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

Iowa News

6 months in, tri-state residents express frustration with new Medicaid system
During a meeting Thursday night, area families and health care providers expressed frustration and shared their struggles with Iowa’s transition to a privatized Medicaid system. About 50 people attended a listening and help session Thursday night at the Northeast Iowa Community College Town Clock Business Center. The event was hosted by Senator Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque). Attendees were given the opportunity to share their experiences with the new Medicaid structure, as well as meet with representatives of the managed care organizations that have been overseeing the program since April. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

St. Anthony Breaks Ground On New Assisted Living Complex
St. Anthony Regional Hospital (SARH) and Nursing Home announced the development of a new assisted-living facility this week at a ground breaking ceremony in Carroll. The planned 36-unit facility, named Garden View, will complement current St. Anthony Senior Living offerings and will be located on the southeast side of the St. Anthony campus. Ed Smith, St. Anthony President and CEO, says this facility brings many benefits to Carroll. The facility has a number of amenities that future residents will be able to enjoy, such as a chapel, a salon, library and even a pub. St. (KCIM)

St. Luke’s Hospital provides support for mothers facing postpartum depression
1 in 5 mothers will face postpartum depression in their lifetime. A new baby can bring a lot of changes in a mother’s life including emotional. St. Luke’s Hospital offers a support group to help mothers facing anxiety and depression by talking in a casual setting with others who are going through similar experiences. Postpartum is a step above the common “baby blues.” I can cause a mothers to spiral into a deep depression which only progresses without treatment. St. Luke’s Maternal Child Education Coordinator Deb Oldakowski said there’s one thing a mother dealing with this needs to remember. (KCRG)

Volunteers start work on Lullaby Lane
Parents grieving an unexpected miscarriage will soon have a permanent place to memorialize their child. At Elmwood Cemetery, members of this year’s Leadership North Iowa class spent Tuesday morning helping to lay pavers in a path for Lullaby Land. Parents who lost children to miscarriage under 20 weeks will have the option of having their child’s name and date of loss engraved on a paver there to be installed in the pathway. When finished, it will be a space for “people be able to memorialize their child,” said Mercy Medical Center Bereavement Coordinator Andrea Campbell. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Miracle Riders take off from Sioux City for the first time ever to raise money for children
Sioux City witnessed a first this week as Miracle Riders rode out on motorcycles for St. Luke’s Miracle Network. Their thousand-mile journey helps to raise money for babies and their families. “We’re trying to raise $50,000 to buy two new crib units,” says lead Miracle Rider Matt Thompson. The ride will be anything but boring as the motorcyclists have asked patients to give them fun challenges along the way. “We’ve put a call out to all the children in Siouxland and the children at the hospital to think of ideas for us like scavenger hunts for us riders to do, ” said Thompson. (Siouxland Matters)

National News

Medicaid backlog cost Kansas at least $2.3 million and counting
Kansa has spent an additional $2.3 million on staffing to handle thousands of backlogged health insurance applications for people with low incomes or who are severely disabled, according to an audit. The audit looked into ongoing problems with the state’s Medicaid application backlog. Medicaid is the state and federal health insurance program. Kansas has a privatized Medicaid system called KanCare. The audit also discovered that as of mid-August, nearly 35,000 people have renewal applications pending and are waiting to find out if they will continue to receive services. (Wichita Eagle)

Neighborhoods influence health, for better and for worse
Doctors are waking up to a reality: To save lives, it simply isn’t enough to provide the best clinical care. As health care transitions from fee-for-service care to population health management, providers must look beyond the walls of hospitals and into the communities where people live their daily lives. Providers need to collaborate with community leaders and organizations providing social services, making themselves part of the neighborhoods they serve. Many hospitals and clinics are already experimenting with innovative approaches that link the clinic to the neighborhood. (Wall Street Journal)

‘Genius Grant’ winner is a genius at inspiring students
When the phone rang, Rebecca Richards-Kortum thought it was a telemarketer. Instead, it was the MacArthur Foundation calling her at home to tell her she’d just won a grant totaling $625,000, often dubbed the “genius grants.” They’re given out each year to 20 to 30 people who show “exceptional creativity.” In announcing Richards-Kortum as one of this year’s 23 fellows, the MacArthur Foundation noted her commitment to “improving access to quality health care for all the world’s people. Richards-Kortum is not only developing novel solutions but also training and inspiring the next generation of engineers and scientists to address our shared global challenges.” (NPR)

House panel advances six public health bills
The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced a half-dozen public health-related bills Wednesday. The six bills were approved unanimously by the committee on voice votes, and covered a range of topics from mental health first aid to classifying some synthetic drugs. In the Senate, similar bills are working their way through the committee process. “Collectively, these bipartisan bills will improve the health of Americans across a large spectrum of issues,” Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan) said in a statement. The six bills now await action on the House floor. (Morning Consult)

McConnell releases stopgap spending bill, anti-Zika funds
The Senate’s top Republican on Thursday unveiled legislation to prevent a government shutdown next weekend and provide more than $1 billion to battle the Zika virus. It also would provide $500 million to help Louisiana rebuild from last month’s devastating floods. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the stopgap measure was “clean” of controversies. But Democrats immediately blasted the proposal for failing to fund one of their top priorities: money to help Flint, Michigan, repair its lead-tainted water system. (PBS Newshour)

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

Iowa News

Representative Patrick Kennedy, local health advocates discuss mental health concerns
Dr. Alan Whitters knows the mental health care system in Iowa is struggling. “We stabilize our patients and they shouldn’t be discharged, but they have nowhere to go,” said Whitters, medical director of behavioral services at Mercy Medical Center. He was talking with former US Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) who was in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday for a mental health care roundtable. Kennedy led the discussion that included nearly 30 mental health advocates, providers, law enforcement and local officials. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

New overtime rule would cost Iowa government, universities $19 million
Iowa has joined 20 other states in an effort to resist new overtime regulations handed down by President Barack Obama’s Labor Department. The new rules, announced in May, would make about 120,000 more Iowans eligible for overtime protections. Governor Terry Branstad on Tuesday announced that he had joined a coalition of 21 states and governors in filing a federal lawsuit challenging the new rules. In a news release, he said the new threshold would force major employment changes for state and local governments, including layoffs. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Estate provides $2 million for nursing endowment at UnityPoint
Dorothy Schaefer’s will provided $2 million to establish the William and Grace Lewis Scholarship Endowment Fund to support nursing education and certification at UnityPoint Health-Des Moines. A portion of the interest each year will be used for the William and Grace Lewis Scholarship. Schaefer, an Oskaloosa native, graduated from Des Moines Roosevelt High School and from Drake University, in business administration. Jane Wyatt, a former member of the hospital leadership team, was of great assistance to Schaefer and was instrumental in helping with the gift. (Des Moines Business Record)

Genesis speaks out against new out-of-state mental health hospital building
Genesis Health System leaders are speaking out with less than a month until an out-of-state company, Strategic Behavioral Health, tries to get approval for the second time to build a mental health facility in Bettendorf. The message is still the same, but this time Genesis leaders say they have proof they are already meeting the community mental health need. “In-patient beds are not needed in this region when we have 28 in-patient beds, and we’re averaging a daily census of 14. The facts show there is not a need for more beds,” says Dr. Jeffrey Weyeneth of Genesis. (WQAD)

National News

Arkansas panel adopts mental health Medicaid cap
An Arkansas legislative committee Tuesday approved putting a limit on a mental health benefit for Medicaid recipients, despite objections from providers who said it would disrupt patient care and force treatment facilities to close. Under the change, Medicaid reimbursement for group psychotherapy would be limited to one hour a day, instead of an hour and a half a day. The change would also limit the total number of hour-long sessions to 25 per year per person. Currently, the Medicaid program doesn’t limit the number of sessions a patient can receive. (Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

KU researchers aim to improve health of Kansans with disabilities
University of Kansas (KU) researchers plan to use a $1.5 million federal grant to help Kansans with disabilities catch up to their non-disabled peers in several health categories. Jean Hall, director of KU’s Institute for Health and Disability Policy Studies, will lead a team of partners from nonprofit organizations and government agencies to improve physical activity, nutrition and oral health for Kansans with disabilities. Hall said the grant recipients must focus some attention on increasing physical activity, and her team members chose nutrition and oral health as the other areas they wanted to address. (Kansas Health Institute)

Heroin deaths are rising as state-funded treatment falls in Illinois
Once considered a drug largely used by urban populations, heroin use has been rising throughout the country across most demographic groups, most age groups and all income levels, for both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Illinois is a leader when it comes to heroin—and not in a good way. It leads the nation in heroin-related emergency room visits. From 2006 to 2012, heroin was the most common drug, after alcohol, for which people enter publicly funded treatment And yet, Illinois is one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to availability of state-provided treatment. (Chicago Health)

Great job reducing readmissions, hospitals (but it’s about to get harder)
If unnecessary hospital readmissions are the low-hanging fruit in the pursuit of better health care, hospitals should get ready to pluck less and less. Some providers and policy experts are concerned that imposing financial penalties to drive down excess readmissions could move hospitals to take measures that go too far. They argue that it’s often better for patients to be held for observation rather than admitted. “Observation status helps ensure that the most appropriate setting of care is where the patient ultimately receives their care,” said Lorraine Ryan, senior vice president of legal, regulatory and professional affairs at the Greater New York Hospital Association. (Modern Healthcare)

Hospital quality scores unaffected by physician employment status
More and more hospitals are employing physicians, but it isn’t helping them to improve quality scores in mortality rates, readmission rates, lengths of stay or patient satisfaction. That’s the conclusion researchers made when they tracked performance at 803 hospitals employing physicians for up to two years after they switched employment models and compared them to 2,085 hospitals without physician employees. Researchers looked at performance scores at both types of hospitals and determined physician employment status did not affect quality of care. (Healthcare Dive)

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

Iowa News

Grassley: Nearly $1 million to help Iowa Health Care Facilities
A large sum of cash is coming to Iowa Health Care facilities because of new funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to a release Tuesday. Senator Chuck Grassley said that Iowa Health Care will receive $968, 351 to improve Iowa Health Care facilities across the state. “This funding will help these Iowa health care facilities improve and expand services to their communities,” Grassley said. (KCRG)

Half of Iowans give Branstad thumbs up; Daugaard is nation’s most popular governor
If Gov. Terry Branstad runs for another term in 2018 – he hasn’t ruled it out – he would start from a weaker position than when he ran and won an unprecedented sixth term in 2014. In the spring of 2014, a Quinnipiac University Poll found Iowans approved of the job the Republican Branstad was doing by a 55 percent to 35 percent margin. A Morning Consult poll published Tuesday morning shows the governor’s approval rating has sunk to 50 percent with 41 percent of Iowans not approving of the job he’s doing. Nine percent are unsure and the margin of error is 3 percent. (Sioux City Journal)

Strategic Behavioral Health to try again to build mental health facility in the QC
A Tennessee based company will, once again, try to get approval from the state of Iowa to build a 72 in-patient mental health facility in Bettendorf. The hearing in front of the Iowa Health Facilities Council was supposed to happen last July. But one member resigned and another was on medical leave. Representatives from Genesis Health System say they will be at the hearing presenting arguments against the company from building in the Quad Cities. Local hospitals like Genesis and Trinity say they can take care of the mental health needs of the community on their own. (WQAD)

National News

Medicaid expansion enrollment tops 300K in Louisiana
Louisiana leaders say that hundreds of residents newly added to the state’s Medicaid rolls have received potentially life-saving treatment since the health care program was expanded earlier this year. Twenty-four women are getting breast cancer treatment after positive screenings, 160 adults have been diagnosed with diabetes and are receiving treatment and more than 100 patients had polyps removed after they were found during colonoscopies. “People are getting services. We’ve already started saving lives,” Louisiana Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee said during a meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday. (Baton Rouge Advocate)

New technology in Florida hospital allows for connection between family and infants in NICU
A new innovative, video-streaming system above each of the 12 beds in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Medical Center of Trinity in Tampa, captures the baby in real time. Parents are issued a unique ID and password that they can share with others, letting everyone log into a secure online portal and watch the infant on their computers, tablets or smartphones. Kurt Hornung, the hospital’s information technology director, brought NicView to the attention of his superiors in April, after reading an article about other HCA facilities in Oklahoma and Texas that use the technology. (Tampa Bay Times)’

Maryland Health Connection introduces new mobile app
Marylanders can now enroll in Maryland Health Connection health coverage right from their cellphone or tablet. The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange announced a new mobile app on Monday, ahead of open enrollment. Using the free “Enroll MHC” app, officials say consumers can apply, compare prices and ratings of various plans. They can also log in to view their notices and upload documents for verification using the camera on their devices. It will also show users’ eligibility for Medicaid and the Maryland Children’s Health Program. (Washington Post)

Health law expanded coverage for ex-inmates, but gaps remain
Insurance expansion in the early stages of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation boosted coverage for ex-prisoners but still left substantial gaps among a population with high rates of mental illness and chronic diseases such as hepatitis and diabetes, new research shows. The large majority of ex-prisoners are eligible for Medicaid in states that opted to expand it, experts say. But coverage is still far from universal. Nineteen states haven’t expanded Medicaid. Among those that have, prisons and jails are doing a spotty job of enrolling released prisoners. (Kaiser Health News)

Get a new body part and go home the same day: the rise of the ‘bedless hospital’
As treatments get less invasive and recovery times shrink, a new kind of hospital is cropping up — the “bedless hospital.” They have all the capabilities of traditional hospitals: operating rooms, infusion suites and even emergency rooms and helipads. What they don’t have is overnight space. Some observers worry that the development of bedless hospitals is part of a financial shell game hospitals must play to make the dollars match up with the care they offer. What’s driving the development of bedless hospitals, said several hospital executives, are changes in reimbursement, both from the federal government and private insurers. (STAT)

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

Iowa News

Prison wants space at Clarinda facility closed by Branstad
The space used to treat patients at a now-closed state mental health institute in southwest Iowa will soon reopen under new management. The Iowa Department of Corrections is expected to sign a contract this month with a company to lease four wards at the facility once known as the Clarinda Mental Health Institute. The three-year contract, which includes an option to renew, could complicate an ongoing legal challenge to reopen the space as a state-run mental health facility. (Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil)

As opioid epidemic grows, drug makers resist restrictions
Even as drug makers vow they’re combating an opioid epidemic, they’re bankrolling a small army of lobbyists at statehouses across the country to fight limits on the drugs. In Iowa, a greater-than-average number of lobbyists representing prescription drug companies are on the ground in Des Moines — an average of 33 people every year, which is 13th-highest in the country, according to a proportional ranking from the Associated Press. And individuals and groups associated with the opioid industry gave $810,000 to Iowa candidates at the state and federal level from 2006 into 2015. (Des Moines Register)

Volunteer program offers teens experience in hospital setting
Teens wanting to make a difference have a few options when it comes to volunteering, and one program can also set students up for success in the health care field. Instead of relaxing after school, some teens hang out at the hospital. The program offers experience for the young volunteers, starting with the application process. They have to go through an interview process, as well as health screenings. The volunteens say, in addition to making friends, they also gain valuable experience, here, in a hospital setting. (WHO)

National News

Texas budget writers hear concerns over Medicaid therapy cuts
Texas lawmakers last week revisited the fate of a $150 million cut in state funding to Medicaid payments for disabled children’s therapy made in 2015 — though the outcome of that cut remains uncertain as a legal battle over its legitimacy remains before the Texas Supreme Court. Parents said they feared their children would suffer developmental setbacks and asked lawmakers to reverse the cuts. Therapy providers have threatened to close their businesses as a result of a 20 to 25 percent cut to their Medicaid revenue that the cuts are likely to pose, which they say could cause children to be denied services. (Texas Tribune)

Kansas mental health centers face new budget realities
After a series of hits to their budgets, community mental health centers in Kansas are adjusting through cutbacks, changes in services or a combination of the two. Kansas made a 4 percent cut to Medicaid reimbursements as part of a package to balance the budget, reducing payments that mental health centers and other providers receive for their services. Community mental health centers can’t turn away patients who need care because of an inability to pay, but at times they have made patients wait or offered them fewer services if they lacked the staff or funding to treat them. (Kansas Health Institute)

Upheaval in southern Arizona behavioral health system elicits frustration
Mental health advocates say vulnerable patients are bearing the brunt of upheaval in the public behavioral health system since Cenpatico, the for-profit subsidiary of publicly traded insurance giant Centene Corp., became southern Arizona’s regional behavioral health authority (RBHAA) last October. RBHAs contract with the state Medicaid agency and administer Medicaid dollars to contracted behavioral health providers who treat low-income patients. Some patients are in turmoil after the closure of Pasadera Behavioral Health Network, a provider that shut down this month in the face of mounting financial strain. (Arizona Daily Star)

Hospitals, states say proposal to change uncompensated care calculations is illegal
Hospitals and states say a proposed change to the way Medicaid pays hospitals that serve high levels of Medicaid and uninsured patients could be illegal and would destabilize safety net hospitals is finalized. In August, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed defining the cost of uncompensated care by subtracting any payments made by third parties such as Medicare and private insurance. If finalized, the rule will create a disincentive for hospitals to serve vulnerable populations, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said. (Modern Healthcare)

28 percent of adults aged 50 or older get no exercise beyond daily life activities
About 28 percent of U.S. adults aged 50 or older reported getting no physical activity outside of work in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently. Inactivity increased with age, from 25 percent of adults under age 65 to 35 percent of adults age 75 or older. “To help adults with and without chronic disease start or maintain an active lifestyle, communities can implement evidence-based strategies, such as creating or enhancing access to places for physical activity and offering programs that address specific barriers to physical activity,” the authors said. (AHA News)

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

Iowa News

Iowa’s failure to address mental health affects more than jails
Erin Murphy’s recent story (“Iowa sheriffs at the front lines of mental health crisis”) does an excellent job of defining part of the tragic shortcomings of Iowa’s mental health care system. Noting Governor Terry Branstad effectively ordered the closing of two state mental health institutions last year, Murphy reported that Branstad and numerous advocates believe many mental health patients are better-served by community-based care, but the closures did not shift vital resources to the local level. Instead, an estimated one in three people being housed in Iowa jails actually need mental health care. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

‘Visionary’ meeting rural health care challenges in Hancock County
Jeffry Stampohar knows the challenges of rural health care. His goal is to meet them in providing high-quality health care services as Hancock County Health Systems (HCHS) CEO/administrator. Stampohar, 56, began work at HCHS in January. “My goal is about continuing that journey with staff and the hospital board to try to meet the needs of patients into the future,” he said. Probably the greatest challenge in rural Iowa medicine is making sure the hospital has enough medical providers, he said. “I think it’s becoming more and more challenging to find qualified physicians,” he said. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Iowa insurance commissioner talks challenges, opportunities of ACA
There may be a good deal of political controversy still surrounding the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), but Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart told a U.S. Senate committee Thursday that state and federal policy makers need to work together to address the law’s shortcomings and work to ensure that state health insurance markets “remain vibrant.” Gerhart, along with three other state insurance commissioners, spoke about the challenges and successes of the state’s insurance market before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Kansas hospital closing clinics because of cuts, state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion
Stormont Vail Health of Topeka is closing two regional clinics because of financial pressures created by recent cuts in Medicaid reimbursements and the decision by state leaders not to expand the health care program. Governor Sam Brownback ordered the cuts in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to balance the state budget in the wake of continued revenue shortfalls. The cuts, which took effect July 1, will save the state an estimated $56.3 million but also will trigger a loss of $72.3 million in federal matching funds. (Kansas Health Institute)

Kentucky Medicaid plan debated at forum
Governor Matt Bevin’s plan to reshape the state’s Medicaid program was debated in Louisville last week, with top officials from his administration defending it and health advocates arguing against his proposal submitted last week to the federal government for approval. But Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, argued that the program expanded under the federal Affordable Care Act to cover more low-income Kentuckians is just what the state needs to provide much-needed health coverage for many people in low-wage jobs that don’t include it. (Courier-Journal)

Ohio to try again on Medicaid
The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said no to Healthy Ohio last week. The state program would have required Medicaid recipients to make monthly contributions to a form of health savings account; the state would have contributed a baseline $1,000 a year, plus incentive payments to reward healthy behavior. CMS is open to a new proposal, and Ohio should submit one. In crafting the new proposal, legislators and the Kasich administration should continue to seek ways to give Medicaid recipients a smoother path off Medicaid and a bigger stake in reducing health-care costs while they are on it. (Toledo Blade)

Why states are taking a fresh look at drug-free zones
The idea behind the “drug-free school zones” was to deter dealers at the height of a national crack cocaine epidemic from peddling drugs to children where they could be found most days. Now those laws are undergoing new scrutiny, as states revisit long sentences for drug crimes that have led to mass incarceration and as they face a new drug epidemic, this time opioid addiction. Some states are reducing the size of the drug-free zones to rid their prisons of so many nonviolent drug offenders. But other states are expanding the zones in response to the opioid crisis. (Pew Charitable Trusts)

Report finds medical products influence patient satisfaction
Patient satisfaction isn’t just about the way patients are treated by physicians and staff. The equipment and products used in healthcare facilities can have a significant impact on patient opinion, according to an industry report. Patients’ biggest gripe with providers was long wait times, but they also said providers need to speed up diagnoses and improve their care environments, according to a recent study from the Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA). The products a provider uses can affect satisfaction and that isn’t necessarily considered in federal ratings, said Gina Smith, HIDA’s director of business development. (Modern Healthcare)