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

Iowa News

New clinic puts urgent care on the fast track
A new clinic opening Monday is redefining the “urgent” in urgent care. UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care — San Marnan promises to deliver “care at the speed of now,” said Sarah Brown, vice president of operations for UnityPoint Clinic. What’s coming to the new clinic is a streamlined, “one-stop shop” approach, Brown said. The clinic will offer diagnostic, X-ray and pharmacy services to patients with non-emergency conditions like colds, flu, sore throats and minor injuries. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Montgomery County Memorial Hospital received grant for cutting-edge CT scanner
Patients at Montgomery County Memorial 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. The new 64-slice CT scanner will allow for faster scans that produce high-quality images and allow staff to quickly determine health status and treatments. (Montgomery County Memorial Hospital)

Sensory-therapy room will help dementia patients at Buchanan County Health Center
Bright lights, fluffy pillow and sweet aromas – all things found in a new room at the Buchanan County Health Center in Independence. The room is called a Snoezelen room and it is meant to help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The room offers sensory-therapy to people who are often sensory-deprived. The health center says sensory rooms have reduced fear and aggressive behavior and even improve mood and self-esteem for patients. (KCRG)

UI student-owned business wins $100,000 at prestigious TCU start-up competition
HealthTech Solutions, a business founded by two University of Iowa (UI) students, both from Iowa, that makes it easier to connect organ donors with recipients, won the grand prize in a start-up venture competition sponsored by Texas Christian University (TCU). The team won $25,000 in cash and $75,000 in in-kind services, including marketing/advertising, IT consulting, legal consulting, and financial services consulting. (Iowa Now)

National News

Doctor, hospital groups say GOP’s health bill worse with changes
The US’s biggest groups representing doctors, hospitals and older Americans came out against changes Republicans have proposed to get their health care bill more support from conservatives, saying the amendments make the proposal worse. The groups said the alterations will make it harder for people with pre-existing conditions to buy coverage and will raise insurance costs for older Americans. Rick Pollack, CEO of the American Hospital Association, said in a statement that the changes would “dramatically worsen the bill.” (Bloomberg)

House will not vote on ACA rewrite, smoothing way for government to stay open
Despite pressure from the White House, House GOP leaders determined Thursday night that they didn’t have the votes to pass a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and would not seek to put their proposal on the floor on Friday. A late push to act on health care had threatened the bipartisan deal to keep the government open for one week while lawmakers crafted a longer-term spending deal. Now, members are likely to approve the short-term spending bill when it comes to the floor and keep the government open past midnight on Friday. (Washington Post)

The role of Medicaid in rural America
People in rural areas face unique challenges in health care coverage and access, including low density of providers and longer travel times to care, limited access to employer-sponsored coverage and greater health care needs due to older age and lower income. Medicaid plays an important role in helping to address these challenges. The share of people living in rural areas who are covered by Medicaid has grown under the Affordable Care Act, corresponding with reductions in the uninsured rate. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

Wisconsin wants Medicaid recipients to pony up more money
Paying for health care is an issue that worries many people. Yet some state and federal lawmakers want people on Medicaid to be more concerned about health care costs. There’s a movement to increase premiums and cost-sharing for those who are in the program. The state of Wisconsin is pushing a radical proposal. It would “increase the monthly premiums that people pay as much as $10 more a month,” said Kevin Kane from Citizen Action of Wisconsin. (Marketplace)

Scientists create artificial womb that could help prematurely born babies
Scientists have created an “artificial womb” in the hopes of someday using the device to save babies born extremely prematurely. So far the device has only been tested on fetal lambs. A study published Tuesday involving eight animals found the device appears effective at enabling very premature fetuses to develop normally for about a month. The device could also help scientists learn more about normal fetal development, says Thomas Shaffer a professor of physiology and pediatrics at Temple University. (NPR)

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

Iowa News

As Iowa GOP honors Branstad, US Senate plans China confirmation hearing
Terry Branstad unspooled a greatest hits of anecdotes, sayings and advice from his long tenure as Iowa’s governor on Tuesday, during a reception celebrating his political career and looking forward to his new role as a diplomat. A six-term Republican, Branstad has been nominated by President Donald Trump as the US ambassador to China. At this point, he could be on his way to Beijing by the end of May. (Des Moines Register)

Swing-state Iowa pivots to the right with GOP now in control
Iowa has been a swing state for decades. But this legislative session, the state swung decidedly to the right. Republicans in Iowa asserted a broad mandate after winning complete control of the state’s government in November, enacting a sweeping conservative agenda unlike anything seen in the state. Perhaps no state experienced a political jolt like Iowa. Democrats are struggling to return to power in Iowa, as the state is increasingly trending toward Republicans. (The Hill)

Iowa nonprofit helps redistribute drugs
Every week in Des Moines, the employees of a small nonprofit, SafeNetRX, collect bins of unexpired prescription drugs tossed out by nursing homes after residents died, moved out or no longer needed them. At a time when anger over soaring drug costs has perhaps never been more intense, redistributing discarded drugs seems like a no-brainer. “There are literally millions of dollars of prescription medications thrown away every day in this country,” said John Forbes, an Iowa pharmacist who dispenses SafeNetRx’s recovered drugs to his low-income patients. (ProPublica)

Iowa’s gonorrhea infection rate up 75 percent since 2013
Reported cases of gonorrhea infections in Iowa are up 75 percent in the last three years, according to preliminary data from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). The department says while Iowa’s overall infection rate isn’t unusual, the sudden increase in infections from 2013 is unique. Part of the reason for this increase is that providers are conducting more comprehensive testing, which has identified cases that would have otherwise gone undetected. (Iowa Public Radio)

National News

Rural hospital in East Georgia to close, citing economic pressures
Another rural hospital is closing its doors in Georgia. Jenkins County Medical Center in Millen will close in June, and its services will merge with a hospital in Sylvania in neighboring Screven County. Jenkins will become the seventh Georgia rural hospital since the beginning of 2013 to close. Many other such hospitals are financially imperiled. Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid has hurt the hospital industry, health care experts say. (WABE)

Health care operator eyes distressed Topeka hospital
A group that specializes in turning around distressed hospitals has expressed interest in acquiring a Topeka hospital whose financial troubles have reinvigorated debate about Medicaid expansion in Kansas. California-based Prime Healthcare’s nonprofit arm notified Governor Sam Brownback last week that it has “potential interest” in “saving” St. Francis Health. St. Francis hospital’s problems also have advocates promising to push again to expand the state’s Medicaid program under former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. (Associated Press/Kansas City Star)

Legislature set to tackle changes to “Arkansas Works” Medicaid expansion in special session
The governor of Arkansas is expected to call the special session to get legislative approval of his proposed alterations to Arkansas Works — the state’s unique version of Medicaid expansion. Governor Hutchinson announced last month that he will seek a federal waiver of Medicaid rules to enact a series of changes to the Arkansas Works program. The governor’s plan imposes significant new burdens on beneficiaries, including work requirements and enforceable premiums. (Arkansas Times)

Key provisions of proposed GOP health care compromise
House Republicans are debating a proposed compromise that might help them revive stalled legislation to roll back much of Democratic President Barack Obama’s health care law. The broader bill would rework subsidies for private insurance, limit federal spending on Medicaid for low-income people and cut taxes on upper-income individuals used to finance Obama’s overhaul. (Associated Press/New York Times)

What changed in the health repeal plan to win over Freedom Caucus
A month after pulling their health care overhaul bill from the floor, House Republicans are growing increasingly confident that they may have found a way to pass it. An amendment drafted by Tom MacArthur, a New Jersey congressman, would keep much of the American Health Care Act in place. But it would set up a waiver program that would allow states to apply to eliminate three major insurance regulations established by Obamacare. (New York Times)

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

Iowa News

‘State of Addiction’ shines a light on Iowa’s opioid problem
Opioid overdoses killed 67 Iowans in 2016. That’s double the number from 2005. On Tuesday, health experts, victims and families got together on KCCI’s “State of Addiction” special to make sure that powerful pain medications are used but not abused. The show, which was broadcast from Mercy Medical Center, marks a milestone in a yearlong project of reporting on opioid abuse. Producer Julia Manning said it is about recognizing the struggle, hearing from victims and getting answers from health care experts and law enforcement officials. (KCCI)

Grassley visits med center: forget ‘Trumpcare’
US Senator Charles Grassley couldn’t make it for the dedication of a $26 million expansion at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center earlier, but took advantage of Congress’ Easter break to tour the facility last week and answer questions for about 50 health care workers. The Senator wasn’t surprised to hear concerns about a health care plan – or lack of one. “I would like to tell you I can pass one more bill that will solve all the issues, but that’s not going to happen,” Grassley told the crowd of hospital staff. (Storm Lake Pilot Tribune)

National News

Rural doctors’ training may be in jeopardy
Budget decisions in faraway Washington, DC, may make it more difficult for doctors who want to practice in small towns or underserved cities. Under the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government dispenses grants to community health centers to train medical residents. The goal of the program is to address the shortage of primary care physicians in rural and poor urban areas. But the federal government will stop funding the program at the end of September. (Stateline)

Ideas and a sense of urgency permeate Georgia rural health care symposium
For many rural hospitals in Georgia, the threat of closure is constant. The state has one of the highest closure rates for hospitals in the nation, and those numbers do not show any sign of slowing. Policymakers, medical professionals and those interested in rural health care converged at a symposium at the University of Georgia School of Law last week to discuss the unique challenges of rural medicine. Legislators are also passing new laws aimed at helping struggling hospitals. (Georgia Health News)

Lack of access to mental health services concerns health execs in New Hampshire
Executives from six of New Hampshire’s largest health care systems wrote to Governor Chris Sununu recently to express their “deep concerns” about access to mental health services in the state and the backlog of patients in emergency rooms awaiting admission to the state’s psychiatric hospital. The state recently added 10 beds to the state hospital, but that has had minimal effect on easing the backlog of individuals waiting in hospital emergency rooms, which at times has exceeded 50 patients statewide. (New Hampshire Union Leader)

Hospitals could lose $250B from MACRA, study finds
A new study in Health Affairs found that Medicare hospital reimbursement could decrease $250 billion – or could even increase by $32 billion depending on the model – over a 15-year period under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). The researchers projected Medicare payment policy from 2015 to 2030 under four scenarios and found hospitals could take a financial hit as physicians get used to the different value-based payment model. (Healthcare Dive)

Republicans finalize new Obamacare repeal proposal
The White House, top House conservatives and a key moderate Republican have finalized a new Obamacare repeal and replace plan they hope will break a month-long logjam on a key priority for President Donald Trump. But it is far from clear that the fragile agreement will provide Speaker Paul Ryan the 216 votes needed for the House to pass the stalled legislation. Optimism is growing among Republican officials on the Hill and in the White House. (Politico)

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)