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

Iowa News

Iowa agencies providing elderly care run into Medicaid billing issues
Many of the state’s agencies caring for the elderly are running into huge billing issues, resulting in millions of dollars of unpaid Medicaid claims and forcing some to take out loans to stay in operation. The state handed over its $5 billion Medicaid program, with 560,000 beneficiaries, to three private insurers April 1. Since the move, providers — from Meals on Wheels to rehabilitation therapists — have reported billing problems ranging from incorrect fees to denied claims. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mental health care shortage ‘a huge struggle’
According to a new study, there are just 26 mental health patient beds available for 3.1 million Iowans. “Dead last. That’s Iowa’s new ranking in mental health beds available for our citizens,” House Democratic Leader Mark Smith was quoted recently. “It’s an embarrassing ranking and a critical situation for Iowa families with loved ones suffering from mental illnesses.” An estimated 120,000+ Iowans are suffering with mental illnesses. (Storm Lake Pilot Tribune)

Iowa hospital CEO discusses building physician alignment
In rural hospitals, physicians wear many hats. In addition to treating patients in the clinic, they cover the emergency department and follow inpatients throughout their hospital stays. “Maximizing the patient experience efficiently is important to them. They’re stretched thin,” explains Heather Cain, CEO of Stewart Memorial Hospital, a 25-bed Critical Access Hospital in Lake City. “That’s why we’ve recently devoted the same kind of focus and resources to supporting physicians and CG CAHPS that we did to hardwiring tools in the hospital for HCAHPS.” (Studer Group)

UW, Meriter pursue joint operating agreement, health plan merger
University of Wisconsin (UW) Health and UnityPoint Health-Meriter are pursuing a joint operating agreement and a merger of their health insurance plans, which could shift some patients from UW Hospital to Meriter, alleviate the need for new construction and help the longtime rivals adapt to payment changes in health care, officials said Thursday. The plans, outlined in non-binding letters of intent, are a major turnaround in the relationship between two of Madison’s three main health care systems. (Wisconsin State Journal)

National News

Kansas hospitals seek federal intervention to stop Medicaid cuts
The Kansas Hospital Association is urging federal officials to stop Governor Sam Brownback from implementing $56.4 million in Medicaid cuts set to take effect today. Brownback ordered the cuts in May to cover shortfalls in the fiscal year 2017 budget approved by the Legislature. The hospital association is asking the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to immediately intervene to stop the cuts, which include a four percent reduction in provider payments. (Kansas Health Institute)

CMS renews Tennessee’s Medicaid waiver on the day it expired
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) granted Tennessee a two-month temporary extension on a Medicaid managed-care waiver that expired Thursday. TennCare, the state’s managed care Medicaid system, was authorized in 2002 under an 1115 waiver. CMS has increasingly resisted paying for health care for the uninsured now that most of them have access to coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Modern Healthcare)

New Orleans clinics, hospitals help pay for signing up new Medicaid clients
Hospitals and clinics throughout the New Orleans area are helping the state cover the costs of enrolling more people in Medicaid, a result of lawmakers being unwilling to pay for workers to assist with Medicaid expansion. “The state doesn’t have the money, so we’re paying for three state workers embedded into three of our sites,” said Liz Teague, the vice president of development at Access Health Louisiana. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Lawmakers launch last-ditch effort to block Texas Medicaid cuts
In a last-ditch effort to stave off $350 million in cuts to a state Medicaid program that provides therapy to disabled children, federal and state lawmakers are asking the federal government to intervene. Families that have sued the state to stop the cuts before they go into effect July 15 have also asked the Texas Supreme Court to block the cuts by next Friday. Opponents of the cuts argued that the reduced rates would cut revenue and force providers to close their doors, interrupting vital services to an estimated 60,000 disabled Texas children. (Austin American Statesman)

Chicago hospital offers frequent ER patients an out – free housing
In the medical world, “superutilizers” are people with a mix of chronic medical problems, mental health issues and homelessness that drive them to visit the hospital far more than the average patient. This year the University of Illinois Hospital is trying something different to care for Glenn Baker and its other “superutilizers.” The hospital is paying to get them out of the emergency room and into housing. The hospital’s pilot project is using $250,000 of its own money to get 25 patients like Baker into “housing first” style housing. (NPR)

Iowa News

Britt hospital nurse receives IHERF scholarship
Deena Zadow, Kanawha, an employee of Hancock County Health System who is earning a bachelor of science degree in nursing at Briar Cliff College, has been awarded a $3,500 scholarship from the Iowa Hospital Education and Research Foundation (IHERF), which is supported by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA). She is among 33 outstanding students from Iowa who have received assistance this year from the IHERF Health Care Careers Scholarship Program.

Insurers dictate health care costs
we feel obligated to take issue with the Times’ editorial board stating as fact that hospitals “overcharge” privately insured patients to make up for losses created by serving patients on Medicaid. While it is true that private insurance does help hospitals cover some of those losses, this is not a result of overcharging, which implies hospitals can charge whatever they want. In the Iowa insurance market where a single company has cornered 75 percent of the market, it is hardly hospitals that are calling the shots on pricing. (Quad-City Times)

Iowa Department of Corrections shifts money to cover effects of MHI closures, hospitalizations
Officials in the Iowa Department of Corrections have shifted money legislators set aside for staff to cover other expenses. Closing the Mental Health Institutes (MHIs) in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant a year ago caused problems in the prison system’s budget. Prison staff work on the campuses in those two communities and $1.2 million was shifted to cover those salaries. Officials say they also had to pay more overtime to staff who took inmates to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for medical care. (Radio Iowa)

Iowa hosts Cancer Moonshot Summit site
“We’re making progress faster than ever before in cancer research and in bringing the advances of cancer research to our patients,” said Dr. George Weiner, who came all the way from the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa. Holden was one of 270 sites around he country that hosted a satellite summit Wednesday. Weiner says there are still many obstacles to curing cancer — administrative and organizational. (KCRG)

National News

Medicaid reporting error just the latest fiasco in Kansas
The state reported to federal authorities that the number of people awaiting approval of their Medicaid applications was about 3,500. It turns out the real total is more than four times that much – nearly 15,500. What’s more, most of that increase is among people waiting more than 45 days (the federal approval deadline). The processing delays can endanger the lives of vulnerable Kansans. But this is just the latest in a long string of problems related to application approvals. (Wichita Eagle)

Maryland hospitals launch effort to inform consumers on changing landscape
Hospitals in Maryland are changing the way they deliver care, focusing more on coordinating services and preventing complications. This week, they launched a campaign to inform the public about it. Called “A Breath of Fresh Care,” the campaign’s goal is to get patients to engage in their care by directing them to hospital wellness and chronic disease management initiatives. To that end, the Maryland Hospital Association has set up a website called with links to individual hospital websites. (Baltimore Sun)

Louisiana, the U.S. incarceration capital, prepares for expanded Medicaid
In the state that imprisons more of its citizens per capita than any other, the long-awaited July 1 launch of expanded Medicaid coverage will give those leaving prison a chance to at least continue what many describe as spotty treatment for the conditions that plagued them while behind bars. Without access to health care when they leave prison, it’s often only a matter of time until many prisoners return. The imminent expansion at least gives many hope they can get some help for problems that helped send them to prison in the first place. (USA Today)

Mobile app uses analytics to predict hospital readmissions
A mobile application that uses analytics to predict hospital readmissions and allows patients to more easily communicate with providers has the potential save the health care industry billions of dollars, its developers say. Researchers at Binghamton University in New York created the app, the Post Discharge Treatment and Readmissions Predictor or PdtRp, which calculates a patient’s probability for readmission by mining historical records and comparing those to present-day status. (Fierce Healthcare)

States offer privacy protections to young adults on their parents’ health plan
The health law opened the door for millions of young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26. But there’s a downside to remaining on the family plan. Chances are that mom or dad, as policyholder, will get a notice from the insurer every time the grown-up kid gets medical care, a breach of privacy that many young people may find unwelcome. With this in mind, in recent years a handful of states have adopted laws or regulations that make it easier for dependents to keep medical communications confidential. (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

Iowa taking ‘moonshot’ at ending cancer
Cancer researchers across the country are on the brink of groundbreaking discoveries and lifesaving treatments, but various hurdles, red tape and inefficiencies are slowing them down. Eliminating those obstacles and identifying avenues for collaboration are among topics scientists, doctors, patients and survivors will discuss Wednesday during a “Cancer Moonshot Summit” in Washington, D.C. and at satellite locations — including the University of Iowa (UI). The UI’s Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center was among 10 initially invited to host a satellite summit. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

A third of Iowans don’t earn enough to pay for basic living
To survive in Iowa, it takes an income of about twice the federal poverty rate. That figure was among the findings of a new United Way report that explored why nearly one in three Iowans struggles to afford basic living expenses. United Way officials hope the findings will draw attention to Iowans who are above the federal poverty line, yet remain unable to afford basic necessities such as food, rent and medicine. The findings could add fuel to Polk County’s fiery debate over raising the minimum wage above the state and federal standard of $7.25 an hour. (Des Moines Register)

Family keeps their son’s memory alive with big donations
Though their baby boy died two years ago, an Iowa family has turned their grief into a way of giving back to the community and helping hundreds of families. The Anderson family became well-acquainted with the third floor of Mercy Children’s Hospital when their son, Fisher, who was born with a congenital heart disease, stayed there in 2014. The Anderson family makes a big donation to the Ronald McDonald House every year on June 27, celebrating Fisher’s birthday. Their donations include paper plates, plastic containers, shampoo, conditioner and food. (KCCI)

National News

Advocates criticize Kentucky’s proposed Medicaid overhaul
Bobby Paisley’s health insurance covers his vision and dental care. He knows, because he and his wife pay for it. “I don’t have to do community service, I don’t have to earn points and I don’t have to wait,” he said. But that’s exactly what some 400,000 Kentuckians would have to do under Governor Matt Bevin’s proposal to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program. Bevin’s plan would eliminate dental and vision coverage for able-bodied Medicaid beneficiaries, but they could earn those benefits back by getting a job, volunteering for a charity or taking a class at a community college. (Associated Press/Daily Nonpareil)

Louisiana hospitals, health department in wait-and-see mode
Louisiana’s Department of Health and the privately operated safety net hospitals under contract with the state escaped a grueling legislative session with their funding mostly intact. But the hospitals and state officials say the funding is based on assumptions that are riddled with uncertainty about Medicaid expansion. Paul Salles, CEO of the Louisiana Hospital Association, said he thinks the hospitals will have to wait and see whether the funding levels were on the mark. But he said this year’s legislative session brought a broad discussion about patient access. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

Don’t keep cheating kids in Florida on Medicaid
As a result of settling a class-action lawsuit, Florida must significantly change the government insurance program for low-income children. State leaders have a choice: They can continue to grudgingly invest in Medicaid for children and provide minimal oversight, or they can significantly increase financial support for the program and demand that the managed care companies in charge efficiently and effectively serve the patients and their parents. (Miami Herald)

MACRA rule raises patient privacy concerns
Physicians and health care organizations have flooded the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) with concerns about the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), the proposed changes to the way Medicare pays providers. “Although the clinicians participating in shared savings-only models are working hard to support CMS’s goals to transform care delivery, under CMS’s proposal they will not be recognized for those efforts,” said Tom Nickels, the American Hospital Association’s executive vice president of government relations and public policy. (Modern Healthcare)

How the Dollars for Docs hospital data was compiled
The goal of Dollars for Docs was to compare U.S. hospitals based on the percentage of their affiliated physicians who receive payments of various sizes from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. For information about a hospital’s characteristics, including address and ownership, researchers relied on Medicare’s Provider of Services file from 2014, as well as data from the American Hospital Association Annual Survey. The analysis included 4,815 hospitals. (Boston Globe)

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

Iowa News

Dubuque County supervisors urges state-level action on mental health funding
Dubuque County supervisors Monday took state leaders to task for an alleged failure to address inequalities in county contributions for mental health funding. Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Legislature and Governor Terry Branstad to equalize the funding basis for mental health services across the state. Dubuque County is one of nine Iowa counties that form Mental Health/Disability Services of the East Central Region. Each county contributes mental health funding for the region as a whole. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Link between gut bacteria, MS discovered
Researchers are now saying bad gut bacteria – or an insufficient amount of good bacteria – may have a direct link to multiple sclerosis (MS). “Every human carries trillions of bacteria in their gut and recent advances in research indicate that these tiny passengers play an important role in our overall health maintenance,” says Ashutosh Mangalam, PhD, assistant professor of pathology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. In a study published online in the journal Scientific Reports, Mangalam and his team say that MS patients do have a distinct microbiome from their healthy peers. (Science Daily)

National News

Judge sides with hospitals over California ballot initiative to cap executive pay
A Sacramento County judge has ruled that a proposed ballot initiative to limit hospital executives’ pay violates a prior deal between the labor union that backs it and the California Hospital Association (CHA), which opposes it. The judge ruled Friday in a case involving a proposed November initiative asking voters to limit any hospital executive’s salary and expense allowance to that of the president of the United States. CHA sued, arguing that the initiative violated a previous settlement with United Healthcare Workers-West. (Associated Press/Mercury News)

Storm clouds gather around Kentucky Medicaid plan
A thunderstorm rumbled through Frankfort Wednesday as Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin laid out his sweeping proposal to reshape the state’s Medicaid plan into one he predicts will encourage responsible health choices and teach Kentuckians the basics of paying for health care. But Bevin’s plan has stirred up a storm among health advocates opposed to changes that would have a profound impact on hundreds of thousands of the 1.3 million Kentuckians on Medicaid. (Courier Journal)

How technology can deliver broad improvements in health care
According to Kenneth Kizer, director of the Institute for Population Health Improvement at the University of California, Davis, using technologies to improve population health is still in its infancy, but it is clear that they will fundamentally change the nature of health care in coming years by connecting patients and caregivers in ways previously unimaginable, making health care more convenient, helping people stay healthy and patients recover from illness more quickly. (Wall Street Journal)

Sub-specialty hospitalists on the rise
The hospital-only specialty, which originated in primary care in the 1990s, has caught on throughout numerous sub-specialties such as gastroenterology and general surgery services. The growth of the hospitalist is driven in part by physicians’ desires for greater work-life balance, particularly when it comes to call coverage. Hospitals themselves are also embracing the trend, as patients increasingly expect prompt, high-quality care. The role of the hospitalist is alluring to physicians and hospitals and its growth is well established. But cultural and recruiting challenges remain. (HealthLeaders Media)

Retail clinics: Convenience comes at a cost in health care
While they are convenient, retail clinics and urgent care centers are driving up health spending because more people are seeking care for routine illnesses more often, according to a new report from PwC’s Health Research Institute. That shift may reduce costs in the long-run by improving patients’ overall health and wellness, but the increased use of convenient care will be a major reason for medical cost inflation for the foreseeable future. (Fierce Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

Scott County’s mental health court aims to offer treatment, not jail
Scott County will soon become home to the first mental health court in Iowa. The new mental health court procedure is part of an effort to cut back on the number of people with mental health conditions being put in jail. The project is a collaborative partnership between Interfaith Quad Cities and Genesis Philanthropy. The new court comes at a time when the state of Iowa has been under fire for lagging behind other states in providing access to mental health treatment. (WQAD)

Heroin’s hold: Iowa legislation allows responders to use ‘opioid antagonists’
Iowa lawmakers took steps this year to better equip emergency first responders and medical technicians to help deal with people experiencing a life-threatening drug overdose. Under legislation that took effect April 6, law officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and others are authorized to procure, possess and administer emergency drugs known as opioid antagonists to people who are experiencing an overdose. The new law also allows “people in a position to assist” to possess and administer the opioid antagonist if they believe it is necessary. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Medication historians help prevent adverse drug interactions
Being a medication historian is more of an art than a science. Martin Cortez and Andrew Welding interview patients who are admitted to UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s about the medications they’re taking, which can range from a couple of prescription drugs to more than a dozen. “We try to figure out what they’re all taking for medications currently and get that up-to-date for the hospitalists, the nurses and everybody else here,” Welding explained. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

NC lawmakers consider undoing regulations that ‘ration’ where hospitals can build
Last year, the North Carolina House voted 114-2 to designate the bobcat as the state’s official state cat. Now the bobcat bill is a threat to community hospitals, says the N.C. Hospital Association. Not with the bobcat provision, but with the new text that replaced the bobcat language which has nothing to do with bobcats. Instead, it would repeal a special health care law that controls where new hospitals, surgical centers, medical scanning clinics, drug rehab centers, hospices and other medical services are placed. (Fayetteville Observer)

Time to fix Georgia’s health care provider shortages
Georgia needs a health care system that is sustainable. When a hospital closes, it hurts the whole community and carries ramifications for the entire state’s economy. Closing Georgia’s health insurance coverage gap through expanded Medicaid eligibility is a critical step to help the state’s medical providers get paid for services they now deliver charitably, while also giving more than 300,000 people who fall into the gap access to treatment. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Real-time sharing of records ‘virtual safety net’ for patients at California Hospitals
Six East Bay-area hospitals in California plan to share patient records in real-time to create a “virtual safety net” for patients. “We’re trying to use technology and available information to make it so no matter what door a patient walks through in Alameda County, we’re all on the same page,“ said Jim Hickman, CEO of Better Health East Bay. The secure data-sharing platform integrates with each hospital’s electronic health record system and will help care teams understand each patient’s usage patterns and care needs in the community. (Fierce Healthcare)

How telemedicine is transforming health care
After years of big promises, telemedicine is finally living up to its potential. Driven by faster internet connections, ubiquitous smartphones and changing insurance standards, more health providers are turning to electronic communications to do their jobs—and it’s upending the delivery of health care. Telemedicine’s future will depend on how—and whether—regulators, providers, payers and patients can address the challenges. (Wall Street Journal)

Without federal funding, counties brace to confront Zika on their own
Communities across the country are preparing for the arrival of the Zika virus, but they aren’t preparing equally. With no aid in sight from the federal government, local officials are preparing as best they can for the possibility that Zika could soon spread within the United States. But the task has fallen to a patchwork of state and local programs that have a huge disparity in financial resources and manpower. (Washington Post)