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

Iowa News

The $12M patient that drove insurance rates higher in Iowa
David Anderson, a research associate at Duke University Margolis Center and former health insurance official, discusses Iowa’s exchange market in a recent post on his health care blog called Balloon Juice. He notes that Iowa’s exchange market is facing many of the same challenges as those in other states, but it is also experiencing the unique problem of providing insurance to an individual with $12 million in annual medical claims. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Event honors organ donors, recipients
Emotions ran high as two speakers told their organ-donation stories on April 21. The message behind the stories was simple — register as an organ donor to give someone a second chance. The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics held an annual event on April 21, called Gift of Life Ceremony, to recognize donors and recipients saved by organ donations. “I hope the message to the audience is that donation and transplantation are life-changing for both the donor family and the recipient,” said Suzanne Witte, coordinator of the Family Support Program. (Daily Iowan)

National News

Community mental health groups in Michigan worry about privatization
Community mental health groups fear that their funding and management could be transferred to private insurers under a budget proposal that emerged. The plan suggests it would align with Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal last year to move $2.5 billion of community mental health Medicaid money to private insurers in the state’s Medicaid health plans. The National Alliance on Mental Illness in Michigan and other mental health leaders have voiced their concerns about having the health plans in charge. (Associated Press/Charlotte Observer)

Change in 52-year-old Medicaid rule will expand Ohio’s mental health care
A change in a federal Medicaid rule that has stood for 52 years is expected to allow more Ohioans to get badly needed mental health services. Effective July 1, Medicaid recipients ages 21 to 64 who are in a managed care plan will be eligible for up to 15 days of inpatient mental health treatment. Terry Russell, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio, said his organization endorses the prospect of getting help more quickly for more people in need. (Columbus Dispatch)

Minnesota hospital confronts dilemma of opioid addicts who are expectant moms
For the first time, a concentrated effort at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center in Minnesota supports addicted mothers before their deliveries has started to make a difference. And hospital leaders across Minnesota are hoping to expand on the success of Sanford Bemidji’s First Steps to Healthy Babies program to combat a worsening opioid epidemic. Dr. Rahul Koranne, chief medical officer of the Minnesota Hospital Association, said, “Our viewpoint is that every mom should be assessed for this.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

States move to help insurers defray costs of sickest patients
As congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act remain in limbo, the Trump administration and some states are taking steps to help insurers cover the cost of their sickest patients. The fix is a well-known insurance industry practice called reinsurance. Claims above a certain amount would be paid by the government, reducing insurers’ financial exposure and allowing them to set lower premiums. (Kaiser Health News)

Government shutdown, health bill rescue at stake in Congress
Bipartisan bargainers are making progress toward a budget deal to prevent a partial federal shutdown this weekend, a major hurdle overcome when President Donald Trump signaled he would put off his demand that the measure include money to build his border wall with Mexico. Republicans are also vetting proposed changes to their beleaguered health care bill that they hope will attract enough votes to finally push it through the House. (Associated Press/Washington Times)

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

Iowa News

Joni Ernst’s comments disregard reality of mental health issues
Iowa State University student Sarah Ashby wrote an open letter to Senator Joni Ernst, who, on Wednesday, stated that the mental health problems in Iowa and the nation are simply due to “resiliency issues” and “lack of coping skills” in the younger generations. “The things that you said on Wednesday are tremendously hurtful and harmful to the mental health community,” writes Ashby. “This is especially true in Iowa, where we are second to last in the nation for mental health services and laws.” (Iowa State Daily)

Scavo High School receives grant funds to become a trauma sensitive school
The alternative high school in Des Moines is using grant money to become a safer place for students who are experiencing trauma at home. The money will help make staff more aware of how troubles outside the class are linked to behavior inside. Scavo High School is planning to use $23,000 from the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation to become what’s known as a “trauma sensitive school.” “If they’re not okay socially, emotionally, mentally, they’re not going to be able to learn,” says the community schools coordinator for Scavo, Lyn Marchant. (Iowa Public Radio)

Mercy Iowa City eliminates 20 jobs
Mercy Iowa City officials announced in December they were considering joining the UnityPoint Health network, which would allow the small Catholic hospital to operate more efficiently and gain access to larger insurance plans. Meanwhile, Mercy Iowa City is eliminating 20 jobs this month to make up for fewer inpatient admissions, lower reimbursement rates and other financial challenges, according to an email that Interim President and CEO Mike Heinrich sent to employees. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

State budget cuts could cost rural Colorado hospitals millions, cause service reductions, layoffs
A dozen or so rural hospitals are poised to lose millions as part of a deal at the Denver Capitol to balance the budget by trimming hospital payments for uncompensated care. A new analysis from the Colorado Hospital Association estimates that three of every four Colorado hospitals are looking at cuts in payments from the provider fee program under the current budget plan. An effort to revamp the program to protect hospitals is stuck in the political mud after negotiations between Democrats and Republicans broke down last week. (Denver Post)

Kansas Medicaid expansion in doubt despite hospital’s woes
Advocates are buzzing again about the possibility of extending Kansas’ health coverage for the poor because of a Topeka hospital’s potential demise but could struggle to attract the last few votes from reluctant Republican legislators to overcome GOP Governor Sam Brownback’s opposition. The pro-expansion Alliance for a Health Kansas says 31 hospitals in Kansas are financially vulnerable because the state hasn’t expanded Medicaid. (Associated Press/News & Observer)

Health care in America: An employment bonanza and a runaway-cost crisis
In many ways, the health care industry has been a great friend to the US economy. Its plentiful jobs helped lift the country out of the Great Recession and, partly due to the Affordable Care Act, it now employs one in nine Americans. As President Donald Trump seeks to fulfill his campaign pledge to create millions more jobs, the industry would seem a promising place to turn. But the business mogul also campaigned to repeal Obamacare and lower health care costs — a potentially serious job killer. (Kaiser Health News)

House GOP leaders won’t rush health care vote
House GOP leaders during a members-only conference call Saturday vowed to avoid a government shutdown and said they’re closer to a deal to repeal and replace Obamacare, according to members who participated on the call. But Speaker Paul Ryan also downplayed the possibility of a vote this week, the same sources said. The Wisconsin Republican said the chamber will vote on a conference-wide deal when GOP whips are confident they have the votes for passage — but not until then. (Politico)

Possible shutdown, health care quagmire awaiting Congress
Lawmakers returning to Washington this week will find a familiar quagmire on health care legislation and a budget deadline dramatized by the prospect of a protracted battle between President Donald Trump and Democrats over his border wall. Trump’s GOP allies control Congress, but they’ve been unable to send him a single major bill as his presidency faces the symbolic 100-day mark on April 29 — the very day when the government, in a worst-case scenario, could shut down. (Associated Press/ABC News)

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

Iowa News

Iowa Legislature approves partial mental health fix
The Iowa House on Thursday approved a measure that would partly alleviate a longstanding problem with how mental health and disability services are funded in Scott County. However, county officials and some lawmakers say the bill didn’t go far enough. The Iowa House approved the measure on a 97-1 vote Thursday afternoon. The Senate passed it earlier this week so the bill now goes to Governor Terry Branstad. The legislation would equalize how the counties within each of the state’s 14 mental health regions raise money to pay for services. (Quad-City Times)

Ernst pushes for health care, regulatory reform during GCMH stop
The fate of the Affordable Care Act and Critical Access Hospitals dominated the discussion when US Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) visited the Grundy County Memorial Hospital (GCMH) to meet with executives, board members and local officials last Wednesday morning. “A lot of our constituents out in these rural areas, that’s how they’re serviced is through Critical Access Hospitals, so we need to maintain them as best we can,” she said. (Grundy Register)

Genesis HealthPlex coming to West Davenport
Identifying the growing demand for medical services on the west side of Davenport, Genesis Health System will break ground on a new HealthPlex later this year. Chief Marketing Officer Ken Croken said the $8 million to $10 million development, similar to its health complexes in Moline and Bettendorf, will break ground after July. Croken said Genesis’ latest project is a response to the trend in health care that consumers expect the “one-stop shopping” approach. (Quad-City Times)

OCH receives $400,000 grant for diagnostic tool
Patients at Osceola Community Hospital (OCH) will soon benefit from access to the latest computed tomography (CT) diagnostic technology made possible through a grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program. Helmsley has awarded OCH $400,000 for a new 64-slice CT scanner. “Our goal is to ensure that people who live in rural America have access to quality health care as close to home as possible,” said Walter Panzirer, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. (Worthington Daily Globe)

Hand therapist helps man with reattached hand regain function
The field of hand therapy is growing as patients with everything from a broken finger to carpal tunnel syndrome look for ways to improve function and deal with pain. One hand therapist helped a young man get back to his normal life. Surgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reattached Kennedy Folkedahl’s hand after it was cut off during a construction accident. Three months later, Folkedahl went to the UnityPoint Hand Therapy Clinic. (WHO)

National News

For doctors, a clamp down on visas could have an uneven effect in the US
Limiting the number of foreign doctors who can get visas to practice in the US could have a significant impact on certain hospitals and states that rely on them, according to a new study. The research, published online in JAMA this week, found that more than 2,100 US employers were certified to fill nearly 10,500 physician jobs nationwide, in 2016. That represents 1.4 percent of the physician workforce overall. (Kaiser Health News)

Many veterans gained health care through the Affordable Care Act
Almost half a million veterans gained health care coverage during the first two years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a report finds. In the years leading up to the implementation of ACA’s major coverage provisions, nearly 1 million of the nation’s approximately 22 million veterans didn’t have health insurance. Two years after ACA’s implementation, 429,000 veterans under the age of 65 gained coverage, which is a 40 percent drop in vets without insurance from 2013 to 2015. (Iowa Public Radio)

White House pushes uncertain bid to revive health care bill
Eager for a victory, the White House expressed confidence Thursday that a breakthrough on the mired Republican health care bill could be achieved in the House next week. The chamber’s GOP leaders, burned by a March debacle on the measure, were dubious and signs were scant that an emerging plan was gaining enough votes to succeed. During a news conference, Trump said progress was being made on a “great plan” for overhauling the nation’s health care system, though he provided no details. (Associated Press)

Conservatives’ goal to relax mandatory health benefits unlikely to tame premiums
As House Republicans try to find common cause on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, they may be ready to let states make the ultimate decision about whether to keep a key consumer provision in the federal health law that conservatives say is raising insurance costs. At the heart of those changes reportedly is the law’s requirement for most insurance plans to offer 10 specific categories of “essential health benefits.” (Kaiser Health News)

Secret hospital inspections may become public
The public could soon get a look at confidential reports about errors, mishaps and mix-ups in the nation’s hospitals that put patients’ health and safety at risk, under a groundbreaking proposal from federal health officials. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them. (Pro Publica)

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

Iowa News

University of Iowa hospitals raise alarm over Medicaid managed care denials
Iowa’s biggest and most-profitable hospital, University of Iowa Health Care, is lowering by more than half its operating income projections for 2017 and signaling a possible shift in strategy thanks to a sharp increase in denials from Medicaid managed care payers and a corresponding drop in the hospital’s collection rate. The hospital still is seeking about $6.4 million in Medicaid reimbursements for old cases dating back 270 days or more — contributing to concerns with the bottom line. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Thanks to grant, hospital to benefit from CT technology
Patients at George C. Grape Community Hospital will soon benefit from access to the latest computed tomography (CT) diagnostic technology made possible through a grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program. Helmsley has awarded George C. Grape Community Hospital $400,000 for a new 64-slice CT scanner. A new CT scanner will produce high-quality images, allowing medical staff to quickly determine health status and course of treatment. (Nebraska City News-Press)

National News

Groups warn of rural health ‘crisis’ under Obamacare repeal
Rural areas would be hit particularly hard if Congress and the Trump administration don’t send clear signals that they’re committed to helping keep Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces stable next year, advocates warn. Rural areas already have fewer care options than their urban peers. A “crisis in rural counties,” is possible without more clarity, said Alan Morgan, the CEO of the National Rural Health Association, an umbrella group representing hospitals, doctors and others that work in rural areas. (The Hill)

Oregon lawmakers consider ending Medicaid expansion to shore up budget
Democratic lawmakers in Oregon are considering ending the state’s Medicaid expansion in an effort to address a $1.6 billion budget shortfall. Hospitals have benefited greatly from Medicaid expansion as they’ve seen uncompensated care costs drop from $1.3 billion in 2013 to $315 million in 2015 according to state data. Andy Davidson, president and CEO of the Oregon Hospital Association said, “We stand firm in our belief that we all must lean in to ensure that we preserve that access and coverage.” (Modern Healthcare)

Arizona hospital ERs to screen patients for signs of trafficking
A hospital chain with several hospitals in Arizona says is taking steps to counter human trafficking. Dignity Health says it has trained staff at three hospitals in the Phoenix area to look for indicators of possible human and that it has implemented mandatory screening in emergency rooms (ERs) and obstetrics departments. Dignity says trafficking victims who are identified will be referred to community agencies for support and assistance. (Associated Press/Miami Herald)

Chuck Grassley pushed for tougher scrutiny of private Medicare Advantage plans
Republican Iowa senator Chuck Grassley wants federal health officials to tighten scrutiny of private Medicare Advantage health plans amid ongoing concern that insurers overbill the government by billions of dollars every year. Grassley has asked Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials to explain why they failed to collect nearly $125 million in potential overcharges identified at five Medicare Advantage plans audited in a single year. (Healthcare Finance)

White House looking to revive Obamacare repeal before 100-day deadline
Two sources close to the health care legislative process tell CNN the White House is exploring whether to take one more stab at repealing and replacing Obamacare before President Donald Trump hits the key milestone of 100 days in office late next week. The renewed effort comes as Congress returns from recess next week and as the Trump administration is fielding questions about its legislative accomplishments during its first 100 days in office. (CNN)

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

Iowa News

Aetna, Wellmark roil health market
Insurance providers Aetna’s and Wellmark’s recent pullout from the Iowa individual insurance market could leave almost 60,000 Iowans and hospitals across the state in limbo. Scott McIntyre, the vice president for communications at the Iowa Hospital Association, said this increased instability could leave hospitals across the state in the lurch. Two major issues with uncompensated or “charity” care McIntyre points to are that uninsured individuals tend to not have regular relationships with health care providers and tend to be treated in expensive emergency departments. (Daily Iowan)

Iowa Medicaid: How well is it working (really)?
Is Medicaid privatization a tremendous success, resulting in “healthier Iowans and better outcomes” while saving taxpayers hundreds of millions? Is it a dismal failure coming at the expense of needy Iowans and taxpayers? Or is it somewhere in between? All Iowans need and deserve clear, objective answers, not political spin. Government officials, managed care organizations, taxpayers and, most of all, clients and their advocates need to be part of the conversation. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Senator hears Iowans’ concerns about health care costs
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is holding meetings around the state during the April recess. Grassley says the recent news that two companies will stop selling individual policies in the state, and the failure to get a new health care law signed, concern him. Grassley says he’d like to hear from the insurance companies if they have specific ideas about how Congress could help them stay in the Iowa individual market. (Iowa Public Radio)

UPH-Waterloo prepares to acquire CIH
UnityPoint Health (UPH)-Waterloo CEO and President Pamela Delagardelle and associates have successfully taken on many challenges. On Tuesday, the former nurse told the local Rotary Club they are ready to take on another, as UPH-Waterloo prepares to bring Central Iowa Healthcare (CIH) into the UPH-Waterloo fold. Delagardelle made it clear that she and other staff will work as a team with remaining CIH staff to bring the best possible outcomes to patients in a patient-centered approach. (Marshalltown Times Republican)

GOP bill bans underage sales of e-cigarettes online
Electronic cigarettes and other so-called vaping products sold to Iowans on the internet would be regulated for the first time under a last-minute spending bill as the GOP majority strives toward adjournment of this year’s legislative session. Under the bill, sellers would be required to obtain a permit to sell the alternative nicotine products online. And the products would be subject to the state sales tax. (Iowa Public Radio)

National News

Hundreds rally against closure of Kansas hospital at center of Medicaid expansion debate
Several hundred people turned out Monday night to protest the possible closure of St. Francis Health in Topeka. The financial struggles of the hospital have taken center stage in the debate over whether to expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Governor Sam Brownback recently vetoed an expansion bill that would have generated an additional $10 million a year in federal funding for St. Francis, according to the Kansas Hospital Association. (KCUR)

House Republicans push to repeal Florida CON law
Legislation to repeal Florida’s Certificate of Need (CON) law is expected on Wednesday to pass the Florida House. Democrats and others say getting rid of CON is unnecessary and might reduce the quality of care by overcrowding the market. “Won’t repealing CON create a two-tiered system: One for the insured living in wealthy areas and one for uninsured in low-income areas?” said Representative John Cortes, D-Kissimmee. The state’s safety net hospitals oppose repealing CON for exactly that reason. (Miami Herald)

Medicaid may require work, payments from the poor, as Indiana tried
Far more people may also have to adjust to the new reality of formerly free health coverage through Medicaid: It will cost money. As once-reluctant Republican governors consider expanding Medicaid to their lowest income residents, the Medicaid plan developed by the now-head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and approved by former Indiana governor, now Vice President, Mike Pence is the one many are expected to model. (USA Today)

Detroit program to train hospital patient sitters, care associates
Three major hospital systems in Detroit are partnering with the city to train Detroiters for entry-level health care jobs. The Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System and St. John Providence will provide training and placement opportunities for 240 city residents over the next 12 months for patient sitter and patient care associate jobs. “The need to fill health care jobs continues to increase, especially the need for patient care associates,” said Focus: HOPE CEO Jason Lee. Focus: HOPE will provide services to the trainees. (Michigan Live)

Health insurers asked for reassurance on Obamacare. They didn’t get it.
Health insurance executives seeking certainty on the future of federal funds that help lower-income Americans with their out-of-pocket health care costs got no commitment that they would be paid next year in an hour-long meeting with Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). A CMS official confirmed that Verma “did not comment” on the payments, called cost-sharing reductions, at the meeting and told those gathered that it was a decision to be made by Congress. (Washington Post)