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

Iowa News

Iowa Senate votes to repeal Branstad’s Medicaid plan
The Iowa Senate voted closely along party lines Thursday to repeal Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s plan to have private companies manage Iowa’s Medicaid program, which serves 560,000 low-income and disabled people at an annual cost of about $4.2 billion. SF 2125, known as the “Health Care Protection Act,” was approved on a 29-19 vote. (Des Moines Register)

Transition to privatization of Medicaid in Iowa should stop
Governor Terry Branstad claims privatizing Medicaid will save money and will not deny Iowans essential health care. He is wrong on both counts. What it will do is take several hundred million dollars each year out of Iowa’s Medicaid budget and give it to out-of-state corporations in the form of guaranteed administrative fees and profits. (Sioux City Journal)

Simpson College professor seeks medical breakthrough
For as many concussions that have been detected among student-athletes, many more go undiagnosed. One professor at Simpson College is hoping to be part of a medical breakthrough when it comes to detecting concussions. Mike Hadden, an athletic trainer and professor of sports science at Simpson, wants to start clinical trials on an instant concussion test. (KCCI)

Nursing graduates win lawsuit against Iowa Wesleyan
A judge has ordered Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant to pay $525,000 to seven 2013 nursing graduates after a jury ruled in favor of the graduates in a lawsuit related to the school’s loss of accreditation. The graduates claimed the university’s nursing program lost accreditation March 29, 2013, and officials knew several months earlier accreditation was at risk. The school did not tell nursing students about the change until after they had already graduated, the lawsuit states. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

UI Health Care announces leadership structure change
University of Iowa (UI) Health Care will change its leadership structure on February 15, 2016. The new leadership structure will combine two existing positions, those of University of Iowa vice president for medical affairs and dean of the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, into a single position. The new leadership structure is anticipated to enable greater faculty participation in organizational direction-setting, while also enhancing efficiency. (Iowa Now)

Dying behind bars
Kim Jeraco, staff facilitator, Jeraco oversees the Iowa Medical and Classification Center Hospice Program, which was launched in 2002. It is funded entirely through donations and fundraisers. The goal is simple, she says, “dying with respect, honoring their wishes, as much as we are able to within a prison setting,” (WHO)

National News

The rural hospital closure crisis: 15 key findings and trends
Many rural hospitals across the nation are faced with financial challenges, causing some to close for good. This article outlines 15 things to know about rural hospital closures. Specifically, facilities in states that have not expanded Medicaid are under more financial pressure. For example, the Kansas Health Foundation and the Kansas Hospital Association teamed up to urge Kansas Governor Sam Brownback to expand Medicaid to prevent additional closures. (Hospital CFO)

Ruling gives hospitals hope on RAC appeals backlog
Hospitals persuaded a federal appeals court to give new life to their legal fight to force the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to work more quickly through a backlog of disputed findings by Medicare’s controversial Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs). The American Hospital Association and several hospitals argued in a lawsuit against the Obama administration that the appeals process for claims identified by RACs as improper, too slow and leaves Medicare payments in limbo, in some cases for years. (Modern Healthcare)

Health care battle brewing between governors in Kentucky
Kentucky’s two most recent governors went to war over the state’s health care system Thursday. Former Kentucky Democratic Governor Steve Beshear formed a tax-exempt organization that will pay for an online campaign he said will “educate voters” about Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s plans to make fewer people eligible for Medicaid and to dismantle a state program where some can purchase private insurance plans at a discount. (Associated Press/Yahoo News)

Idaho panel backs Medicaid expansion alternative
Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s proposed alternative to Medicaid expansion passed its first hurdle in the Idaho Legislature Thursday. The $30 million plan — dubbed the Idaho Primary Care Access Program — would provide basic health care services to the estimated 78,000 Idahoans who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but also don’t qualify for health insurance subsidies. (Associated Press/Idaho Statesman)

The imperative for consumer engagement in transforming health care
On January 15, Community Catalyst, a national consumer health advocacy organization, launched its Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C. The center is designed to advance the role of consumers in health system transformation—that is, changes in the health system that are reshaping the delivery of health care for all Americans. (Health Affairs)

Getting more value from electronic health records
Many benefits from electronic health records (EHRs) include analyzing relationships between conditions, improving patient procedures, reducing rates of infection and antibiotic use, tracking vital signs and reducing supply chain costs. Extending the value of EHRs requires a culture that understands that what can be measured can be improved and that improvement depends upon data that is both real and trustworthy. Creating that culture starts at the top: the CEO and the Board of Trustees. (Healthcare IT News)

Cancer Moonshoot misses the target
Hospitals don’t have much to gain from the moonshot, at least in the short run. The Cancer Moonshot might do a lot more to improve the prospects for cancer patients by looking beyond cures and paying attention to problems with cancer care delivery, costs, access and prevention. With hospitals’ fortunes now tied to outcomes and population health, they should be looking for breakthroughs in those areas, not toward another marginally effective $100,000 drug. (HealthLeaders Media)

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

Iowa News

Iowa Senate to debate Medicaid managed care contracts today
Today, the Iowa Senate is set to debate a bill which would end Iowa’s Medicaid managed care contracts. Yesterday, Governor Branstad’s office released a news release saying, “Iowa’s Medicaid Modernization plan will improve quality and access for Medicaid patients.” While the bill may pass in the Democratic-led Senate, it likely won’t get any traction in the Republican-led House. (KWWL)

Bill would expand autism insurance mandate in Iowa
Coverage of autism services would be required in insurance plans offered by some large businesses under legislation that advanced Wednesday in the Iowa Senate. The legislation would add required behavioral analysis coverage for autistic Iowans who are not already covered by Medicaid or the state employees’ health care plan, which covers autism services. (Quad City Times)

Iowa sees big drop in uninsured children
The number of uninsured Iowa children fell by one-third in just a year. From 2013 to 2014, the state saw the number of uninsured children drop from more than 38,000 to fewer than 25,000, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says in a report being released Thursday morning. The decline was mainly due to more children joining public insurance plans, mainly Medicaid or Hawk-I. (Des Moines Register)

UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital to receive birthing simulator for staff education
UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital’s Family Birthing Suites will receive a Noelle Maternal and Neonatal Birthing Simulator — a gift for staff education. Families of two different long-time Finley Hospital nurses will present the mom and baby simulator in memory of their family members. (KWWL)

Cracks start to show in Iowa’s economy
A record number of Iowans are working, state revenue is growing and plummeting gas prices are putting more money in consumers’ pockets — and yet, cracks are beginning to show in Iowa’s economy. Coupled with a shaky stock market and a decelerating global economy, some economists caution that Iowa’s slowing growth could turn into a full-blown downturn in the months ahead. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Forward-looking boards of directors critical to rural hospitals’ health
Boards that aren’t able to look five or 10 years down the road ultimately put their hospitals at risk, Tim Putnam, CEO of Margaret Mary Health in Batesville, Indiana, said in a video interview during the American Hospital Association’s Rural Healthcare Leadership Summit. With the typical rural hospital CEO only staying in place for about three years, it’s important that boards provide continuity through forward-looking leadership, he said. (Fierce Healthcare)

Panel approves $15.8 million for Wisconsin mental health institutes
The Legislature’s budget committee overwhelmingly approved state health officials’ request Wednesday to pump millions of dollars more into upgrades at Wisconsin’s mental health institutions. The Department of Health Services asked the Joint Finance Committee for authorization to spend an additional $15.8 million beyond the state budget on improvements and additions to five mental health institutes. (Associated Press/Baltimore Sun)

Virginia hospital group yanks ads predicting dire results from GOP regulatory bill
The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association Wednesday yanked a $200,000 TV and radio campaign that made dire warnings about a GOP-sponsored regulatory bill and drew the ire of House Republicans. The commercials, in the style of political attack ads, aimed to get ordinary Virginians stirred up about seemingly arcane laws governing hospital expansions. Some say the association is overreacting, but spokesman Julian Walker said the ad fairly portrays the risk to hospitals. (Washington Post)

St. Louis hospital creates unit to improve outcomes through innovation
Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis has created a 21-bed neurological unit to examine whether new ways of providing care can improve outcomes. The team is testing ideas from other units, such as getting critically ill patients up and moving around sooner. Part of the neuro unit’s focus will be to start earlier in the process to educate patients about what to expect during treatment, thus leading to a better outcome. Lessons learned in the new unit will be applied across the hospital system. (Fierce Healthcare)

Study finds dementia rates falling steadily
A long-running study has found that dementia rates fell steadily over the past four decades, most likely due to declining rates of heart disease. “It’s very good news,” said Dallas Anderson, an epidemiologist with the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study. “We’re seeing one generation after another where the risk is going down.” (USA Today)

When the Hospital Serves McDonald’s
There have been a handful of success stories in recent years as hospitals are creating healthier options. The science linking a poor diet to illnesses like heart disease and cancer is robust. But many hospitals continue to serve foods that promote disease. Hospitals have to remain fiscally solvent, and many times this means packaged and processed foods are favored over fresh produce. Hospitals have incentives to keep patients well and to promote public health as well as the health of their employees. (Atlantic)


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

Iowa News

Bill blocking Iowa Medicaid switch advances
One Republican state senator broke ranks during a committee meeting Monday, joining Senate Democrats who approved a bill to kill the state’s Medicaid transition. Senator David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan) joined eight Democrats, including Senate President Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque) in backing the bill that would terminate the transition to Medicaid managed care. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Uncertainty over Medicaid changes pervasive at Cedar Rapids forum
One word could summarize Tuesday’s Medicaid forum hosted by former Governor Chet Culver: Confusion. The more than 50 Medicaid recipients and caregivers who attended the afternoon meeting at the Cedar Rapids Public Library asked questions such as, How do you choose a managed-care organization? How do you figure out if your doctor is covered? And when is the deadline to choose? Several individuals told the former governor, “I have no clue what is going on.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

For UnityPoint system’s new CEO, Waterloo stop is kind of homecoming
It was homecoming for Kevin Vermeer on Friday at UnityPoint-Allen Hospital. Vermeer left a position as the hospital’s chief financial officer in 2003 and returned Friday as newly installed chief executive officer of the three-state UnityPoint Health system. “He’s the kind of leader with the kind of commitment that makes physicians want to practice and leaders want to lead,” said Pam Delagardelle, UnityPoint-Allen CEO, who introduced Vermeer to many of the hospital’s approximately 2,800 employees at an informal reception. (Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier)

Dubuque volunteers remodel a room fit for princess
Camdyn Reisner, nine, received a Special Spaces room makeover today, as a team of about 25 volunteers transformed the Dubuque girl’s room from an ordinary room into a princess room. Camdyn stopped breathing when she was 21 days old. Her breathing problems have led to developmental delays, numerous surgeries, hospitalizations and batteries of tests. She currently requires intensive physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

National News

Medicaid: Feds approve test drive of new way in Alabama to pay for it
Alabama has received permission from the federal government to test drive a different plan to provide health care through Medicaid to the one million mostly poor Alabamians who depend on it. The waiver will allow the state to transition from a fee-for-service model to one closer to managed care through entities called regional care organizations (RCOs). RCOs are locally-led managed care systems that will ultimately provide healthcare services to most Medicaid enrollees at an established cost under the supervision and approval of the Alabama Medicaid Agency. (

Transparency, savvy patients, competition key in tackling health care prices
Zack Cooper, a Yale health policy and economics professor, spoke Tuesday to Connecticut’s Health Care Cabinet, a group of state agency leaders, representatives from provider groups and others that has been charged with finding ways to address health care costs, increase market competition and improve care quality. Cooper suggested improving Connecticut’s health care landscape could involve more price transparency and making patients more comfortable with the idea of traveling farther for medical services. (CT Mirror)

Florida bill seeks to boost hospitals in rural areas
A Senate committee Tuesday approved a bill that could help boost efforts to build new or replacement hospitals in rural counties by expanding an exemption to the state’s certificate of need (CON) regulatory process for hospital construction or expansion projects. The bill would change the criteria to apply to counties with populations of fewer than 100 people per square mile, which Senator Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring) said would apply to 19 additional hospitals. (Health News Florida)

House passes bill focused on mental health of female veterans
Under a House bill passed Tuesday, the Department of Veterans Affairs would have to look closely at whether its mental health and suicide prevention programs meet the needs of the growing number of female veterans. A study released over the summer found that women who have served in the military commit suicide at nearly six times the rate of those in the civilian population. (Los Angeles Times)

7.2 million fewer U.S. residents uninsured in first 9 months of 2015
An estimated 28.8 million U.S. residents lacked health insurance when surveyed during the first nine months of 2015, 72 million fewer than in 2014, according to preliminary estimates released today by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. The proportion of residents who were uninsured when interviewed for the National Health Interview Survey fell 2.4 percentage points over the period, to 9.1 percent from 11.5 percent in 2014. (CDC)

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

Iowa News

The folly of privatized Medicaid
Regarding Governor Terry Branstad’s unilateral decision to turn over management of Iowa’s Medicaid to contractors, the real cost of this is the management fee: 12.5 percent maximum of the annual budget, or about a half a billion dollars. This means that in a program that currently costs $4.2 billion, Governor Branstad is essentially cutting the budget by a half a billion bucks. If managed care is that much more efficient, let the Department of Human Services do it, add employees and get it done. If it can’t be done within a $450 million budget, then go the other way. (Quad City Times)

Senate bill puts brakes on Medicaid privatization
Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to stop Governor Terry Branstad’s unilateral decision to privatize Iowa’s Medicaid program. Specifically, the legislation directs the Iowa Department of Human Services to immediately terminate contracts with three private out-of-state managed care companies. The legislation calls on Iowa to continue improving patient outcomes, increasing access to care and making the existing public management of Medicaid more efficient. (Des Moines Register)

Culver responds to Branstad criticism on Medicaid privatization
Former Iowa Governor Chet Culver is responding to criticism of current Governor Terry Branstad on Culver’s meetings in eastern Iowa to discuss the privatization of the Medicaid program. On Monday, Branstad accused Culver and Senate Democrats of politicizing the issue. Culver says he wants to help people who have questions about the issue. “This is not about partisan political shots. It’s about an honest debate on an important public policy matter that is impacting more than a half million Iowans,” said Culver. (Radio Iowa)

Brandstad: Culver trying to ‘torpedo’ Medicaid privatization
Governor Terry Branstad says he views a push by Iowa Senate Democrats to repeal his Medicaid privatization program as a “partisan, political” effort and he’s disappointed that former Democratic Governor Chet Culver also has become involved in the health care debate. Culver has scheduled town hall meetings Coralville and Cedar Rapids to hear from some of the people affected by the shift to private management of Medicaid. (Des Moines Register)

Senator Joni Ernst visits Virginia Gay Hospital
U.S. Senator Joni Ernst visited Virginia Gay Hospital Friday to gain better understanding of challenges facing rural hospitals. Senator Ernst was interested in receiving an update on Virginia Gay’s effort to create a national demonstration project to integrate mental health into primary care. Senator Ernst also addressed a question about Iowa’s plan to privatize Medicaid by saying, “I’ve heard many concerns from constituents, health care providers and many of the agencies providing ancillary services like transportation.” (Vinton Today)

National News

Hospitals launch ad campaign ahead of vote
The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association has launched a new statewide ad campaign aimed at defeating legislation it says would put smaller, rural hospitals out of business. Some Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation that would curtail much of the certificate of public need program, saying the current system is uncompetitive and results in higher health care prices. Hospitals argue they don’t operate in a free-market system and need certificate of public need laws to remain economically viable. (Associated Press/Washington Post)

Florida hospital pilots ER program to help kids with Autism
An Orlando children’s hospital is piloting a new program to reduce stress for children with Autism when they visit the emergency room (ER). Nemours Children’s Hospital officials say emergency rooms tend to be overstimulating and can exacerbate symptoms for children with autism or other behavioral conditions. The program offers family a separate, quiet waiting room or playroom or headphones or sensory brushes to help distract children from overwhelming sights and sounds. (Associated Press/

Evidence-based practice underutilized, hospitals fall short on performance
More than one-third of hospitals aren’t meeting National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators performance metrics, a new Ohio State University study finds. It showed that evidence-based practice – a care-delivery approach that integrates problem solving, best practices, clinician expertise and patient preferences – is a low priority across the U.S. Although multiple studies show evidence-based practice results in high-quality care, improved patient outcomes and lower costs, implementation is relatively low. (Healthcare IT News)

How millennials could change health care
With a presidential election fast approaching, health care is an issue that’s getting plenty of traction on both sides of the political aisle. Amid all the debate, however, one group could prove to be the wild card. As more millennials interact with the healthcare system, the industry will find itself facing a more sophisticated and demanding group that won’t stand for its inefficiencies with the same begrudging acceptance of previous generations, said Kathy Hempstead, director of insurance coverage for the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. (USA Today)

Tackling the social determinants of health
Urban public health departments are launching new initiatives to address the social determinants of ill health, which are now seen as a contributing factor to the social unrest of recent years. Experts say such efforts represent an evolution of the core mission of public health departments. Interventions aimed at addressing issues require that public health workers take on new tasks such as coordinating stakeholders from other government agencies, community groups, health systems and businesses. (Modern Healthcare)

White House seeks $1.8 billion for Zika virus response
President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $1.8 billion to help get ready to fight the Zika virus, which is spreading across the Americas fast and which doctors fear may cause severe birth defects. The money would go for mosquito control, training programs and laboratory capacity to test for the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among U.S. travelers from December 2015 – February 5, 2016. (NBC News)

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

Iowa News

Medicaid transition a hot topic at legislative crackerbarrel
Three of Dubuque County’s state legislators met with constituents today during the year’s first legislative crackerbarrel. Democratic Representatives Abby Finkenauer and Chuck Isenhart, along with Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum, all of Dubuque, attended. About 70 people attended the event. Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s Medicaid managed care transition dominated most of the discussion. About half the room indicated they were there because of the plan. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Wellcare’s acts don’t deserve constituitional protection
Wellcare’s lawyers are now contesting the state’s decision to disqualify the company, and are arguing in court that the governor’s office is not a state agency, and that the First Amendment guarantees it the right to contact state officials during the bidding process, regardless of any rules that say otherwise. This argument fails to recognize the difference between commercial speech, which is regulated and subject to all sorts of government-imposed restrictions, and attempts to engage in political lobbying. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa economic indicators point to contraction
Two elements of the Iowa Department of Revenue’s index on the state economy reached lows not seen since 2009 in December as part of an overall decline that portends a softening of the economy. Although the weakness is stemming largely from Iowa’s agricultural sector and spillovers into manufacturing, the persistent widespread weakness across the index components in December continues to suggest future softness in Iowa’s economy. (Business Record)

Fireworks legalization advances in Iowa Senate
An Iowa Senate committee has approved legalizing fireworks in Iowa, but a condition in the proposal probably will create a patchwork of prohibitions. The Senate State Government Committee approved Senate File 508 by a 10-5 vote to allow the possession, sale, transfer, purchase and use of fireworks. However, by changing an “opt-out” provision to “opt-in,” the proposal essentially would leave legalization up to county boards and city councils. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

How Florida hospital promotes health among a widely diverse population
In an effort to provide quality care beyond its patients, NCH Healthcare System in Naples, Florida is extending its population health efforts to achieve a healthier overall community. Within the population of 350,000 there are many serious health challenges. After an experiment of promoting wellness proved successful in improving health and decreasing costs with its own controlled groups, Allen Weiss, president and CEO of NCH Healthcare System, decided to take this concept county-wide. (HealthLeaders Media)

673 rural hospitals on verge of closing
An iVantage Health Analytics report says 673 rural hospitals, representing more than 33 percent of U.S. rural hospitals located across 42 states, are “vulnerable to closure,” with 210 being the most vulnerable and 463 being at risk. Some of the drivers of these hospital closures, according to iVantage, include loss of market share; lower patient volumes; declines in quality and outcomes and decreases in reimbursements. (Healthcare Dive)

Health care hiring spree spills into 2016
The health care industry, bolstered by the nation’s hospitals and health systems, added 36,800 jobs in January. January figures show that hospitals and outpatient clinics still have an appetite for hiring. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also included new subcategories that showed employment patterns in dentists’ offices, medical and diagnostic labs, home health agencies and residential mental health facilities. (Modern Healthcare)

Smoking bans appear to improve health outcomes
Smoking bans aimed at reducing secondhand smoke exposure appear to have a positive impact on cardiovascular disease rates and outcomes across the globe, according to an updated Cochrane review of 77 observational studies from 21 countries. The review represents the most robust evidence yet that legislative action banning smoking in public places may be improving health outcomes. Most studies in the updated review showed declines in hospital admission rates due to cardiovascular disease following the initiation of smoking bans. (HealthLeaders Media)

Could hospital ERs provide missing data on police shootings?
Joseph Richardson, criminologist and director of the Violence Intervention Research Project at Prince George’s Hospital Trauma Center outside Washington, D.C., views police violence as a public health issue and believes health care providers have a role to play in addressing it. Hospital-reported numbers along with those recorded by police and media outlets could help define the true scope of police shootings. (NPR)