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

Iowa News

Mental health care in crisis
Iowa still has work to do when it comes to caring for individuals with mental conditions, especially during times of crisis. Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry contends that the current state of mental health care needs reform. “Mental health is a mess in Iowa and needs to be prioritized,” he said. A lack of beds in hospitals, he said, contributes to people with mental health conditions winding up in jail or the emergency room when in need of care. The Crisis Intervention Training program for law-enforcement officers is a great move in improving care but a place to take patients is a severe need. (Daily Iowan)

Giving a voice to patients who cannot speak
At any given time, 33 percent of patients in hospital intensive care units and nine percent of all others are physically unable to use a standard nurse call button. In addition, many cannot speak because of a breathing tube and/or paralysis. This lack of communication can lead to costly common medical complications. A Coralville company, Voxello, has developed the “noddle,” a device that enables patients, doctors, nurses and other caregivers to communicate using sensors, a tablet-size computer screen and text-to-speech software. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mercy Comfort Health Center for Women opens for business
Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines announced Monday the opening of Mercy Comfort Health Center for Women, a new facility offering a multidisciplinary, comprehensive approach to women’s health care that combines traditional medical services with holistic, complementary treatments. “The center is designed to address a variety of women’s health issues, including breast care, pelvic health, menopause symptom management and mental health,” said Valerie Stratton, a physician at the center. (Des Moines Business Record)

National News

Crushed by defeat, patients and providers vow to fight on to expand Medicaid in Kansas
Kansas came close this week to expanding Medicaid to extend health insurance to low-income adults. The Republican-dominated Legislature had passed the bill and supporters vowed to override the governor’s veto. But on Monday, the House fell three votes short. The failed veto override also crushed hospital executives who had hoped against hope for a Medicaid expansion, which would have brought in a flood of federal dollars to help pay for the care they now often deliver for free. The expansion would have covered an estimated 150,000 Kansans. Activists, including the Kansas Hospital Association, promised to keep fighting. (STAT)

Texas House approves bill focused on mental health insurance benefits
Texas House members endorsed a bill Tuesday that would prevent health insurance companies from offering mental health benefits differently from medical benefits and offer more help for consumers who believe their insurance is wrongly denying them coverage. The bill comes as both chambers aim to overhaul how Texas gives access to services and cares for mental health patients. In January, Select Committee on Mental Health released its findings from eight hearings in a report saying that if Texas lawmakers didn’t take bolder steps to fix the state’s mental health system, they do so “at our own peril.” (Texas Tribune)

Shrinking psychiatrist pool means waits for those in need
Roughly half the country has been identified as mental health professional shortage areas by the US Health Resources and Services Administration, meaning they have only one psychiatrist for every 30,000 or more people. The problem is projected to only get worse in part because mental health disorders appear to be becoming more common or at least more recognized, and because a disproportionate number of psychiatrists are older and approaching retirement. (Associated Press/San Francisco Gate)

Affordable Care Act gains majority approval for first time
Fifty-five percent of Americans now support the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a major turnaround from five months ago when 42 percent approved and 53 percent disapproved. This is the first time a majority of Americans have approved of the health care law, also known as Obamacare, since Gallup first asked about it in this format in November 2012. Republicans, Democrats and independents are all more likely to approve of ACA now than in November, a few days after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election left Republicans in control of the legislative and executive branches. (Gallup)

White House effort to revive health bill gets mixed reaction
A White House offensive to resurrect the moribund House Republican health care bill got an uneven reception Tuesday from GOP moderates and conservatives, leaving prospects shaky for the party to salvage one of its leading priorities. Vice President Mike Pence and other top administration officials were offering to let states request federal exemptions from insurance coverage requirements imposed by President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Pence said he and President Donald Trump “remain confident that working with the Congress we will repeal and replace Obamacare (Associated Press)

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