Visit our website ⇒

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

Iowa News

Local lawmakers vow to keep an eye on Medicaid managers
The three managed care companies that recently took over administration of Iowa’s Medicaid program are being carefully watched, according to some area lawmakers. “Believe me, there are a lot of eyes making sure this is going to work,” state Senator Tim Kraayenbrink (R-Fort Dodge) said Wednesday evening during a forum. State Representative Rob Bacon (R-Slater) said there’s “a lot of oversight on this.” But he acknowledged that there are questions still lingering about the switch. (Fort Dodge Messenger)

Some small Cedar Rapids providers run into Medicaid issues after privatization
Two months into the $5 billion handover of the state-run Medicaid program to private managed care, several small providers in Cedar Rapids have run into snags affecting their bottom lines. Dan Hernandez, owner of the Way Shuttle — a Non-Emergency Medical Transportation provider — estimates he’s seen a 35 percent drop in business since April 1. Additionally, Cedar Rapids-based Pediatric Center still is ironing out several claims processing issues two-months into the transition, said Chris McAndrew, office administer of the private primary care clinic. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Senator Mathis holding session on Iowa Medicaid privatization
Medicaid members, family members, caretakers and providers have the chance to take part in a listening post and help session on Iowa’s privatized Medicaid. State Senator Liz Mathis (D-Cedar Rapids) is holding the event on May 31. “Iowans are still having problems with the transition from Medicaid, our state’s most important health care safety net, to managed care,” said Mathis. “The May meeting I’m organizing will offer opportunities to both discuss possible improvements and get answers to specific problems Iowa families are having.” (KCRG)

Iowa City company aiding organ donations gets state support
With the aid of state funds, a budding Iowa City company aimed at reducing donor organ loss is nearly ready to launch. Friday, the Iowa Economic Development Authority board approved $25,000 in funding for ORGANizer, launched by entrepreneurs Dalton Shaull and Eric Pahl. ORGANizer is a communication platform aimed at improving information and decision-making between hospitals to ease the process of connecting donor organs with recipients. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Illinois Supreme Court to review hospital taxation issue
The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to review a case regarding the constitutionality of hospital tax exemptions. The 4th District Appellate Court ruled in January that a 2012 state law allowing hospitals to avoid taxes is unconstitutional. The ruling reopened a statewide dispute over whether hospitals should be exempt from paying millions of dollars in income taxes and property taxes to local governments. The Illinois Health and Hospital Association has said taxation would force hospitals operating on thin margins to reduce services, lay off staff and delay the purchase of equipment or facility upgrades. (Modern Healthcare)

Changing the conversation around mental health in New Hampshire
State leaders recently joined the medical and mental health community to launch “Change Direction NH,” part of a national initiative to raise awareness of mental health disorders and eliminate the stigma around these issues.  Long considered an afterthought to physical well-being, mental health has gained recognition as having equal importance, although it’s still not easy for many to discuss or seek help. Change Direction NH attempts to fix that, promoting awareness of the signs of mental illness. (New Hampshire Public Radio)

Telemental health services on rise, but barriers remain
Millions of Americans suffer from mental health conditions each year, ranging from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder. Many of those go untreated due to missed diagnosis, lack of access and other issues. But new smart technologies and changes in state laws are making it easier for many patients to get mental health services, a recent survey by Epstein, Becker Green shows. While the survey details a rapid rise in telemental health, barriers to providing those services remain. (Healthcare Dive)

New superbug detected in U.S. threatens ‘end of the road for antibiotics’
Researchers have identified the first U.S. case of a pathogen that’s resistant to the antibiotic considered to be the last line of defense against so-called superbugs, raising fears that a “post-antibiotic” era will arrive sooner than expected. A 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman tested positive last month in her urine for a strain of E. coli bacteria containing a mutated gene known as MCR-1 that is resistant to colistin, the last-resort antibiotic used against multidrug-resistant pathogens. (Modern Healthcare)

Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill
Senators say they are optimistic that a bipartisan mental health reform bill can reach the Senate floor and pass soon, though they are still working out differences over guns and finances. Multiple Senators said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told them that he is willing to put the bill from Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on the floor but that a consensus has to be built ahead of time so that consideration does not take up too much valuable floor time. (The Hill)

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

Iowa News

New telestroke technology connects Trinity patients to specialists
New technology is linking stroke patients at UnityPoint Health – Trinity with a neurologist specializing in stroke treatment from Loyola University Medical Center. The goal is to close the window of time needed to assess and begin treatment in the emergency department. In January, Trinity began working with Loyola University Medical Center’s Virtual Medicine program to improve access to specialists for stroke patients across the community. The program has recently been expanded to both the Trinity Rock Island and Trinity Bettendorf campuses. (KWQC)

Motion-sensing tools deployed in war on pathogens
For a group of University of Iowa researchers, Microsoft Kinect, a motion-detecting component of the Xbox gaming system, is not a game—it’s a tool to help understand how infections spread in health care settings. By employing Kinect’s computer vision in a hospital room, the research team is pioneering an automated approach to track interactions between health care workers and patients, capturing previously elusive data to support the work of hospital epidemiologists. (Medicine Iowa)

Maquoketa hospital officials plan to build new facility
The old, oversized and inefficient Jackson County Regional Health Center likely will be replaced with a new hospital. Members of the hospital’s board of trustees Tuesday gave facility administrators the go-ahead to solicit bids for an architect and construction manager. The move comes after consultants identified myriad issues. The new facility would be 80,000 square feet, significantly smaller than the current, 131,000-square-foot hospital and it’s unclear whether the new hospital will be built at the existing site. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

National News

Missouri hospitals seek to focus on readmission penalties on patient poverty
Missouri hospitals say Medicare doesn’t play fair because its formula for setting penalties does not factor in patients with socioeconomic disadvantages that contribute to repeated hospitalizations. Hospitals have lobbied Congress and Medicare to change the rules and the Missouri Hospital Association is trying to pull public opinion behind it. This year, the association overhauled its consumer website, Focus On Hospitals, to include not only the federal readmissions data, but also each member’s readmissions statistics, adjusted for patients’ Medicaid status and neighborhood poverty rates. (Kaiser Health News)

Even applying for Medicaid can be an ordeal in Kansas
Not only can it take months for the Brownback administration to process and approve Medicaid applications, but even applying for Medicaid can be an ordeal. No wonder there has been a drop in the number of Medicaid beneficiaries in Kansas. The state’s expensive new online application system and reorganized processing clearinghouse were supposed to make enrolling in Medicaid faster and easier. The opposite happened. Hospitals and other providers also have complained about slow payments from the private insurance companies that manage the state’s Medicaid program. (Witchita Eagle)

Battling mental illness in Florida will take community collaboration
The United Way of Miami-Dade spearheaded a summit of Miami-Dade leaders and mental-health experts earlier this month to examine Community Innovations in Mental Health. The effort is committed to adapting best practices from other communities and bringing them to Miami, promoting mental health and recovery from mental illness. Collaboration among public and private organizations, families, patients, peers, managed care companies and providers is essential to success. (Miami Herald)

Obamacare is helping millions get needed healthcare, new survey finds
More than 60 percent of working-age Americans who signed up for Medicaid or a private health plan through the Affordable Care Act are getting health care they couldn’t previously get, a new nationwide survey indicates. And consumers are broadly satisfied with the new coverage, despite some cost challenges and an ongoing Republican campaign to discredit the law. Overall, 82 percent of American adults enrolled in private or government coverage through the health law said they were “somewhat” or “very” satisfied, according to the report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund. (Los Angeles Times)

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

Iowa News

Transition to Medicaid privatization is anything but smooth
If the Iowa Medicaid Enterprise wanted to make it more difficult for Medicaid beneficiaries to get much-needed items such as catheters, adult diapers, medication and transportation to medical appointments, then Medicaid modernization is a huge success, according to Rhonda Shouse in response to an article from Medicaid Director Mikki Stier. The time frame from announcement to implementation was unrealistic. Research shows most states that have switched to Medicaid managed care have moved only portions of their beneficiaries at a time and over a two- to five-year period. (Sioux City Journal)

Cigarette use drops among Iowa’s youth
Smoking among all adults has reached an all-time low. Nationally, 16.8 percent of adults smoke — down from nearly 21 percent five years ago. Garvin Buttermore with the Iowa Health Department says the Iowa Smoke Law put into effect eight years ago created a smoking decrease in Iowa as well. “Adult smoking rates have remained in Iowa rather stagnant, right around 18 percent, for the last five years,” Buttermore said. “What’s encouraging is youth rates of combustible smoking have gone down, and they are the lowest they have ever been in Iowa.” (KCCI)

National News

Proposed KanCare network changes draw skepticism
A proposal to reimburse some KanCare providers at a higher level based on patient outcomes drew skepticism from a crowd of hundreds who gathered Tuesday. The meeting was the first in a series that state officials are hosting as they prepare to renew their federal application for KanCare, the state’s $3 billion managed care program that privatized all Medicaid services under three insurance companies in 2013. Several of the providers, consumers and caregivers who attended the meeting complained about a lack of specifics on changes the state intends to make in the next round of five-year contracts. (Kansas Health Institute)

Wait times not budging for mental health patients in North Carolina
While the situation reached a crisis point at the beginning of the month, data show that even with efforts by the state Department of Health and Human Services and willingness from Governor Pat McCrory and lawmakers in Raleigh, wait times for care in North Carolina’s public psychiatric hospitals has remained stubbornly high. “It’s gotten worse,” said Mike Stevenson, CEO at Murphy Medical Center, who said long distance from state psychiatric facilities is an exacerbating factor. “But the single biggest factor is the lack of available beds.” (North Carolina Health News)

Doctor uses iPad to conduct surgery
In countries ravaged by conflict, providing international medical expertise on the ground can be almost impossible. But a new software, called Proximie, is enabling surgeons to provide help from wherever they are in the world, all through the screen of an iPad. “I see on my screen the surgical feed that is being captured by the camera in Gaza and I’m able to draw on my screen the incision that needs to be done,” says Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sitta, head of plastic surgery at the American University of Beirut Medical Center. (KCCI)

House bill trims pay for all hospitals to fund leeway in site-neutral Medicare pay
Members of the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday unanimously agreed to cut hospital Medicare payments across the board to pay for allowing hospitals building on-campus outpatient departments to continue receiving higher rates than non-hospital clinics. The bill, which now goes to the full House, would slightly reduce the increase contained in the Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act that is scheduled to go into effect in October 2017. (Modern Healthcare)

Hospitals line up behind Congress’ Patient Care Act
The Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act has bipartisan sponsors in the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, is paid for with offsetting budget cuts, and addresses what its backers say are Medicare reimbursement problems created with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2015. In a letter this week to senior committee members on the House Ways & Means Committee, the American Hospital Association urged the lawmakers to pass the bill, after spelling out the problems created by the BBA. (HealthLeaders Media)

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

Iowa News

Iowans off welfare, but still in poverty
This summer marks the 20th anniversary of welfare reform signed by former President Bill Clinton. Working with a Republican-controlled Congress in 1996, he made significant changes to the government program that provides monthly cash assistance to the poorest Americans. But limiting government assistance doesn’t miraculously lift people out of poverty. It just means they have even less money. In fiscal year 2015, the number of Iowans receiving cash welfare was at “a new modern-day low not seen since the late 1960s,” according to a report from the Iowa Department of Human Services. (Des Moines Register)

Marshalltown hospital to join forces with Ames hospital
Marshalltown’s struggling hospital plans to join forces with Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. The Marshalltown hospital and clinic system, called Central Iowa Healthcare, operates a 49-bed hospital in Marshalltown. It also has primary care clinics in Marshalltown, Conrad, State Center and Tama-Toledo. It was called Marshalltown Medical and Surgical Center until 2014. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Mississippi hospital demonstrates surgical robot
Singing River Health System in Mississippi recently gave onlookers a demonstration of the Da Vinci robotic surgical system, showing how the evolution of technology can lead to advancements within the medical field. Urologist Dr. David L. Spencer of South Mississippi Urology pointed out the capabilities of the surgical system. He said the advancement of this technology will make surgery a lot “simpler.” (Miami Herald)

Other states harmed by Missouri’s lack of drug monitoring
Missouri’s failure to set up a statewide prescription drug monitoring program during the 2016 legislative session will continue to affect other states. Each of the eight states bordering Missouri already has a program that notifies doctors when their patients have been prescribed dangerous amounts of addictive painkillers from multiple providers. Representative Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston) says without a program of its own, Missouri is negatively affecting the efforts of others to stop drug dealers and prevent addiction. (St. Louis Public Radio)

Telehealth increasingly used for mental health care
The rapid growth of telehealth services for mental and behavioral care means employers should consider the rewards and risks associated with this delivery of health care, particularly when it comes to privacy and state laws. Mental and physical health problems are often related and many studies show that stress is the top workforce risk, leading to lots of chronic health conditions in the workplace. For many people, the solution to these disparities is telemental and telebehavioral health, meaning mental health care and behavioral health care delivered via interactive audio or video, computer programs or mobile applications. (Bloomberg)

GIS maps hospital efforts to healthier populations
For years, providers have used geographic information system (GIS) software to map disease outbreaks and monitor the effectiveness of interventions. Now, with the Affordable Care Act and the push for accountable care, it’s proving to be a valuable tool in population health efforts. While global health organizations and public health agencies in the U.S. have long used it for population health purposes, its use in the private sector has mostly been limited to strategic planning and marketing. But that’s starting to change as hospitals take on more risk for health outcomes and cost. (Healthcare Dive)

29 hospitals appeal decision over Medicare outlier payments
Twenty-nine hospitals are appealing a judge’s ruling last year over outlier payments to hospitals for particularly expensive patients. The hospitals had challenged regulations governing outlier payments for fiscal years 1997 through 2007, saying the Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary’s “flawed regulations and misguided enforcement” shorted them $350 million. They alleged HHS didn’t properly account for the skewed data of the hospitals that “turbocharged,” a practice in which hospitals would improperly manipulate their charges to receive additional outlier payments. (Modern Healthcare)

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

Iowa News

Traveling orthopedic surgeons improve rural care
Orthopedic patients living in rural areas are more likely to be older, overweight and less physically active, but their access to care often is limited because there aren’t enough local practitioners. However, a new study from the University of Iowa finds that visiting consultant clinics (VCCs) staffed by visiting orthopedic surgeons can improve patient outcomes by increasing access to physicians. VCCs are outreach sites regularly visited by an orthopedic surgeon, typically a rural hospital located in a community too small to support a full-time specialist. (Iowa Now)

Schoitz Foundation helps build a better community
A new foundation, the Otto Schoitz Foundation, has been created to provide charitable grants using revenues from an investment of $50 million. The foundation comes as the result of Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare’s May 1 transfer of its Iowa facilities to the Mercy Health Network in Des Moines. The purpose of the foundation is to improve the health and well-being of the community and its individual members in the greater Cedar Valley Region, an area within 50 miles of Waterloo, by funding grants and other financial requests. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Innovative stroke therapy provides ‘miracle’ results
In 2015, the American Heart Association issued a strong endorsement of the thrombectomy procedure in certain severe cases of stroke. Its adoption marks the first major advance in stroke treatment in nearly 20 years. As home to a nationally designated Comprehensive Stroke Center, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has the infrastructure and personnel to offer thrombectomy to patients 24/7 as needed. In the time since the therapy was endorsed last year, four more doctors with expertise in the procedure have been recruited to join the staff. (University of Iowa Health Care)

National News

Will Medicaid expansion holdouts finally give in?
Legislators in some non-expansion states are currently under fire from state hospital associations, and in some cases state governors, to finally expand their Medicaid programs. Will the holdouts cave under the pressure? As of March 14, there were 19 non-expansion states, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report. Hospitals in those states are not faring as well as their counterparts in states that have expanded their Medicaid programs. (Healthcare Dive)

Connecticut cuts stir worries on mental health funding
Mental health advocates say state budget cuts may impede the improvements Connecticut has made in outreach and care after the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The state started several new mental health programs after the killings at the Newtown school, where a disturbed 20-year-old man shot and killed 20 children and six adults. One such effort, based in schools, helps children who show symptoms of trauma and depression. (Wall Street Journal)

Helping ex-inmates in Kentucky get Medicaid
Like inmates throughout the country, most people entering the Louisville Metro Jail lack health insurance and many suffer from long-untreated chronic conditions. Some people, particularly those with serious mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction, keep getting re-arrested and returning to jail, increasing costs to taxpayers. When Kentucky expanded Medicaid in 2014 to cover low-income adults, Louisville Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton hired a full-time Medicaid enrollment staffer in December 2014 to sign up people during the jail intake process. (Modern Healthcare)

Hospitals’ community influence, responsibility growing
Hospitals will need to invest in efforts to improve the community’s social determinants of health if they want to reduce preventable illness. Hospitals are now being asked to pull the lens back and look at quality more broadly. The change comes with shifting Internal Revenue Service rules, the Affordable Care Act, and evidence linking life struggles such as poor housing with the risk of illness. Now, many health care organizations are being held responsible for the health status of their communities, not just their patients. (HealthLeaders Media)

Time runs short on House GOP bill tackling mental health, mass shootings
House Republicans are circulating a revised draft of long-stalled mental health legislation. The controversial bill from Representative Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) has been cast as the Republican response to mass shootings, but it has long been delayed. The bill would allow Medicaid to cover more care at mental health facilities, but the Congressional Budget Office has put a price tag on the change of $40 to $60 billion over 10 years. (The Hill)