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

Iowa News

Privatized Medicaid is worst prank ever
Saturday was the first anniversary of Governor Terry Branstad’s Medicaid privatization experiment. On April 1, 2016, Iowa abandoned state management of the $4 billion health insurance program for more than 500,000 poor Iowans and hired three for-profit insurers to take over. One year later, the entire ordeal is like an April Fool’s joke with no end. The joke is on low-income Iowans who have lost access to health services. These include home-bound, disabled people who rely on daily visits from caregivers. The joke is on numerous health care providers underpaid or not paid by the managed care companies. (Des Moines Register)

Managed care year one: Iowa Medicaid sees successes and continued challenges
It’s been one year since the state handed over its Medicaid program with nearly 600,000 poor and disabled Iowans to three private insurance companies. Even before Medicaid managed care took effect, the state’s providers had serious concerns. They felt the timeline was too rushed, which forced many to sign contracts with insurers before they were able to hammer out the details. Then, starting as early as June, Medicaid providers started to experience billing issues, reporting late or inaccurate payments. But even today, 12 months into the program, providers report that they still run into reimbursement problems. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Branstad to visit Washington for talks on ambassadorship
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will travel to Washington, DC, this week for meetings related to his nomination as ambassador to China. Branstad’s weekly public schedule shows he’ll be in the nation’s capital for four days next week. An aide confirmed to the Des Moines Register the visit will include private meetings at the State Department and with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. President Donald Trump pegged the Republican governor as his ambassador to China even before he took office, and formally nominated him in January. Branstad faces confirmation by the US Senate, a process that is expected to go smoothly but hasn’t yet begun. (Des Moines Register)

National News

KanCare expansion supporters target key lawmakers in campaign to override vote
Supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility in Kansas are preparing to mount an intense lobbying campaign to get the votes they need to override Governor Sam Brownback’s veto of an expansion bill. The governor vetoed the bill on Thursday, citing concerns about the cost of expanding KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to cover an estimated 180,000 additional low-income Kansans. The Kansas Hospital Association estimates the state’s refusal to expand KanCare, which has cost providers nearly $1.8 billion in additional federal funding. (KCUR)

Hospitals’ bid for extra Medicaid payments ‘problematic’ in Virginia budget
A long-pending plan to bring more federal Medicaid dollars to more than two dozen private Virginia hospitals has run into opposition from Governor Terry McAuliffe and General Assembly budget leaders. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association said hospitals have no choice but to look for ways to make up for losses from uncompensated care and cuts in reimbursements. “Virginia hospitals have raised the alarm about continuing reimbursement cuts for health services provided to poor, elderly and disabled patients,” association spokesman Julian Walker said in a statement Friday. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Small Connecticut community hospitals struggle to avoid a downward spiral
A report from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission suggests community hospitals face something of a downward spiral: Patients are increasingly seeking routine care at large academic medical centers or teaching hospitals, drawn by perceptions of quality or referred by doctors who are now affiliated with the larger hospitals. With fewer patients, the community hospitals lose bargaining leverage with insurers when negotiating payment rates. And with fewer patients and lower payment rates, the hospitals struggle to invest in programs, staff, marketing or the infrastructure needed to adapt to the changing health care system. (CT Mirror)

Trump ready to ditch Republicans on health care reform
President Trump said if resistant Republicans don’t come around on repealing and replacing Obamacare, he’ll work with Democrats to get a deal and then “the Freedom Caucus loses so big.” “If we don’t get what we want, we will make a deal with the Democrats and we will have — in my opinion — not as good a form of health care, but we are going to have a very good form of health care and it will be a bipartisan form of health care,” Trump told the Financial Times in an interview published online Sunday. (Associated Press/New York Post)

Hospitals rush to get accelerated visas for foreign medical residents
For some of the 3,814 non-US citizens who graduated from foreign schools and who won coveted residencies in the United States, it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to start work on time in the summer. That’s because a program that allows employers to fast-track H-1B visa applications for their employees has been suspended as of Monday. US immigration officials announced the change just a month ago, leaving some hospitals rushing to figure out who needed this kind of visa and to apply before “premium processing” would no longer be an option. (STAT)

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