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

Iowa News

State details plan to use private firms to manage Medicaid
Turning Iowa’s Medicaid program over to private operators will save money and improve service, a top state official said Wednesday, but lawmakers questioned how it would impact people enrolled in the program. Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer told the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee that the state is moving forward with a plan to shift the Medicaid program to two or more managed care organizations, to which Iowa will pay fixed amount per enrollee to provide health coverage. (Associated Press/ Newton Daily News)

Closing Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute has local law enforcement worried
Funding for two mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda, Iowa is set to run out by the end of June. That has local law enforcement worried about an influx of inmates who really don’t belong in jail, but have mental illnesses and need treatment. Currently, there are four mental health institutes in Iowa. (KWQC)

Dubuque health insurance marketplace users frustrated with coverage situation
One of only two providers on Iowa’s health insurance exchange will be liquidated Saturday. The move is the last in a series of steps that have come since Iowa’s insurance commissioner took over CoOportunity Health Insurance amid financial troubles late last year. About 24,000 people still have plans through CoOportunity. That includes 5,500 patients who bought coverage on Iowa’s marketplace, which is part of the federal Affordable Care Act. (KCRG)

Coaches help patients manage health care
Health coaches have worked with diabetes patients for the last couple of years at Mercy Medical Center, but now their numbers are growing and they’re helping patients with a variety of conditions take charge of their own health. Mercy-affiliated clinics and rural critical access hospitals scattered throughout Siouxland employ nine health coaches. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

Supreme Court insurance subsidies decision could trigger price spikes
If the Supreme Court strikes down the insurance subsidies of millions of Americans who rely on the federal insurance marketplace, it could leave many worse off than they were before the law took effect, say experts. “The doomsday scenario could materialize and it does impact everyone” — those getting subsidies, as well as those paying the full cost of their plans on the individual market in states using the federal exchange, said Christopher Condeluci, an attorney who worked for Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley on the Senate Finance Committee staff during the drafting of the law. (Kaiser Health News)

Georgia abandons its rural hospitals
How do you rescue Georgia’s rural hospitals — often the heart and soul of the communities that they serve — from the financial challenges that are forcing them to close their doors forever? Apparently, you don’t. If you’re the state of Georgia, you express insincere concern for their health, slap a Band-Aid on their gaping wounds and push them out the door to face the ugly future that awaits them. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Veterans propose major changes in VA health care
A national veterans’ task force is advocating radical changes in the medical system for America’s former military personnel, including a choice to receive subsidized private care and conversion of the Veterans Health Administration into a non-profit corporation rather than a government agency. The reform measures, if enacted into law, would affect America’s roughly 22 million veterans dramatically, especially the 8.5 million enrolled for care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. (USA Today)

Infections with dangerous gut microbe still on the rise
A potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal infection is more common than previously estimated, federal health officials reported Wednesday. The infection, caused by a bacterium known as Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, causes nearly 500,000 illnesses in the United States each year and kills about 29,000, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (National Public Radio)

Indiana may allow ‘baby boxes’ for surrendering newborns
On the outside, the metal box looks like an oversized bread container. But what’s inside could save an abandoned newborn’s life. The box is actually a newborn incubator, or baby box, and it could be showing up soon at Indiana hospitals, fire stations, churches and selected nonprofits under legislation that would give mothers in crisis a way to surrender their children safely and anonymously. (KWWL)

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

Iowa News

Lawmakers concerned over fast-tracking Medicaid modernization
The Iowa Department of Human Services is seeking bids to outsource parts of the more than $4 billion Medicaid program. Some lawmakers question the quality of care and cost savings the move will provide. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says there are opportunities to improve health care and many states have had mixed results implementing similar plans. (Iowa Public Radio)

ISU professor chairing VA review
One Iowa State University professor is taking a closer look at Veterans Affairs mental health services through her position as chair of an Institute of Medicine committee tasked with conducting an independent evaluation. Alicia Carriquiry, a Distinguished Professor of statistics at ISU, has been a member of the institute’s panels in the past, and she said it was her objective approach that ultimately led her to being appointed as chair of the review. (Ames Tribune)

Ban on conversion therapy advances in Iowa
A bill that would ban Iowa mental health professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation of gay patients under age 18 was approved by the Iowa Senate Human Resources Committee Wednesday on a straight party line vote. Senate File 31 was sent to the Iowa Senate floor with the committee’s eight Democrats in favor and four Republicans against. While the measure could be approved this session by the Democrat-led Senate, it appears unlikely the GOP-controlled House will consider the bill. (Des Moines Register)

National News

More than half of Obamacare signups were new customers
More than half of the nearly 9 million people who enrolled in ObamaCare coverage through the federal website were new customers, the administration said Wednesday, touting the number to show the vibrancy of the law. Fifty-three percent of the 8.84 million people who signed up through Healthcare.gov were new to ObamaCare this year. The administration had previously praised the better-than-expected total number of enrollments, but it was unclear how many already had health insurance. (HealthLeaders Media)

New online tool gives patients insight into the cost of medical care
Buying health care in America is like shopping blindfolded at Macy’s and getting the bill months after you leave the store, economist Uwe Reinhardt likes to say. A tool that went online Wednesday is supposed to give patients a small peek at the products and prices before they open their wallets. Got a sore knee? Having a baby? Need a primary-care doctor? Shopping for an MRI scan? Guroo.com shows the average local cost for 70 common diagnoses and medical tests in most states. (Kaiser Health News)

Minnesota struggles to reduce medical errors
Even the best protocols can’t guarantee that a mistake won’t be made because health care workers are human and over time they naturally become less vigilant, said Kathleen Harder, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Design in Health. “It’s not conscious; it’s just something that occurs as people are doing the same sort of activity over and over,” she said. “Again, they aren’t aware that various elements aren’t perhaps executed as well as they were in the beginning.” (Minnesota Public Radio)

CMS: First end-to-end testing of ICD-10 successful overall
The health care community will be ready for ICD-10 on Oct. 1, according to recent results from end-to-end testing, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced in a blog post Wednesday. About 660 health care providers and billing companies submitted nearly 15,000 test claims. “Overall, participants in the Jan. 26 to Feb. 3 testing were able to successfully submit ICD-10 claims and have them processed through our billing systems,” the agency said. (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)

Wyoming House committee cuts uncompensated care bill again
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would provide funds to cover a portion of hospitals’ uncompensated care. But Senate File 145 only passed after committee members voted to further cut the amount of money the bill would provide from $5 million to $3.9 million. Committee chairman Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, supported the amendment, suggested by Rep. Mike Greear, R-Worland, as a way to keep the state’s budget balanced. (Casper Star-Tribune)

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

Iowa News

Iowa opens Medicaid program to managed-care bidding
Two health insurers already operating in Iowa have indicated they will bid on Iowa’s new proposal to outsource its $4.2 billion Medicaid program to managed-care companies. It’s the latest state move to privatize the health insurance program for low-income Americans. The Iowa Department of Human Services recently released a request for proposals, saying it will contract with two to four insurers to manage benefits and care for the state’s Medicaid population. The contract also will cover residents with coverage through the state Children’s Health Insurance Program and people who qualify for substance-abuse services. (Modern Healthcare)

Buena Vista University students selected for 2015 URMED internship program
The URMED internship is awarded to select BVU pre-med students who have an interest in practicing rural medicine. During their internship, the students are introduced to a variety of clinical and healthcare practices at BVRMC and other area rural hospitals. The URMED scholar recipients are also each given a $3,000 stipend provided by BVU and the participating hospitals to help them cover the costs of applying to medical school. (Storm Lake Pilot)

Poll: Iowans favor legalizing fireworks
Sixty percent or more of men, Iowans under 35, parents, and Republicans favor legalizing fireworks, according to results from a new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. Legislation moving through the Iowa Senate would legalize fireworks in the state. A number of groups have opposed the measure, saying it will lead to increased accidents and injuries, particularly among children. Sixty-two percent of men say they support legalizing fireworks, compared with 46 percent of women. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa State professor working to improve mental health care for veterans
Tasked with leading an independent evaluation of Veterans Affairs mental health services has given Alicia Carriquiry a new perspective as to the challenges veterans and their families face. It’s an issue the Distinguished Professor of statistics at Iowa State University was aware of before being appointed chair of the Institute of Medicine committee conducting the review. But she never fully understood the need for better mental health services until listening to parents, spouses and veterans’ advocates testify about their situation – stories she will never forget. (Iowa State University)

National News

Health law drives down U.S. rate of uninsured adults, survey finds
Led by Arkansas and Kentucky, which both had double-digit declines, seven states saw the percentage of adults without insurance fall by more than 5 percentage points between 2013 and 2014. All but one of the 11 states with the biggest drops implemented both pillars of the federal health law: expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income adults and setting up a fully or partially functioning state-based marketplace. (Los Angeles Times)

Congress told ruling against health laws would impact poor
The Obama administration told Congress on Tuesday that it had no plans to help low- and moderate-income people if the Supreme Court ruled against the administration and cut off health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, said a court decision against the administration would do “massive damage” that could not be undone by executive action. (New York Times)

Medicare drug costs shrinking under Obamacare
ObamaCare has led to substantial savings in prescription drug costs and a strong increase in the use of preventive services, administration officials announced Tuesday. “Our parents and grandparents on Medicare saved more than $15 billion on prescription drugs since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said. Those savings amount to nearly $1,600 per person enrolled in Medicare — an increase from about $1,400 in average savings last year. (The Hill)

Patients, doctors see benefits of sharing medical records
When Stacey Whiteman was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago, she didn’t realize the toughest challenge would be its impact on her brain. The 53-year-old from Massachusetts was forced to quit work as an executive assistant after becoming easily confused and prone to forget, even about priorities like doctor appointments. When her physician suggested OpenNotes, an electronic portal allowing patients full access to their medical records, including doctors’ notes, Whiteman was eager to log on. (Reuters)

Pittsburgh nurses undergo mindfulness training to cope with job pressures
Caring for patients can be “organized chaos,” nurses say. As the foot soldiers of health care, they function at the pressure point, the front lines of the war zone, where “you have to be flawless.” “You can’t make one mistake,” said Daniel Griffiths, 47, of Greenfield, a nurse at UPMC Montefiore. “It’s physically draining. You’re on your feet for a 12-hour shift.” It helps explain why stress levels in nursing can lead to mental and physical exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and sleep disorders, with occupational hazards trespassing onto one’s free time. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

(From time to time, the blog features recipients of the IHA Iowa Hospital Heroes Award.  These outstanding hospital employees come from across the state and work at hospitals of every size.  They exemplify the courage, caring and community focus that are at the center of the hospital mission in Iowa.)

JoAnn-LampeHow do you put into words the impact this Hospital Hero has made over her 40-plus years of dedication to health care? How do you describe someone who at Christmas, makes up big batches of different kinds of soups, divides it up in small containers and delivers it to elderly people in the community, but is also recognized as one of the outstanding nurses and leaders in the state of Iowa?

JoAnn Lampe currently holds the position of chief nursing officer and safety/compliance/risk manager at Fort Madison Community Hospital (FMCH) but has developed and held multiple positions. In 2010 she was recognized by the Iowa Organization of Nurse Leaders with the Outstanding Nurse Executive Award. But it is not the title she holds or the accolades she’s received that make her a Hospital Hero, it is that lasting impression she makes in each person’s life that she touches.  Here are just a few examples:

“I have observed JoAnn display a kind, heartfelt touch or hug to so many people that truly just needed to feel that connection with someone who cares.”

action2“When my Dad was very ill and in the hospital, she took the time out of her busy day to stop in to see him. My Dad was very anxious and scared. JoAnn knew exactly what to say to calm him down. They cried and prayed together.”

“She has gone to patients homes after they are discharged to assure they continue to follow their care regimen; sitting with them so their families have some time to themselves.”

“She always knew what was going on with every patient, the right questions to ask the physicians, and the right tasks to do to help heal.”

“The amazing things that JoAnn does on a day-to-day basis are just a part of who she is and are no longer viewed as unique.”

“I don’t remember a thing she said, but I remember how she made me feel. She was a nurse who cared so deeply about taking care of people; I thought that if this is the way people are here, I want to be a part of it.”

JoAnn is a hand holder, a sincere smile, a get’er done kind of Hospital Hero who indeed contributes courageously and selflessly to FMCH and our community.

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

Iowa News

Ernst requests investigation into Iowa veteran mental health programs
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is requesting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to investigate the VA Central Iowa Heath Care System’s mental health programs. Ernst sent the request Monday in response to the discovery of deceased veteran Richard Miles in Water Works Park last week. While police continue to investigate the man’s death, authorities said his death may be related to his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. (KCCI)

Poll: Iowans support tougher texting-while-driving laws
Most Iowans favor legislation that would allow police officers to stop drivers for texting, but fewer support laws that would prevent drivers from talking on their cellphones, according to results from a new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. Currently, officers can only issue tickets for texting if a driver has been pulled over for another reason, but 85 percent of Iowans say they’d support a law allowing officers to pull people over solely for texting while driving. (Des Moines Register)

UnityPoint cancer center names new executive director
Sarah Erickson was named the new executive director of the John Stoddard Cancer Center at UnityPoint Health – Des Moines. Erickson was previously the outpatient manager for the cancer center, a role that helped the center receive the outstanding achievement award from the Commission on Cancer and accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Medicaid rolls grew by 10M under Obamacare
Over 10 million people enrolled in Medicaid and the children’s health insurance program since Obamacare’s launch a year and a half ago, the administration announced Monday. The numbers show that through the end of December 2014, 10.75 million more people are enrolled in Medicaid or the CHIP children’s health program compared to before Obamacare’s coverage expansion took effect in 2013, about a 19 percent increase. (The Hill)

Doctors say data fees are blocking health reform
As they move to exchange patient information with hospitals and other health care partners, doctors are suffering sticker shock: The vendors of the health care software want thousands of dollars to unlock the data so they can be shared. It may take an act of Congress to provide relief. The fees are thwarting the goals of the $30 billion federal push to get doctors and hospitals to digitize health records. The exorbitant prices to transmit and receive data, providers and IT specialists say, can amount to billions a year. (Politico)

Telehealth reimbursement complications paint a vague future
Despite its overwhelming benefits for improved patient quality of life, reimbursement complication is a major negative aspect regarding teleheath’s evolving legislation limitations. The grim reality is that telehealth costs are not always reimbursed. This is an ongoing problem for medical specialists located in rural areas — or areas redefined as such. (RevCycle Intelligence)

Fancy flourishes at hospitals don’t impress patients, study finds
The study used the responses both to Medicare-mandated surveys and private ones from Press Ganey, a consulting company that administers surveys. In the study, Hopkins patient ratings about the cleanliness and quiet in new tower’s rooms — elements Medicare uses in setting pay — soared, as did views on the pleasantness of the décor and comfort of the accommodations. But patient opinions about their actual care — such as the communication skills of doctors, nurses and staff — did not rise any higher than they did in the older building. (Kaiser Health News)