Visit our website ⇒

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

Iowa News

EMS week honors lifesaving work of first responders
Bret Carlson’s interest in becoming a paramedic began when he saw the difference paramedics made in saving his father’s life after a heart attack. Carlson is now one of the 25 paramedics that serve the Ames area through Mary Greeley Medical Center’s Mobile Intensive Care Services. May 17 to 23 is National Emergency Medical Service Week, honoring the people who provide lifesaving medical care out in the field.Carlson was in seventh grade when he saw his father have a heart attack right in front of him. (Ames Tribune)

Anamosa hospital’s therapy facility nears completion
The new physical therapy and rehabilitation room at Jones Regional Medical Center are nearly complete, and they are expected to open for patient care at the beginning of June. Rehabilitation therapy director John Wager said the new facilities will include larger, more private patient rooms, more office space with windows, added bariatric beds for obese patients and a larger gym space for therapy. (Anamosa Journal-Eureka)

UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s appoints new CEO
Lynn Wold has been appointed president and CEO of UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s effective June 1. Wold replaces current president and CEO Peter Thoreen who has led St. Luke’s for the past 12 years and will be retiring at the end of 2015. “St. Luke’s Board is impressed with Lynn’s leadership abilities and his vision for St. Luke’s going forward,” said Skip Perley, chairman of the board of directors. (Sioux City Journal)

Finley to open walk-in clinic in Peosta; October opening possible
UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital will open a new walk-in clinic and pharmacy in Peosta. The 7,500-square-foot facility will employ seven to 10 people, including physicians. A groundbreaking ceremony for the $1.9 million clinic is set for June 2 and the facility could open in October. Finley CEO David Brandon said hospital officials began evaluating Dubuque County communities last summer. He said they hoped to identify populated areas that were medically underserved. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Petitioners object to MHI closures in Clarinda, Mt Pleasant
Opponents of Governor Branstad’s push to close the two state-run Mental Health Institutes in southern Iowa delivered 2500 petitions signatures to the governor’s office this morning. Matt Sinovic is executive director of Progress Iowa, the group that organized the online petition drive. “This happened over the last week or so, so it’s been a very quick turn-around for these signers and we expect more to sign,” Sinovic told reporters. (Radio Iowa)

Fireworks legislation moves forward to the Senate
A bill legalizing fireworks in the state of Iowa faces an uncertain future and an ambiguous deadline in the Senate. The Iowa House passed a bill Wednesday that would authorize the sale, purchase and use of bottle rockets, Roman Candles and other fireworks. It also would allow cities to pass local ordinances banning or restricting them. The Senate has passed similar legislation out of a committee, but it has not been brought up on the floor for a vote. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Experts mixed on impact of hospital mergers
Mergers or partnerships between large hospitals grew for the third consecutive year in 2014 as medical institutions seek various and creative ways to overcome tighter finances and changes in laws governing health care and reimbursement. There were 95 across the nation, a 44 percent increase compared to 2010, according to an analysis by Illinois-based Kaufman, Hall & Associates LLC. The accelerated consolidations are spurred by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as hospital officials look for ways to combat funding changes created by the legislation and cuts to the Medicare program. (Shreveport Times)

Survey finds 3 out of 4 satisfied with their Obamacare plans
The vast majority of people who bought health insurance through ObamaCare exchanges are satisfied with their plans, according to a new national survey. People overwhelmingly said they felt positively about their choices of doctors and hospitals and their copays for appointments and prescriptions, delivering good news for the Obama administration one year into the law’s rollout. More surprisingly, that satisfaction also extended to people’s monthly premiums and annual deductibles, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (The Hill)

Health insurers seek hefty rate boosts
Major insurers in some states are proposing hefty rate boosts for plans sold under the federal health law, setting the stage for an intense debate this summer over the law’s impact. In New Mexico, market leader Health Care Service Corp. is asking for an average jump of 51.6 percent in premiums for 2016. The biggest insurer in Tennessee, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has requested an average 36.3 percent increase. In Maryland, market leader CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield wants to raise rates 30.4 percent across its products. Moda Health, the largest insurer on the Oregon health exchange, seeks an average boost of around 25 percent. All of them cite high medical costs incurred by people newly enrolled under the Affordable Care Act. (Wall Street Journal)

House committee approves 21st Century Cures Act
A U.S. House of Representatives committee on Thursday unanimously approved a bill to speed new drugs to the market, overcoming last-minute wrangling over how to pay for the legislation. The bill, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, requires the Food and Drug Administration to incorporate patient experience into its decision-making, streamline its review of drugs for additional uses, and consider more flexible forms of clinical trials. (Reuters)

Many PA hospitals aren’t getting paid for care they provide, report finds
The federal Affordable Care Act enabled millions of previously uninsured Americans to get health coverage, but a new report says Pennsylvania hospitals still provide lots of care they aren’t getting paid for. In Western Pennsylvania, that means many hospitals are operating in the red. “The continued growth of uncompensated care remains a major concern for Pennsylvania hospitals,” said Joe Martin, executive director of the independent Pennsylvania Healthcare Cost Containment Council in today’s report release. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

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

Iowa News

Final piece of state budget ready for negotiations
But finishing that last legislative step will prove difficult, as state lawmakers do not yet agree on how much money is in the overall budget. After three hours of debate Wednesday night, the Iowa House approved a $3.4 billion standings appropriation bill, a combination of funding and policy items. It joins all other budget bills in a conference committee, where lawmakers from both parties will attempt to negotiate the differences between separate versions of each approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House. (Quad-City Times)

Three babies die in one week from apparent accidental suffocation
Police hope the death of three Des Moines babies in the last week from apparent accidental suffocation will be a wake-up call for parents. While co-sleeping is becoming a more common, Janna Day with Safe Kids Greater Des Moines warns against it. “What the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending is that the child actually sleeps in the room with the parent so they room-share, but not bed-share,” Day said. (KCCI)

Cedar Rapids schools, Mercy Medical Center launch online health record
Students attending any of the Cedar Rapids schools will be asked a few more questions when they visit one of three school-based health clinics because of one system that’ll hold all their health records in one place. This is the first week nurse practitioners at the school district’s health clinics will be using Mercy Medical Center’s electronic health record: an all online chart that’ll keep track of every visit and diagnosis for each student. (KGAN)

New mammography technology saves lives
Thanks to advances in mammogram technology, more lives are being saved, said Dr. Gary Swenson, director of breast imaging at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa. Swenson spoke during a Mother’s Day brunch at the Cedar River Complex on May 9, the kick-off to an 18-month campaign to raise funds for a 3D digital tomosynthesis (mammogram) machine for Mitchell County Regional Health Center. The event was sponsored by Mitchell County Memorial Foundation, which supports healthcare needs. (Mitchell County Press-News)

National News

Study: ‘Underinsured’ population has doubled to 31 million
One-quarter of people with healthcare coverage are paying so much for deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that they are considered underinsured, according to a new study. An estimated 31 million insured people are not adequately protected against high medical costs, a figure that has doubled since 2003, according to the 2014 national health insurance survey by the Commonwealth Fund. Rising deductibles — even under ObamaCare — are the biggest problem for most people who are considered underinsured, according to the 22-page report. (The Hill)

Limits urged on surgeries by low-volume providers
Leaders at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, and the University of Michigan Health System are urging other systems to join their combined 20 hospitals in the “Take the Volume Pledge” campaign to place limits on surgical procedures. The campaign aims to reduce complications linked to insufficient practice by setting minimum volume thresholds on 10 surgical procedures. The limits apply to hospitals and surgeons. (HealthLeaders Media)

Grassley to Justice Department: Crack down on Medicare Advantage overbilling
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to tighten scrutiny of Medicare Advantage health plans suspected of overcharging the government, saying billions of tax dollars are at risk as the popular senior care program grows. In May 19 letters to Lynch and Andrew M. Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Grassley wanted to know what both agencies have done, together and apart, to stamp out overcharges that have plagued the privately run insurance program for years. (National Public Radio)

Cyberattack affects 1.1 million CareFirst customers
A “sophisticated cyberattack” has compromised personal information of about 1.1 million customers of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the region’s largest health insurer, the company said Wednesday. Attackers gained access to names, birth dates, email addresses and insurance identification numbers, CareFirst officials said. The database did not include Social Security or credit card numbers, passwords or medical information. It is the third major cyberattack on a U.S. health insurer this year. (Baltimore Sun)

NH hospitals seeing fewer uninsured residents after Medicaid expansion
New Hampshire hospitals saw 22 percent fewer emergency visits, 27 percent fewer admissions and 15 percent fewer outpatient visits by uninsured patients in the first nine months of the state’s Medicaid expansion alternative, according to a report released by the New Hampshire Hospital Association. “This latest report continues to show that the New Hampshire Health Protection Plan is working by reducing the costs that businesses and those of us with insurance pay to care for those who have no insurance or way of paying for their care,” said NHHA President Steve Ahnen. (New Hampshire Hospital Association)

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

Iowa News

Seniors in Iowa healthy overall
Iowa’s seniors are fairly healthy, according to a report released Wednesday by the not-for-profit United Health Foundation, a division of parent insurance company UnitedHealth Group of Minneapolis, which ranked the state in the top third of the country. Iowa’s seniors have high rates of obesity and physical inactivity. But the state also has a low number of seniors living in poverty and high prescription drug coverage. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Woodbury County board approves changes in regional mental health agreement
Changes continue to be made in the first year that reconfigured agencies deliver mental health services in Northwest Iowa. Five months ago, Cherokee County dropped out of the Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services to join a different regional group. That leaves Woodbury, Plymouth and Sioux counties working together on a reorganized state mental health system for low-income residents. (Sioux City Journal)

Lawsuit: Fake cancer charities scam $187 million from donors
Money donors thought they were giving to four “sham” cancer charities were spent on cruises, concert tickets and dating site memberships, according to a federal lawsuit filed by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and law enforcement from all 50 states. A complaint, filed jointly with the Federal Trade Commission, alleged four “look-alike” charities portrayed themselves as legitimate, using paid fundraisers or telemarketers to tell donors their money would go toward pain medication, chemotherapy or hospice care for patients. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Is Medicaid the answer to crushing health care costs for inmates?
Jails and prisons across the country are aggressively enrolling inmates in government-funded Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care law, hopeful that their efforts will reduce the crippling costs for cities, states and counties responsible for inmate health care and that it will help prisoners gain better access to services upon their release. (U.S. News & World Report)

Florida hospitals say ‘no’ to profit sharing
With a looming $2 billion budget hole over health care money to be decided in a special session, the governor is pushing hospitals to crunch their numbers and re-evaluate spending. But hospitals are pushing back. Florida is set to lose out on a 2 billion dollar healthcare program that helps hospitals serving the poor. The expiring federal program threw the state’s budget into chaos. In response, the governor assembled a hospital funding commission and has thrown around the idea that hospitals can start profit sharing in order to cover costs. But the Florida Hospital Association isn’t on board. (WCTV)

Upstate NY doctor shortage has hospital ERs turning away patients, report says
Many Upstate New York hospitals are so short of doctors they are transferring patients from their emergency rooms to other hospitals, according to a report released today. The Healthcare Association of New York State said its annual survey of hospitals found the state needs an additional 942 doctors, 615 of them upstate. Primary care doctors, in particular, are in short supply, the report found. (Syracuse Post-Standard)

Underaged cigarette smoking rate drops sharply over decade
About 6 percent of adolescents smoked cigarettes in 2012-2013, down from nearly 13 percent in 2002-2003, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. State rates in 2012-2013 ranged from about 4 percent in California to 10 percent in Kentucky. However, increases in e-cigarette and hookah use are offsetting declines in use of more traditional products such as cigarettes, the report notes. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)


At Waverly Health Center, Braden Miller, 7, loves working with physical therapist Leah Thier and, more recently, Charm, the hospital’s therapy dog.

Dathan and Braden Miller of Waverly may be twins, but they are one-of-a-kind to Leah Thier, the boys’ physical therapist at Waverly Health Center. The seven-year-olds have cerebral palsy and have been working with Thier for the past five years to build their strength and coordination.

“We’ve been coming to see Leah for so long that it’s almost like she is a part of our family,” stated Tina Miller, Dathan and Braden’s mom. “Leah is very patient with our boys and she can redirect them when needed. She makes therapy fun.”

Tina continued, “Leah also gives me and my husband tips and ideas for what we can do at home to support their therapy. These strategies are very helpful and not something we would have been able to develop on our own.”

Braden and Dathan recently started working with Charm, the hospital’s service dog. “Working with Charm was a big milestone for the boys because they haven’t been around dogs and they were a little scared. Leah didn’t push them and waited until they were ready to begin working with Charm. The first time, a lot of the other therapists came to watch because they knew it was a big deal and they were excited for the boys,” Tina added.


Physical therapist Leah Thier uses video games with Dathan Miller.

When asked what they liked to do the most during therapy, both boys responded, “Play the Wii!”

“It’s very important to remember that a child’s job is to play,” stated Thier. “We make therapy play with a twist to help our young patients accomplish their goals. The more fun they have, the harder they work.”

Tina concluded, “It’s obvious the therapy team at Waverly Health Center really cares about their patients. Leah is very passionate about what she does and it shows in how she treats Braden and Dathan. We chose WHC because it was close to home, but we continue to go there because of the great care they give our family.”

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

Iowa News

Bringing health care to the heartland
Sometimes we forget what the “mobile” in mobile health really means. Take Montgomery County Memorial Hospital. The Red Oak, Iowa-based health system, which serves a wide swath of rural southwest Iowa, found that its hospital and clinics weren’t meeting the needs of residents of the many small towns. The elderly, the two-job working families in bedroom communities, the farmers and day laborers weren’t coming to them for the healthcare they needed. So hospital officials took the health care to them. (mHealth News)

Mercy – Des Moines to acquire Newton hospital
After several months of exhaustive review, leaders of Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines and Skiff Medical Center in Newton have reached an agreement for Mercy to acquire Skiff Medical Center. The Newton City Council on Monday evening approved an agreement for Skiff, which is owned by the city of Newton, to sell all of its land, buildings and assets to Mercy, effective by July 1. That final decision by the city came after receiving several required levels of approval from the mayor, the Mercy board of directors and the Skiff board of directors, Mercy officials said in a release. (Des Moines Business Record)

Iowa breast milk shortage: Donations needed
Iowa’s only breast milk bank is looking for more new mothers to donate breast milk. Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa, located in Coralville, says the demand for breast milk is going up. Director and co-founder Jean Drulis says 88 percent of the bank’s milk last year went to babies in the hospital, most of which were in the neonatal intensive care unit. Covenant Medical Center is one hospital that buys milk from Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa. Covenant Lactation Consultant Rhonda Thompson says the breast milk can be expensive, $16 for 3 ounces, but the benefits of breast milk are especially important for premature babies.

Iowa Department of Public Safety introduces Child Abduction Response Team
Iowa has a new action plan that law enforcement officials hope will provide more expedience and efficiency in responding to cases involving abducted children cases. The plan was designed with the 2012 abduction of two Evansdale children in mind, officials said. The new Child Abduction Response Team, which was developed with a $25,000 federal grant, includes a new mobile command center and training for local law enforcement officials across the state. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Skyrocketing Medicaid signups stir Obamacare fights
Supporters of Obamacare say the enrollment surge might lead to some budget bumps down the road, but that the historic decline in the uninsured is a major achievement. In addition, they say the expansion is providing significant health and economic benefits to states that more than offset costs. States — and hospitals and doctors — are getting billions of dollars from the federal government to cover low-income people, letting them save money on other programs that had been fully or partly funded through state dollars. (Politico)

Paramedics steer non-emergency patients away from ERs
Around the country, the role of paramedics is changing. In various states, they’re receiving extra training to provide more primary and preventive care and to take certain patients to urgent care or mental health clinics rather than more costly emergency rooms. Ramsdell and others in his program, for instance, spent 150 hours in the classroom and with clinicians learning how to provide ongoing care for patients. (Kaiser Health News)

Doctor group seeks to clear confusion in cancer screening
Screening for cancer has gotten more complicated in recent years with evolving guidelines that sometimes conflict. Now a doctors’ group aims to ease some confusion — and encourage more discussion of testing’s pros and cons — with what it calls advice on “high-value screening” for five types of tumors. Too often, even the doctors who order those tests aren’t sure of the latest recommendations, said Dr. Wayne J. Riley, president of the American College of Physicians, which published the advice Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. (Associated Press/Sioux City Journal)

500,000-plus people took more than $50,000 in drugs last year
The report found that 575,000 U.S. residents had medication costs of more than $50,000 last year, a 63 percent increase over 2013. Of those 575,000 patients, about 139,000 had medication costs totaling at least $100,000 in 2014, nearly three times more than in 2013. Overall, individuals in the top 5 percent of the spending groups accounted for 61 percent of the country’s total prescription drug costs last year. Meanwhile, the report found that the total cost to health plans for patients with medication costs of more than $50,000 last year was $52 billion. Insurers covered about 97.4 percent of those costs. (The Advisory Board)

What do engaged patients want to hear from health care providers?
The walls outside the meeting rooms at the Cleveland Convention Center during the Cleveland Clinic’s sixth annual Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Summit this week are lined with chalkboards that encourage attendees to tell others what they want to hear, speak and feel when they themselves are patients, as everyone is at some point. A very unscientific analysis of the responses after the first day reveals that patients want to be — gasp — treated like people. They want to be addressed by name. They want to be honest with their care team, and expect the same courtesy in return. (MedCity News)