Visit our website ⇒

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

Iowa News

Final piece of state budget ready for negotiations
But finishing that last legislative step will prove difficult, as state lawmakers do not yet agree on how much money is in the overall budget. After three hours of debate Wednesday night, the Iowa House approved a $3.4 billion standings appropriation bill, a combination of funding and policy items. It joins all other budget bills in a conference committee, where lawmakers from both parties will attempt to negotiate the differences between separate versions of each approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House. (Quad-City Times)

Three babies die in one week from apparent accidental suffocation
Police hope the death of three Des Moines babies in the last week from apparent accidental suffocation will be a wake-up call for parents. While co-sleeping is becoming a more common, Janna Day with Safe Kids Greater Des Moines warns against it. “What the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending is that the child actually sleeps in the room with the parent so they room-share, but not bed-share,” Day said. (KCCI)

Cedar Rapids schools, Mercy Medical Center launch online health record
Students attending any of the Cedar Rapids schools will be asked a few more questions when they visit one of three school-based health clinics because of one system that’ll hold all their health records in one place. This is the first week nurse practitioners at the school district’s health clinics will be using Mercy Medical Center’s electronic health record: an all online chart that’ll keep track of every visit and diagnosis for each student. (KGAN)

New mammography technology saves lives
Thanks to advances in mammogram technology, more lives are being saved, said Dr. Gary Swenson, director of breast imaging at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa. Swenson spoke during a Mother’s Day brunch at the Cedar River Complex on May 9, the kick-off to an 18-month campaign to raise funds for a 3D digital tomosynthesis (mammogram) machine for Mitchell County Regional Health Center. The event was sponsored by Mitchell County Memorial Foundation, which supports healthcare needs. (Mitchell County Press-News)

National News

Study: ‘Underinsured’ population has doubled to 31 million
One-quarter of people with healthcare coverage are paying so much for deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that they are considered underinsured, according to a new study. An estimated 31 million insured people are not adequately protected against high medical costs, a figure that has doubled since 2003, according to the 2014 national health insurance survey by the Commonwealth Fund. Rising deductibles — even under ObamaCare — are the biggest problem for most people who are considered underinsured, according to the 22-page report. (The Hill)

Limits urged on surgeries by low-volume providers
Leaders at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, and the University of Michigan Health System are urging other systems to join their combined 20 hospitals in the “Take the Volume Pledge” campaign to place limits on surgical procedures. The campaign aims to reduce complications linked to insufficient practice by setting minimum volume thresholds on 10 surgical procedures. The limits apply to hospitals and surgeons. (HealthLeaders Media)

Grassley to Justice Department: Crack down on Medicare Advantage overbilling
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to tighten scrutiny of Medicare Advantage health plans suspected of overcharging the government, saying billions of tax dollars are at risk as the popular senior care program grows. In May 19 letters to Lynch and Andrew M. Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Grassley wanted to know what both agencies have done, together and apart, to stamp out overcharges that have plagued the privately run insurance program for years. (National Public Radio)

Cyberattack affects 1.1 million CareFirst customers
A “sophisticated cyberattack” has compromised personal information of about 1.1 million customers of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the region’s largest health insurer, the company said Wednesday. Attackers gained access to names, birth dates, email addresses and insurance identification numbers, CareFirst officials said. The database did not include Social Security or credit card numbers, passwords or medical information. It is the third major cyberattack on a U.S. health insurer this year. (Baltimore Sun)

NH hospitals seeing fewer uninsured residents after Medicaid expansion
New Hampshire hospitals saw 22 percent fewer emergency visits, 27 percent fewer admissions and 15 percent fewer outpatient visits by uninsured patients in the first nine months of the state’s Medicaid expansion alternative, according to a report released by the New Hampshire Hospital Association. “This latest report continues to show that the New Hampshire Health Protection Plan is working by reducing the costs that businesses and those of us with insurance pay to care for those who have no insurance or way of paying for their care,” said NHHA President Steve Ahnen. (New Hampshire Hospital Association)

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

Iowa News

Seniors in Iowa healthy overall
Iowa’s seniors are fairly healthy, according to a report released Wednesday by the not-for-profit United Health Foundation, a division of parent insurance company UnitedHealth Group of Minneapolis, which ranked the state in the top third of the country. Iowa’s seniors have high rates of obesity and physical inactivity. But the state also has a low number of seniors living in poverty and high prescription drug coverage. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Woodbury County board approves changes in regional mental health agreement
Changes continue to be made in the first year that reconfigured agencies deliver mental health services in Northwest Iowa. Five months ago, Cherokee County dropped out of the Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services to join a different regional group. That leaves Woodbury, Plymouth and Sioux counties working together on a reorganized state mental health system for low-income residents. (Sioux City Journal)

Lawsuit: Fake cancer charities scam $187 million from donors
Money donors thought they were giving to four “sham” cancer charities were spent on cruises, concert tickets and dating site memberships, according to a federal lawsuit filed by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and law enforcement from all 50 states. A complaint, filed jointly with the Federal Trade Commission, alleged four “look-alike” charities portrayed themselves as legitimate, using paid fundraisers or telemarketers to tell donors their money would go toward pain medication, chemotherapy or hospice care for patients. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Is Medicaid the answer to crushing health care costs for inmates?
Jails and prisons across the country are aggressively enrolling inmates in government-funded Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care law, hopeful that their efforts will reduce the crippling costs for cities, states and counties responsible for inmate health care and that it will help prisoners gain better access to services upon their release. (U.S. News & World Report)

Florida hospitals say ‘no’ to profit sharing
With a looming $2 billion budget hole over health care money to be decided in a special session, the governor is pushing hospitals to crunch their numbers and re-evaluate spending. But hospitals are pushing back. Florida is set to lose out on a 2 billion dollar healthcare program that helps hospitals serving the poor. The expiring federal program threw the state’s budget into chaos. In response, the governor assembled a hospital funding commission and has thrown around the idea that hospitals can start profit sharing in order to cover costs. But the Florida Hospital Association isn’t on board. (WCTV)

Upstate NY doctor shortage has hospital ERs turning away patients, report says
Many Upstate New York hospitals are so short of doctors they are transferring patients from their emergency rooms to other hospitals, according to a report released today. The Healthcare Association of New York State said its annual survey of hospitals found the state needs an additional 942 doctors, 615 of them upstate. Primary care doctors, in particular, are in short supply, the report found. (Syracuse Post-Standard)

Underaged cigarette smoking rate drops sharply over decade
About 6 percent of adolescents smoked cigarettes in 2012-2013, down from nearly 13 percent in 2002-2003, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. State rates in 2012-2013 ranged from about 4 percent in California to 10 percent in Kentucky. However, increases in e-cigarette and hookah use are offsetting declines in use of more traditional products such as cigarettes, the report notes. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

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

Iowa News

Bringing health care to the heartland
Sometimes we forget what the “mobile” in mobile health really means. Take Montgomery County Memorial Hospital. The Red Oak, Iowa-based health system, which serves a wide swath of rural southwest Iowa, found that its hospital and clinics weren’t meeting the needs of residents of the many small towns. The elderly, the two-job working families in bedroom communities, the farmers and day laborers weren’t coming to them for the healthcare they needed. So hospital officials took the health care to them. (mHealth News)

Mercy – Des Moines to acquire Newton hospital
After several months of exhaustive review, leaders of Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines and Skiff Medical Center in Newton have reached an agreement for Mercy to acquire Skiff Medical Center. The Newton City Council on Monday evening approved an agreement for Skiff, which is owned by the city of Newton, to sell all of its land, buildings and assets to Mercy, effective by July 1. That final decision by the city came after receiving several required levels of approval from the mayor, the Mercy board of directors and the Skiff board of directors, Mercy officials said in a release. (Des Moines Business Record)

Iowa breast milk shortage: Donations needed
Iowa’s only breast milk bank is looking for more new mothers to donate breast milk. Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa, located in Coralville, says the demand for breast milk is going up. Director and co-founder Jean Drulis says 88 percent of the bank’s milk last year went to babies in the hospital, most of which were in the neonatal intensive care unit. Covenant Medical Center is one hospital that buys milk from Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa. Covenant Lactation Consultant Rhonda Thompson says the breast milk can be expensive, $16 for 3 ounces, but the benefits of breast milk are especially important for premature babies.

Iowa Department of Public Safety introduces Child Abduction Response Team
Iowa has a new action plan that law enforcement officials hope will provide more expedience and efficiency in responding to cases involving abducted children cases. The plan was designed with the 2012 abduction of two Evansdale children in mind, officials said. The new Child Abduction Response Team, which was developed with a $25,000 federal grant, includes a new mobile command center and training for local law enforcement officials across the state. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Skyrocketing Medicaid signups stir Obamacare fights
Supporters of Obamacare say the enrollment surge might lead to some budget bumps down the road, but that the historic decline in the uninsured is a major achievement. In addition, they say the expansion is providing significant health and economic benefits to states that more than offset costs. States — and hospitals and doctors — are getting billions of dollars from the federal government to cover low-income people, letting them save money on other programs that had been fully or partly funded through state dollars. (Politico)

Paramedics steer non-emergency patients away from ERs
Around the country, the role of paramedics is changing. In various states, they’re receiving extra training to provide more primary and preventive care and to take certain patients to urgent care or mental health clinics rather than more costly emergency rooms. Ramsdell and others in his program, for instance, spent 150 hours in the classroom and with clinicians learning how to provide ongoing care for patients. (Kaiser Health News)

Doctor group seeks to clear confusion in cancer screening
Screening for cancer has gotten more complicated in recent years with evolving guidelines that sometimes conflict. Now a doctors’ group aims to ease some confusion — and encourage more discussion of testing’s pros and cons — with what it calls advice on “high-value screening” for five types of tumors. Too often, even the doctors who order those tests aren’t sure of the latest recommendations, said Dr. Wayne J. Riley, president of the American College of Physicians, which published the advice Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. (Associated Press/Sioux City Journal)

500,000-plus people took more than $50,000 in drugs last year
The report found that 575,000 U.S. residents had medication costs of more than $50,000 last year, a 63 percent increase over 2013. Of those 575,000 patients, about 139,000 had medication costs totaling at least $100,000 in 2014, nearly three times more than in 2013. Overall, individuals in the top 5 percent of the spending groups accounted for 61 percent of the country’s total prescription drug costs last year. Meanwhile, the report found that the total cost to health plans for patients with medication costs of more than $50,000 last year was $52 billion. Insurers covered about 97.4 percent of those costs. (The Advisory Board)

What do engaged patients want to hear from health care providers?
The walls outside the meeting rooms at the Cleveland Convention Center during the Cleveland Clinic’s sixth annual Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Summit this week are lined with chalkboards that encourage attendees to tell others what they want to hear, speak and feel when they themselves are patients, as everyone is at some point. A very unscientific analysis of the responses after the first day reveals that patients want to be — gasp — treated like people. They want to be addressed by name. They want to be honest with their care team, and expect the same courtesy in return. (MedCity News)

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

Iowa News

Iowans wait for drugs, insurers to respond
If you live in Iowa and your doctor writes you a prescription for a particular drug, it could be several days, or even a few months, before your insurer responds to a request for prior-authorization of coverage for the drug. That would not be the case if you lived in, say, California … or Louisiana … or Massachusetts … or any one of several states that require insurers to respond to prior-authorization requests within two to three days. (Des Moines Register)

Siouxland providers concerned about state’s mental health services realignment plan
Mercy Medical Center hasn’t been able to place new patients with a severe mental illness at the Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute since Gov. Terry Branstad announced in January his intention to close that facility and another mental health institute in Clarinda. “We’ve been shut down as far as being able to appropriately place patients,” said Wade Kuehl, manager of behavioral health social services for Mercy. “We don’t have the alternatives in place that the governor talks about.” (Sioux City Journal)

Iowans rally to keep mental health institutions open
Dozens gathered in Mount Pleasant today to protest the governor’s decision to privatize mental health care. Peggy Wunderlich suffers from clinical depression. She says mental health care is what is putting her on the path to recovery. “I never knew how sick I was. I could have died. It could have been me and by closing these facilities, you’re talking about lives,” said Wunderlich, “It doesn’t go away and it won’t go away. You have to get treated or get therapy.” She and many others hope this rally will send a message to Governor Terry Branstad. (KWQC)

Changing the protocol for treating high school athletes
A jury has awarded a former Bedford High School football player nearly $1 million for the way the school handled the player’s head injuries. The player, Kacey Strough, had a pre-existing medical condition, involving abnormally formed blood vessels in his brain, that bled after he suffered a head injury. Strough was allowed to keep practicing and playing through this injury. On this news buzz edition of River to River, guest-host Ben Stanton interviews Dr. Andy Peterson of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to learn about the implications of this case. (Iowa Public Radio)

National News

Hospitals suffering financial hypochondria
The Medicaid expansion made possible by the ACA pumped $506 million into Kentucky’s hospitals in 2014. The impact is evident when UK Healthcare’s 2013 and 2014 first half results are compared. The 2014 period saw an 83 percent drop in non-paying inpatients, a 66 percent drop in non-paying outpatients and a $60 million increase in Medicaid revenue. No one expects the windfall to last, as part of the cost of the Medicaid expansion shifts onto Kentucky in 2017. But any Kentucky hospital now verging on bankruptcy had problems before the ACA. (Lexington Herald-Leader)

As industry changes, need for nurses is great
Changes across the health care industry are creating a new work environment for registered nurses. As the industry shifts to a more consumer-centric environment, nurses will be important in a number of settings — hospitals, physician offices, clinics, nursing homes as well as other places where consumers will go to get care. “The need is so great, and it is continuing to grow as people’s perceptions change about where they get care,” said Cathy Taylor, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Nursing at Belmont University. “Some that haven’t even been dreamed yet. It’s an incredible opportunity for innovation.” (Nashville Tennessean)

FL hospitals don’t buy governor’s health care finance commission
Governor Rick Scott is keeping up his criticism of the federal government as the state braces for all or a partial loss of a $2 billion healthcare program. As Scott has bashed the federal government over the low-income pool, he’s also taken aim at hospitals—and is moving ahead with a workgroup to study their finances. So when Scott announced the formation of a workgroup to study health care finance, he put hospitals and insurance companies on notice.

Employers’ latest health care experiment
As employers wrestle with rising healthcare costs, the latest solution gaining steam is to join a private exchange. Private exchange enrollment has reached 6 million out of 160 million folks who get health insurance through their employers , and that’s expected to increase to 13 million to 15 million by 2020, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. “Adoption is low at this point but interest is very high,” said Paul Fronstin, director of EBRI’s health research & education program, speaking at EBRI’s spring policy forum. (Forbes)

Pink bus brings women’s health care to rural areas
The pink bus that rolled into Algoma Thursday morning is ushering in a new approach to women’s health care in Northeastern Wisconsin. The bus, a partnership of Bellin Health Care and Associated Bank, is the area’s first mobile mammography and bone-density test unit. It was formally unveiled earlier this month and began making its rounds on Monday. Janice Langlais was one of the first patients to board the bus in Algoma. She said she sees the mobile unit as a tool to make women, like her friends and family, more apt to schedule routine examinations. (Green Bay Press-Gazette)

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

Iowa News

Minneapolis-based Medica to enter Iowa health insurance market
Iowans will have a new option for health insurance coverage in the individual market next year with the entry of Medica Health Plans, a Minneapolis-based regional health insurer that serves the Upper Midwest. Medica announced today that it will begin offering coverage both on and off the Iowa Health Insurance Marketplace for the 2016 plan year, which will provide what insurance brokers say is much-needed competition for Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield in the Iowa market. (Des Moines Business Record)

St. Luke’s residency program helps pharmacists gain experience
After earning her doctor of pharmacy degree from South Dakota State University in 2014, Sarah Koss wasn’t done with her education. She entered the one-year pharmacy residency program at UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s after interviewing at several sites in the Midwest. “I chose a residency because I wanted more clinical experience in addition to getting more patient interaction to kind of strengthen my overall profession in pharmacy,” said Koss. (Sioux City Journal)

Blue Zones Project demonstration communities attend first ‘Summit’
Spencer was one of more than 20 Blue Zones Project demonstration communities from across the country that attended the first-ever Blue Zones Project Summit in Des Moines on May 5-6. The event brought together leaders and influencers who are passionate about the health and well-being of their communities. The first community in Iowa to receive an official Blue Zones designation was well represented at the event with 14 residents traveling to participate. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

National News

1 in 4 adults had insurance but still couldn’t afford medical care
More than 1 in 4 adults who bought insurance for themselves or their families last year had to skip needed medical care because they couldn’t afford it, according to a study released Thursday by Families USA, a consumer health group. Some signed up for coverage on the new health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act and received financial assistance to help pay their premiums and some of their out-of-pocket costs. Others bought their plans directly from insurance companies. (Washington Post)

State hospital industry split over health care legislation
The hospital industry in Massachusetts is sharply divided on proposed legislation that could make it harder for health systems to continue the wave of mergers and acquisitions that have been altering the medical landscape. The legislation would strengthen the role of the Health Policy Commission, a state agency that reviews health care mergers, and give the attorney general more power to block deals if the agency projects they would result in higher costs for consumers. (Boston Globe)

After suicides, MIT works to relieve student pressure
The event — billed as “Stress Less Day” — is sponsored by the student mental health awareness group Active Minds. Volunteers are handing out flyers listing mental health facts and campus resources. Sophomore Matt Ossa gets his ice cream and rushes on. “There’s no way to avoid stress in a place like this, where, like, most kids were, like, the valedictorians of their school — just because everyone’s used to being perfectionist and all that,” he says. (National Public Radio)

To remind dementia patients to eat, device emits delicious smells
Malnutrition is a widespread symptom of dementia—one that often flies under the radar. Studies in the U.K. have shown that up to 45 percent of dementia patients lose significant weight after their diagnosis, and up to 50 percent don’t eat enough food. Ode, a new device from the British design firm Rodd, releases familiar food scents three times a day, around mealtimes, to encourage people with dementia to eat and stay healthy. Think of it as a fragrance alarm clock. (Fast Company)