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

Iowa News

Hospitals doubt Branstad claim Medicaid privatization has cut hospitalizations 54 percent
Hospital leaders expressed bewilderment Wednesday at the governor’s claim that the number of Iowa Medicaid members being admitted to hospitals had dropped by more than half since managed care began. The governor’s office made the claim saying, “hospital admissions are down 54 percent overall.” That startled leaders of the Iowa Hospital Association, which has a federal contract to collect and publish extensive data on the use of Iowa hospitals. Their data show the number of Medicaid recipients being discharged from Iowa hospitals declined about four percent in the past year. (Des Moines Register)

Let counties spend more on mental health, advocates ask legislators
Advocates for improved mental health services pleaded with legislators Wednesday to let counties collect more property taxes to support the effort. Two bills, SSB 1187 and HSB 194, would let counties within a mental-health service region equalize their property tax levies, but wouldn’t let them raise much more in total than the $114 million they now collect. Lobbyist Susan Cameron, representing Iowa sheriffs and deputies, said her members are tired of seeing health care facilities close inpatient psychiatric units. (Des Moines Register)

Clinton County members gather to hear from local mental health experts
Mental health experts recently spoke to more than 90 people present at a Clinton Peace Soup supper. Becky Eskildsen, coordinator of Disability Services, Clinton County Mental Health Department, explained that mental health is not easily compartmentalized but instead spans other areas of public service. To effectively cover all mental health, several local experts covered a broad range of topics, such as mental health and incarceration and mental health and substance abuse. Eskildsen commented, “It was a powerful presentation and the panel provided a lot of information” (Clinton Herald)

UnityPoint Health-Waterloo and CIH finalize asset purchase agreement
UnityPoint Health (UPH)-Waterloo and Central Iowa Health (CIH) submitted an asset purchase agreement March 31 to finalize a plan to purchase substantially all CIH assets. A CIH-issued press release Monday said UPH-Waterloo and CIH remain committed to keeping health care local in Marshalltown and surrounding communities while working toward a target closing date of May 1. Ongoing work streams are in place for this transition and integration with CIH employees will begin this week. (Marshalltown Times-Republican)

National News

Connecticut hospitals rally to block tax hikes
Connecticut’s hospitals intensified their push Wednesday to block hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases recommended for their industry by Governor Dannel P. Malloy. Industry officials focused chiefly on two taxes on hospitals: an existing state levy and a proposed increase at the municipal level. And the Connecticut Hospital Association charged that Malloy’s new budget proposal for the next two fiscal years would increase the annual tax burden by just under $70 million — a claim the administration rejects. (CT Mirror)

Virginia Republicans reject Medicaid expansion
Republican lawmakers in Virginia rejected another bid to expand Medicaid, saying the cost of providing new health coverage to thousands of poor adults would cripple the state. The House voted against Medicaid expansion Wednesday as lawmakers reconvened for a one-day session to consider Governor Terry McAuliffe’s amendments and vetoes. McAuliffe renewed his longstanding push for Medicaid expansion and proposed a budget amendment that would give him the power to do so. But Virginia Republicans have held firm against expansion. (Associated Press/Washington Post)

States seek Medicaid dollars for addiction treatment beds
In the throes of an opioid epidemic, the nation’s supply of residential treatment slots falls far short of the number needed to serve everyone who walks in, gets dropped off by police, or is transferred from a hospital or crisis center. To boost the number of beds available for low-income residents, the federal government has granted California, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York a waiver of an obscure Medicaid rule that prohibits the use of federal dollars for addiction treatment provided in facilities with more than 16 beds. Seven other states are seeking similar permission. (Stateline)

At Trump’s request, House may tweak health care bill before recess
House Republican leaders are making last-minute plans to modify their stalled health care bill Thursday in response to pressure from the White House to show progress toward passing the bill before lawmakers leave for a two-week recess. Four people familiar with the plans, including a House member who has been involved in the health care discussions, said an amendment providing for “high-risk pools” — a mechanism to subsidize pricier insurance coverage for the seriously ill — will be added to the health care bill at a Rules Committee meeting Thursday. (Washington Post)

Ryan takes backseat to Pence in latest Obamacare effort
Two weeks ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan left it all on the field in trying to pass his Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill. Now, Ryan’s taking a more hands-off approach. Ryan has taken a backseat to Vice President Mike Pence when it comes to this week’s efforts to revive the American Health Care Act, which collapsed last month after Ryan and President Trump failed to cobble together the necessary votes to pass the bill out of the House. With talks between Pence and centrist and conservative wings of the GOP stalled once again, it is the vice president who is quickly becoming the face of the failed health care push. (The Hill)

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