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

Iowa News

A single insurer holds Obamacare fate in two states
Iowa and South Dakota are the two states where the ACA insurance marketplaces struggled the most. In both, just 11.1 percent of residents eligible for subsidized insurance signed up for it – the lowest rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. What happened in Iowa and South Dakota? The answer lies in commerce, not politics. The individual insurance market in both states is dominated by one insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The company chose not to sell on the ACA exchanges in the first year, locking its consumers out from buying subsidized plans from the company. And it is staying out of the Iowa and South Dakota exchanges for Year 2. (Kaiser Health News)

Iowa hospitals’ ACOs earn $5.6 million Medicare rewards
Two Iowa hospitals have started seeing federal rewards for their efforts to keep patients healthy instead of just treating them when they’re sick. Medicare has agreed to pay Mercy $4.4 million for the performance of its Accountable Care Organization, the hospital announced this week. Medicare also awarded $1.2 million to Trinity Regional Medical Center in Fort Dodge for its ACO, which was the first of its kind in Iowa, a spokeswoman said. (Des Moines Register)

Waterloo’s Blue Zones certification puts focus on project sustainability
Wow, what a success! That’s been the overwhelming reaction Sue Beach has received from individuals, business leaders and others to the news Waterloo has received certification as a Blue Zones community. “Certification has a tremendous impact on our community and speaks loudly to the accomplishments and collaborative efforts of an entire community…It shows we’re all thinking about well-being, and we need those helpful reminders and tips that the Blue Zones Project has offered,” says Beach, Waterloo Blue Zones Project manager. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Cancer group to conquer Machu Picchu
Above + Beyond Cancer, a nonprofit organization, aims to bring cancer survivors to places like Mount Everest Base Camp and the top of Mount Kilimanjaro for a physical, mental and spiritual journey. They also support each other in simpler accomplishments, like taking a walk around Gray’s Lake, which can be a challenge in itself. “It is celebrating the courage the cancer survivors have gained through their journey,” said Dr. Richard Deming, medical director at Mercy Cancer Center and founder of the group. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa’s Top Workplaces: Growing contest finds cream of crop
Our contest gets bigger and more competitive every year. In 2011, 117 employers were surveyed. This year, our fourth, 195 employers participated. From there, the top 100 workplaces emerged. (This year, we’ve recognized an additional 22 employers that didn’t make the top 100 but whose scores finished above the national average.) How did these make the cut? A group of editors or consultants didn’t meet in secret and choose arbitrarily. These rankings are based on employees’ evaluations. (Des Moines Register)

National News

More companies embrace exchanges to curb health care costs
Workers from Montana’s Rib & Chop House restaurants in Hermitage and Meadville will go to a website to shop for health insurance plans next month, but they won’t be using online exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act. They’ll be on a private exchange run by Pittsburgh health insurer Highmark Inc., where they’ll have a fixed amount of money contributed by Montana’s that they can choose how to spend, said Megan Pratt, who manages human resources for the restaurant company. (InsuranceNewsNet/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

When a hospital closes
People in this one-stoplight farming town really want their hospital back. The July 1 closure of Vidant Pungo Hospital, which gained national attention through Mayor Adam O’Neal’s 273-mile protest walk to Washington, D.C., is a constant refrain here. People gossip about it over dinner at the Fish Hooks Cafe, or during the Tuesday night bluegrass and gospel music open mic night, held just down the street from the vacant hospital. (Kaiser Health News)

Too many people die in hospital instead of home; here’s why
“New York City continues to lag in serious ways with regards to providing patients with the environment that they want at the end of life,” says Dr. David Goodman, who studies end-of-life care at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine. The reasons they do this are many, but most experts agree that it has less to do with the unique characteristics and desires of people in New York and New Jersey than the health care system and culture that has evolved here. (Kaiser Health News)

Pilot shows promise with super-utilizers
The Centerstone Research Institute, a Nashville-based not-for-profit focused on improving healthcare for those with mental health and addiction disorders, is partnering with mHealth vendor Ginger.io and Verizon to launch coactionHealth. The program is designed to help individuals with complex behavioral health disorders who generally rack up more than $25,000 a year in Medicaid expenses. (Healthcare Finance News)

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

Iowa News

State warns about misleading insurance ads
Iowans looking at annuities and other insurance products should be wary of potentially deceptive advertisements, a state agency said this week. The Iowa Insurance Division has seen more marketing companies that work with insurance firms use misleading ads to try to attract customers, the division said in a bulletin. Those ads, the division said, give a false sense of the payout consumers could receive from products such as annuities, which provide a steady stream of income after an initial investment period. (Des Moines Register)

Concerns growing over future of EMS service in rural Iowa
In the state of Iowa, police and fire services are considered essential – no matter where you live. EMS services are not. In theory, that means if you call 911, a paramedic is not guaranteed to show up. It’s not a state law. Of course, they do but in many parts of rural Iowa, they say they’re worried about the future of EMS services. A forum in Floyd County Thursday about rural ambulance service showed concerns about fewer volunteers, increased costs, and longer ambulance runs. (KWWL)

New coating, researched in Iowa, could make hospitals safer
A research team at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is preparing to present a new coating that could make hospitals safer for patients and doctors. The coating has small silver particles that actively kill bacteria and fungi on hospital surfaces. The researchers say it works like spray pain and would stay on surfaces months after being applied. (KGAN)

Mercy Iowa City wins Blue Zones challenge
An Iowa City hospital is number one when it comes to keeping people healthy and it’s all about the timing. The Blue Zones Project will be presenting a trophy to Mercy Hospital in Iowa City Thursday for being the first ever winners of the Time to Move Walking Challenge. Iowa City organizations told their staff to clock the number of minutes they walked every day for two weeks. In the end, Mercy came out on top, walking, a combined more than 12,000 miles. (KGAN)

The consequences of CPR
Three years ago, Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City made Five Wishes available for patients and their families. The document, which acts as a legal living will for anyone over the age of 18, is changing the way people talk about and plan for end-of-life care. More than 18 million copies of Five Wishes are in circulation across the nation, distributed by more than 35,000 organizations. Five Wishes meets legal requirements in 42 states including Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

Administration: 7.3M now enrolled in Obamacare
A total of 7.3 million people were paid enrollees in ObamaCare by the end of the summer, the head of the federal health care program said Thursday. Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), provided the latest enrollment figures during a hearing of the House Oversight Committee. The figure represents a drop-off of about 700,000 people from the Obama administration’s initial enrollment estimate this spring. (The Hill)

How much money do we waste on useless health care?
“States where the incidence of diabetes is high,” Louise Sheiner argues in her paper, “are likely to be in worse health, on average, than in states where the incidence of diabetes is low.” Armed with this data, Sheiner argues that the Dartmouth Atlas has made the task of cutting health-care spending seem too easy. She says it explains why, even 16 years after the Atlas launched, the high-spending states haven’t become more like the low-spending states. “Cross state variation isn’t telling us much,” Sheiner says. “I don’t say we can’t cut spending, but I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as Dartmouth has suggested.” (Vox)

CDC: Hospitals, others increase worker flu vaccinations
An estimated 90 percent of hospital workers report receiving a flu vaccine for the 2013-14 flu season, up from 83 percent in 2012-13, according to a survey released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coverage for health care workers in all settings was 75 percent, up from 72 percent in 2012-13. Coverage was 98 percent among workers in hospitals requiring vaccination, compared with 80 percent in those that promoted but did not require vaccination. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

U.S. aims to curb peril of antibiotic resistance
The Obama administration on Thursday announced measures to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, outlining a national strategy that includes incentives for the development of new drugs, tighter stewardship of existing ones, and improvements in tracking the use of antibiotics and the microbes that are resistant to them. (New York Times)

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

Iowa News

Knoxville hospital to hold groundbreaking
Construction is expected to begin at Knoxville Hospital & Clinics this October, with major work on the new clinic and physical therapy buildings. In addition, renovations to the inpatient rooms, emergency and surgical departments will also begin. Construction work is expected to be completed within 18 months. (Knoxville Journal Express)

Suicide Prevention Week begins in Iowa
It’s the second leading cause of death for Iowans ages 15-44 years old. But it’s something that some believe isn’t talked about enough. “It’s real, it hurts, it never goes away,” explains Wendy Balles. She knows all too well how painful the aftermath of suicide can be, her brother took his own life ten years ago. Since then, Balles has made it her mission to start the conversation about suicide; a conversation she doesn’t believe happens enough. (KIMT)

National News

Narrow health networks: Maybe they’re not so bad
Lots of people shopping in the new health care marketplaces this year picked health plans that limited their choice of doctors and hospitals. The plans were popular because they tended to cost less than more conventional plans that covered nearly every health care provider in a region. The proliferation of these more limited plans, called narrow networks, has worried consumer advocates and insurance regulators. The concern is that people will struggle to find the care they need if their choices are limited. (New York Times)

Hospital sets patient record as virus spreads
Medical officials admitted a record number of children to a local hospital over the weekend because of what they believe to be a rare respiratory virus spreading throughout the country. Although there’s been no confirmed cases of the enterovirus at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, officials admitted 540 patients Friday, said Dr. Derek Wheeler, associate chief of staff at the hospital. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Apple strides into health care
Apple is out with its latest, much-anticipated products, and taking a step into healthcare with a new iPhone-enabled watch. Will this be a big step forward for digital health, or just a grab of the high-end quantified-self market? Those questions are bound to linger among the digital health community, as the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch make their way to consumers. Already, Apple’s new watch and iPhone features may have some existing mobile health care companies worried. (HealthcareITNews)

HHS issues detailed Ebola preparedness checklist for hospitals
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today released a detailed checklist to help hospitals manage patients with Ebola Virus Disease. The first of a suite of HHS checklists in development, it highlights key areas for hospital staff to review in preparation for a person with EVD arriving for medical care, and provides suggestions to help detect possible cases, protect employees and respond appropriately. (Department of Health and Human Services)

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

Iowa News

Health officials monitor respiratory virus in Iowa
Enterovirus EV-D68 begins like a cold with symptoms such as coughing and wheezing, according to the state Department of Public Health. It appears to spread though close contact with infected people. “This is a really common virus,” said Dr. Ann Garvey, a deputy state epidemiologist. “We see this virus circulate every year about this time. What’s a little different this year and is causing more attention is that we’re seeing it circulate in higher levels than we usually see.” (Associated Press/Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Opponents warm up to Medicaid expansion
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett recently reached a deal with the Obama administration to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the controversial law to provide health insurance to about 500,000 low-income people. Corbett was among the many Republican state leaders who initially rejected Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion. Now time has passed and reality has set in. Their states are losing out on billions of federal dollars. Their poor residents have no health care coverage. Hospitals and doctors are not reimbursed for treating the uninsured. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy’s hereditary clinic focuses on male breast health
When you think of breast cancer, you might think of your mom, sister, aunt or a girlfriend. But what about the men in your life? The Hereditary Cancer Prevention Clinic at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City is not your average clinic. While breast cancer is most common in women, the folks at the clinic understand that men are not immune. But, if any given man, ends up being that one in one thousand, the end result can be devastating. (KCAU)

National News

Study: Rise in ER visits after Medicaid expansion
Many people newly insured by Medicaid under the federal health care law are seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms, one of the most expensive medical settings, a study released Monday concludes. The analysis provides a real-time glimpse at how the nation’s newest social program is working. It also found indications that newly insured Medicaid patients admitted to hospitals may be sicker than patients previously covered under the same program, which serves more than 60 million low-income and disabled people. (USA Today)

Medicaid expansion creates stark contrasts among hospitals
A new study examined recent earnings data from the nation’s five largest for-profit hospital companies that have a combined 538 hospitals in expansion and non-expansion states and found a stark contrast. Hospitals in the 24 states that have rejected expansion continued to see flat or sagging admissions and little if any reduction in the numbers of uninsured and non-paying patients. (HealthLeaders Media)

Health chief seeks to focus on insurance site
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said Monday in her first major speech that she wanted to move beyond the politics of health care and work with members of both parties to improve the management and operation of HealthCare.gov, the website used by millions of people to sign up for insurance coverage. (New York Times)

Harvard School of Public Health gets $350m donation
Harvard University is receiving the biggest gift in its history — $350 million to the School of Public Health to help fight global health threats, university officials plan to announce Monday. The donation comes from the Morningside Foundation, the family charity of Hong Kong billionaire Gerald Chan. It will substantially bolster the endowment of one of the university’s lesser-funded schools. (Boston Globe)

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

Iowa News

Report: Hospitals in Medicaid-expansion states performing well
Hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid are seeing higher revenues and a reduction in uninsured patients, according to a new report by PwC’s Health Research Institute. The report analyzed financial data from the country’s five largest for-profit health systems, which represent 538 hospitals in 35 states. “There were lots of debates in (Washington) D.C. around these issues,” said Gary Jacobs, a managing director at PWC. “There were lots of promises and good intentions. But the jury was still out on how it would shape up.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Dr. Michael Kitchell: Results of ‘Obamacare’
Though politicians continue vigorously criticizing each other in ever-present television ads, there has been little news regarding the Affordable Care Act or the Republican alternatives for covering the uninsured. Opinions on the ACA remain quite divided, and the public may be taking for granted now how each politician feels about it. The results of a nationwide survey on changes in health insurance coverage were published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, and they reported some of the effects of the Affordable Care Act so far. (Ames Tribune)

Ida Grove hospital looks to the future, begins master facility planning
Horn Memorial Hospital has started a master facility plan. The process started in June when the hospital’s leadership team met with the Des Moines based architecture group Shive Hattery to discuss what is working well in various departments currently as well as shortcomings that may be inhibiting workflow and processes. The overall purpose of these meetings has been to identify future needs of each department and set prioritization of those needs so that when work does begin, there is a detailed plan. (Mapleton Press)

Hospitals’ health care conference attracts high school students
High school students interested in health care professions attended a special conference in Clarinda Friday. Iowa Western Community College’s Clarinda campus was the site of the 3rd annual Southwest Iowa Healthcare Related Career Conference. About 160 students from 10 area high schools participated in the conference, sponsored by four area hospitals–Shenandoah Medical Center, Montgomery County Memorial Hospital, Clarinda Regional Health Center and Grape Community Hospital. (KMA)

Church expands ministry to focus on mental health
Jacque Coulson, Ankeny Methodist’s director of care and connection, isn’t a mental health counselor and felt overwhelmed. She teamed up with other members of the flock to find a way to bring mental health into the church’s ministry. The group reached out to other churches through the Ankeny Ministerial Association and they quickly learned that the need for good mental health programming was acute at all churches in the booming north Polk County city of 50,000. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa City considers restrictions on e-cigarettes
Electronic cigarette users may find fewer places to smoke in Iowa City.  The Iowa City Council this week discussed the possibility of banning e-cigarette use on city-owned property, with the possibility of broadening that to a larger portion of the city. “We’re going to look at it over city property, but then we’re going to try to look at what we can do in private places as well,” Councilor Kingsley Botchway II said. “The council wanted to wait to do that.” (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

UIHC Aircare celebrates 35 years
In an emergency, sometimes an ambulance isn’t quick enough to save a life. That’s when a medical chopper can make all the difference. That’s also why the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics have two. On Sunday, the UIHC’s Aircare Program celebrated its 35th anniversary. Program directors say the equipment in their helicopters has advanced so much over the decades, that now it’s like flying an intensive care unit. (KGAN)

National News

Rural enrollment presents continuing health law challenges
Americans living in rural areas will be a key target as states and nonprofit groups strategize how to enroll more people in health law insurance plans this fall. Though millions of people signed up for private insurance or Medicaid in the first year of the Affordable Care Act, millions of others did not. Many live in rural areas where people “face more barriers,” said Laurie Martin, a RAND Corp. senior policy researcher. Brock Slabach, a senior vice president at the National Rural Health Association, said “the feds are particularly concerned about this.” (Kaiser Health News)

OK hospital officials frustrated with financial losses since state did not expand Medicaid
Tulsa hospital executives are frustrated at losing out on reimbursements because of what they say are purely political decisions. Hospitals in Oklahoma are projected to lose more than $4 billion in reimbursements between 2013-22 because the state chose not to expand Medicaid, according to a recent report by the Urban Institute. (Tulsa World)

Companies race to adjust health-care benefits as ACA takes hold
Large businesses expect to pay between 4 and 5 percent more for health-care benefits for their employees in 2015 after making adjustments to their plans, according to employer surveys conducted this summer. Few employers plan to stop providing benefits with the advent of federal health insurance mandates, as some once feared, but a third say they are considering cutting or reducing subsidies for employee family members, and the data suggest that employees are paying more each year in out-of-pocket health care expenses. (Washington Post)

Children’s hospitals in 10 states report spike in respiratory illnesses
Health officials suspect that a rare respiratory virus is the reason that hundreds of children across America have been sickened in recent weeks, according to a published report. The Denver Post reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that human enterovirus 68 is at the root of the epidemic, though testing of samples has not produced a definitive answer. (Fox News)

U.S. military to help fight Ebola epidemic in Africa
President Obama said Sunday that the U.S. military will begin aiding what has been a chaotic and ineffective response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, arguing that it represents a serious national security concern. The move significantly ramps up the U.S. response and comes as the already strained military is likely to be called upon further to address militant threats in the Middle East. (Washington Post)

Behind the CVS health rebranding
The rebranding of one of the nation’s largest pharmacy retailers last week is sending “new entrant” ripples through the health care industry. A pair of health care industry branding experts gives CVS high marks for the company’s rebranding vision and execution. “Great strategy is when it benefits you, and it benefits others as well,” says Jeff Hoffman, senior partner and national director for strategy services at New York-based Kurt Salmon Associates. “It’s a win for them and a win for the people who need the access.” (HealthLeaders Media)