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

Iowa News

Mercy doctor says state mental health system is ‘broken’
Dr. Alan Whitters is the Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. Dr. Whitters believes Iowa is in the midst of a mental health epidemic. One of the main issues is Iowa doesn’t have enough beds to treat the population. With few places to turn, those seeking treatment often end up in hospital emergency departments. The Treatment Advocacy Center says a minimum of 50 beds per 100,000 people is necessary to provide, “minimally adequate treatment for individuals with severe mental illness” but Iowa only had two beds per 100-thousand last year. (KCRG)

Profit-seeking Medicaid insurers vs. Iowans
Iowa has been victimized by Governor Terry Branstad’s Medicaid privatization for nearly a year. Handing over a $4 billion government health insurance program to profit-seeking companies did not make sense in theory, and in practice, it has been a nightmare for health providers and low-income Iowans. The private insurers are in the business of making as much money as possible. Iowans have suffered under the failed Medicaid experiment. Administration of the health insurance program for more than 500,000 Iowans should be returned to the state, which is not in the business of pleasing shareholders. (Des Moines Register)

Disabled Iowans say Medicaid firms are cutting in-home help
Nearly 7,400 Iowans with disabilities who use Medicaid’s Consumer Directed Attendant Care program (CDAC) which pays members of the community to provide everyday assistance that lets recipients continue living in their homes instead of nursing homes. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s Office recently reported that reduced hours in the CDAC program are one of the top complaints about managed care. Charles Palmer, director of the Department of Human Services, said he’s also aware of complaints that managed care companies have been limiting service hours for disabled Iowans. (Des Moines Register)

UnityPoint acquisition of CIH could come in late April
UnityPoint Health-Waterloo will become the owner of Central Iowa Healthcare (CIH) if Federal Bankruptcy Judge Anita Shodeen approves an asset purchase agreement between the two. Attorneys for CIH and UnityPoint Health said they can work out the details and submit the agreement to Shodeen for her review. If Shodeen’s decision is favorable, the closing could come as soon as the end of April. Those were key results which came out of a hearing Thursday afternoon in U.S Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Iowa in Des Moines. (Marshalltown Times-Republican)

National News

Kansas lawmakers working to reverse Medicaid cuts
Last summer, Governor Sam Brownback ordered more than $56 million in cuts to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. On Thursday, the Senate took a first step by passing a bill that would reverse a $47 million reduction in reimbursements paid to hospitals and others providing care to those enrolled in KanCare. The effort to reverse the cuts is more complicated in the House, where some members are backing a bill that in addition to raising the health management organization fee would increase a state assessment on hospitals known as the “provider tax.” The Kansas Hospital Association is strongly opposed to the House bill. (KCUR)

Washington State Hospital Association: AHCA is ill-considered
Washington hospitals have adjusted to the Affordable Care Act and are experiencing fewer visits to emergency rooms for non-emergency care and charity care has declined. Chris Bandoli, the Washington State Hospital Association’s (WSHA) senior vice president for government affairs, said, “You can’t just throw 750,000 Washingtonians off health care coverage and expect it to be OK.” WSHA came out against the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and reiterated that opposition after the Congressional Budget Office issued its analysis. (Spokane Spokesman-Review)

Connecticut health care industry blasts ‘Trumpcare’ plan
Area hospitals and health care organizations have given their opening reviews of the proposed American Health Care Act – and they aren’t good. Particularly troubling, health care providers said, are the changes in Medicaid.  “Medicaid expansion resulted in more than 200,000 Connecticut residents gaining coverage,” said Michele Sharp, spokesperson at the Connecticut Hospital Association. “But if funding is lost, there is an open question regarding how those people would receive coverage.” “We are also concerned for providers,” she said. (Westfair Communications)

Americans not sold on cost and coverage claims in GOP’s health bill
A majority of the public is skeptical the Republican health plan would be an improvement over the Affordable Care Act, with widespread concerns that insurance costs would increase while people lost coverage, according to a poll released Wednesday. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 48 percent of the public thought the GOP plan would decrease the number of people who have health insurance. Another 30 percent expected the insured rate would stay the same and 18 percent thought the number of covered people would increase.  (Kaiser Health News)

Republicans split, conservatives angry as health care overhaul inches ahead
Deeply divided Republicans squeezed their US health care overhaul through a key House panel on Thursday despite defections by three conservatives who consider it too similar to the Obamacare law it is intended to replace. Trump’s first major legislative initiative still faces an uphill battle in the full House and later the Senate despite ongoing efforts by the White House and Republican leaders to satisfy conservative opponents. The Budget Committee vote was 19 to 17. Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, could not afford to lose more than three from their ranks on the committee for it to pass. (Reuters)

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