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

Iowa News

Iowa legislators asked to look into Medicaid/Medicare proposed changes
President and CEO of St. Anthony Regional Hospital, Ed Smith, wanted some answers from state legislators about issues that have arisen with the management and payments for Medicare and Medicaid insurance. Governor Terry Branstad is proposing to make cuts to Medicaid providers that will also impact the federal match. Some patients have Medicare as their primary insurance, but Medicaid will pick up the deductibles and co-insurance portions. What Branstad is proposing is to do away with the Medicaid portion, which will likely become bad debt for the provider. (CBC Online)

Bondurant tragedy unites lawmakers in Iowa Senate speeches
Two Iowa lawmakers from opposite sides of the political aisle pleaded Monday for improvements in the state’s mental health system following the tragic deaths of three family members in Bondurant. Senator Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines) and Senator Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale) both gave speeches to appeal for mental health funding in the final days of the session. Bisignano pointed to the fact that Iowa ranks 50th nationally in state psychiatric beds, and no one can claim Iowa’s mental health system is better today than it was five years ago. (Des Moines Register)

Lawmakers take up mental health costs
Lawmakers began work last week on a proposal that could allow counties to collect more property taxes in fiscal 2018 for mental health services now being delivered on a regional basis. Proposed legislation would begin from the maximum property tax amount allowed to be levied across all counties of $114.6 million statewide. The House and Senate measures would equalize mental health funding on a regional basis instead of the current statewide basis and add a growth factor to each regional per capita amount while maintaining a $47.28 spending cap. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

In Iowa, cost of new family planning program could fall to state
Republican lawmakers said Monday they want the state to foot the bill for a new family planning program that excludes funding for Planned Parenthood, a move that would mean forgoing millions in federal Medicaid funding for the state. GOP lawmakers confirmed they plan to use state money to fund the estimated $3 million state-run program, which would allow Iowa to remove state funding for Planned Parenthood. The decision to replace the federal money with state funding follows a midyear budget shortfall of $117 million. (Associated Press/Omaha World-Herald)

Wellmark, Aetna exits call for public option
Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield announced last week it will quit selling individual health insurance in Iowa. People who purchased policies the last few years will also lose them. A few days later Aetna announced its withdrawal from the individual market here, too. The two companies offer plans in an exchange created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The solution is not the GOP “repeal and replace” plan that would leave millions more Americans uninsured. The solution is amending ACA to include a public option for health insurance. (Des Moines Register)

National News

New lottery machines could offer chance at funding for Kansas mental health facilities
Additional funding for some mental health facilities in Kansas may depend on the number of lottery tickets sold from new machines. The Kansas House and Senate have approved versions of a bill which would direct proceeds from newly legalized lottery ticket vending machines to crisis stabilization centers and mental health clubhouses. Community mental health centers had sought a bill that would have pulled more money from lottery proceeds and restored their funding to 2007 levels, but that plan failed to gain traction among legislators. (KCUR)

Cross-cultural study strengthens link between media violence and aggressive behavior
New research offers compelling evidence that media violence affects aggressive behavior. This first-of-its-kind study, led by Craig Anderson, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, confirms six decades of research showing the effect is the same, regardless of culture. Anderson and a team of researchers in seven different countries designed the study using the same methods and measures in order to determine if the results varied by culture or were equal. The effect of media violence was significant even after controlling for several risk factors. (Iowa State University)

How budget pressures are pushing states to privatize Medicaid
Knowing that budget cuts are likely, the pressure is on the states that are responsible for managing their Medicaid programs to find ways to lower their costs. One way to do that is by changing from a fee-for-service health care model to a managed care system. Today, 42 states have privately managed Medicaid. Alabama officials stumbled recently in their effort to join most other states in privatizing their Medicaid coverage for the poor and disabled. Modern Healthcare says Alabama’s start-up snafus come on the heels of widespread problems in Iowa’s Medicaid managed care program. (Fiscal Times)

Some Republicans now defending parts of Obamacare
The House’s debate over repealing Obamacare has had an unintended effect: Republicans are now defending key elements of President Obama’s health law, such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Some Republican lawmakers are also speaking out in favor of Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid and its mandates that insurance plans cover services such as mental health and prescription drugs. Conservative groups are frustrated to see Republicans offering the defense. They say these Republicans are going back on their word to repeal Obamacare. (The Hill)

Death by 1,000 cuts: How Republicans can still alter coverage
The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) worst enemies are now in charge of the vast range of health coverage it created.  Republicans failed last month in their first attempt to repeal and replace ACA. But President Donald Trump vows the effort will continue. Even if Congress does nothing, Trump has suggested he might sit by and “let Obamacare explode.” Health insurance for the 20 million who benefited from ACA’s expanded coverage is especially at risk. But they’re not the only ones potentially affected. (Kaiser Health News)

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