowa Public Information Board ruling last year that forced Crawford County Memorial Hospital to release a list of its driver volunteers. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa facing more budget woes?
Governor Terry Branstad and legislative budget-makers may have to confront options this week for balancing the state’s fiscal 2017 ledger that could include dipping into reserves as a temporary stopgap if projected growth in tax collections is downgraded again. The state Revenue Estimating Conference — which already has lowered this fiscal year’s tax receipt estimates in October and again in December — is slated to convene Tuesday to decide whether its 4.7 percent growth projection for total net state tax receipts through June 30 is too optimistic. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Rural hospitals in Georgia struggling to survive
Last year, Irwin County Hospital in Georgia was about $2.5 million in the red, hospital officials said. Irwin County Hospital recently topped a state list of rural hospitals in need of financial help and is one of dozens in Georgia trying to stay afloat. According to the NC Rural Health Research Program, six rural hospitals in Georgia have closed since 2010. The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help by insuring more people, but Georgia and 18 other states did not expand Medicaid, which would have covered more low-income residents. Nationwide, 80 hospitals have closed and almost half of all rural hospitals are currently losing money. (WABE)

Rural Oregon doctors, hospitals fear Republican plan
Some pushback on the Republican health care plan is coming from rural Oregon, which could be hit hard by the plan. The massive expansion of the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gave rural hospitals a badly needed infusion of new paying customers. The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems said “rural hospitals’ financial picture has improved since the full implementation of the ACA, but their situation still remains largely precarious.” Fourteen Oregon hospitals posted negative operating margins in 2015, compared with 23 in 2013. (The Oregonian)

Texas rural health care faces funding crisis
A new report warns that rural hospitals in Texas could be hit hardest under a Congressional plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It found that proposed funding cuts to the Medicaid program, which already is operating at a minimal level in Texas, could force many rural hospitals to close, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without reasonable access to health care. David Pearson, director of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals, which produced the study, said a new round of funding cuts could devastate the state’s already challenged rural health care system. (Public News Service)

New plan could cost 230,000 in Tennessee their insurance
Tennessee hospitals are warning that the Republican health care reform plan adopted by a pair of key House committees could jeopardize health care benefits for 230,000 Tennesseans enrolled under Obamacare health exchange plans. Tennessee Hospital Association President Greg Becker said the current GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act “jeopardizes the continuation of access insurance for many Tennesseans, which could further drive up the costs of uncompensated care.” Becker said Tennessee hospitals already provide nearly $2 billion in uncompensated services to uninsured persons every year. (Columbia Daily Herald)

By law, hospitals now must tell Medicare patients when care is ‘observation’ only
Under a new federal law, hospitals across the country must now alert Medicare patients when they are getting observation care and why they were not admitted — even if they stay in the hospital a few nights. The notice is — as of last Wednesday — one of the conditions hospitals must meet in order to get paid for treating Medicare beneficiaries, who typically account for about 42 percent of hospital patients. Doctors and hospital representatives still have questions about how to fill out the new observation care form, including why the patient has not been admitted. (Kaiser Health News)

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