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

Iowa News

Medicaid changes in Iowa: An uncertain future
There are many questions about private contracting for Medicaid, which Gov. Branstad expects to save the state up to $100 million per year. With the 15 percent administrative overhead that most private insurers have (which would be a $615 million cost for Iowa) it is going to be interesting to see how these two to four managed care companies will perform. (Ames Tribune)

Grieving father: Stop jailing people for mental illness
No one believes Jeff Cornick was thinking straight when he drunkenly carried up to a dozen gas cans into his Des Moines house, stalked around rooms with a lit candle and ranted to police that he was going to blow himself up. “Shoot me!” he yelled to an officer, a police report shows. The question is: Did this bizarre behavior make him a serious criminal? Or just a person who needed serious psychiatric treatment? (Des Moines Register)

Why Iowa should open the jailhouse doors and release those with mental illness
Story County could help re-write a sad chapter in the nation’s history of caring for persons with mental illness. But it will need a little help from Des Moines. The county has been one of the nation’s bright spots in dealing with the dismal national problem of those with mental illness being sent to jail in droves. How dismal? Since state psychiatric hospitals were closed, jails have earned a somber moniker: “de facto mental hospitals. (Des Moines Register)

Sioux City program helps elderly fend off loneliness
“I just couldn’t find who I was,” Colleen Rolfes said. “If it wasn’t for PACE I would probably not even be alive.” Rolfes was introduced to Siouxland PACE, a program of UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s that offers care for frail individuals 55 years of age and older, when her late husband, Leonard, fell and broke his hip. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

6 new health care topics to debate now that Obamacare’s been upheld
The country finally has an opportunity to change the subject on health care, after the Supreme Court again upheld President Barack Obama’s law. There’s no shortage of pressing issues, including prescription drug prices, high insurance deductibles and long-term care. But moving on will take time, partly because many Republicans want another chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act if they win the White House and both chambers of Congress next year. (Associated Press/Salt Lake Tribune)

Ruling revives calls for Medicaid expansion in Georgia
The U.S. Supreme Court preserved thousands of subsidies in the Augusta area last week for people who purchased health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but it didn’t help Wallace England, 55, of Grovetown. (Augusta Chronicle)

Where federal health insurance fails autistic children
When Matt Crockett’s 2-year-old son, Mark, was diagnosed with autism, the Air Force Reserve technician assumed his government insurance would help cover the cost of the treatment. He discovered the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program encourages — but does not require — insurance carriers to cover the cost of the leading treatment for autism. In fact, only 23 states offer federal health insurance plans that cover Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, which leaves federal employees trapped in a patchwork of coverage that costs tens of thousands of dollars a year. (USA Today)

Fixtures provide germ-zapping light for hospitals
A Kenosha company is poised to begin marketing bacteria-killing light fixtures that could open a new front in the war on hospital-acquired infections. Light, though not the visible variety, already has joined the fight. Many hospitals, including some in Milwaukee, have recently deployed robot-like devices that disinfect rooms with powerful pulses of ultraviolet radiation. Kenall Manufacturing Co. is taking a different approach. Unlike ultraviolet lights, its fixtures can be left on continuously and be used while people — and the bacterial baggage they often bring with them — are in the room. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Blood donors in Sweden get a text message whenever their blood saves someone’s life
With blood donation rates in decline all over the developed world, Sweden’s blood service is enlisting new technology to help push back against shortages. One new initiative, where donors are sent automatic text messages telling them when their blood has actually been used, has caught the public eye. (The Independent)

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

Iowa News

Supreme Court upholds key insurance subsidies for Iowans
Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling to keep health care subsidies intact for 6.4 million people in 34 states — including some 39,000 Iowans — brings a sense of stability to Iowa before the next Open Enrollment season, some in the health care field say. But the decision was not without political controversy. In a 6-3 ruling, the court said that the federal tax credits provided to those in states that did not create their own insurance exchanges are legal. (KCRG)

Supreme Court ruling spares health subsidies for 108,000 tri-staters
During a brief pause between her two retail jobs, Beth Jones took a few moments Thursday to relish the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows her to keep her medical insurance. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld a component of President Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul, saying that millions of Americans, like Jones, of Ida Grove, who enrolled in federal insurance exchanges are eligible for tax subsidies to help pay for the coverage, regardless of where they live. That helps Jones, who was hit with a severe case of Influenza B in March. (Sioux City Journal)

Local hospital reacts to SCOTUS decision on Obamacare
In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to uphold tax subsidies within the Affordable Healthcare Act. The case stems from original language in the law that left it unknown in subsidies could be given to patients in all states or just states that participate in the federal health insurance marketplace. Montgomery County Memorial Hospital Public Relations Director Dave Jennings said the decision is positive for the people of southwest Iowa. (KMA)

Loring Hospital’s CEO hits the ground running
Loring Hospital in Sac City welcomed new CEO Brian Martin to the helm earlier this month, but Martin said the relationship and hiring process began much earlier. Martin, a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, spent four years in the ROTC, which led to placement in the Medical Services Corps for the Army. He credits his experience in the service with honing him for this new position. A former Sac City resident, Martin and his wife wanted to come back to a great place to raise their family. (KCIM)

Optimae completes mental health services transition
Story County’s transition to using a private mental health system under Optimae LifeServices Inc. has been completed, with a majority of the employees working for the county’s previous Community Life Program retaining their jobs with the new company. The transition was sparked by the regionalization of mental health services by the Iowa Legislature in 2012, when it passed a law to move away from a county-based approach to in an effort to pool resources and create statewide standards while still allowing counties local control in who manages mental health services. (Ames Tribune)

National News

Obamacare’s next five hurdles to clear
In its first five years, the Affordable Care Act has survived technical meltdowns, a presidential election, two Supreme Court challenges — including one resolved Thursday — and dozens of repeal efforts in Congress. But its long-term future still isn’t ensured. Here are five of the biggest hurdles left for the law. (Kaiser Health News)

Burwell says payment policies next push in Obamacare implementation
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said on Thursday the Obama administration will focus on improving quality over quantity in the nation’s healthcare system in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court ruled earlier on Thursday to uphold the nationwide availability of tax subsidies that are crucial to President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, also known as Obamacare. In a conference call with reporters, Burwell said the administration planned to push further on a patient-centered approach. (Reuters/Yahoo News)

Hospital stocks leap after Supreme Court upholds health care overhaul subsidies
Investors in hospital stocks rejoiced Thursday after the Supreme Court upheld a key portion of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and eliminated the prospect of a sudden influx of uninsured patients seeking care. Shares of big hospital operators like HCA Holdings Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp. surged after the court announced a decision that maintained in several states tax credits that play a key role in helping millions of Americans pay for health insurance. (Associated Press/U.S. News & World Report)

AHRQ teeters on the brink of extinction
The Agency for Healthcare Quality Research (AHRQ) says its mission “is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable.” But that mission may soon be over. A congressional subcommittee wrote the agency out of the 2016 Health and Human Services budget last week, and the full committee approved the plan on Wednesday. Despite lobbying efforts by health service researchers and their supporters, the future of AHRQ, pronounced “ARK” by those in the know, is uncertain. (HealthLeaders Media)

Opposed to Medicaid expansion? Why it could cost you
Dallas County property owners paid more than $467million in taxes last year to Parkland Health and Hospital System, the county’s only public hospital, to provide medical care to the poor and uninsured. Their tax burden likely would have been lower if the state of Texas had elected to expand Medicaid. If more low-income patients at Parkland had been covered by Medicaid, then federal and state taxpayers would have picked up more of the costs. (The Fiscal Times)

Doctors and hospitals need to talk more; this app can help
As an intern fresh out of medical school at Columbia University, Joe Mayer says one of the most frustrating tasks in the ER was spending hours trying to track down a patient’s primary care physician. It was tedious, yes. But more than that, it was just one more obstacle to making a decision about that patient’s care in an already byzantine healthcare system. And so, during his intern year, Mayer, who had worked for and founded several healthcare IT companies in the past, started work on a company to cut through this complexity. (Wired)

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

Iowa News

Iowa politicians react to Supreme Court decision on Obamacare
More than 45,000 Iowans will continue to receive federal financial assistance to pay for their health insurance, thanks to a ruling delivered Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled, 6-3 that federal financial assistance provided to residents of states such as Iowa that did not create their own insurance markets are legal. Reaction in Iowa to the highly anticipated Supreme Court decision was divided, predictably along party lines. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Burgess Health Center opens two new public gyms
If you live in Onawa or Mapleton, Iowa, and are interested in the gym, you’ll have a new option when it comes to becoming a member. Burgess Health Center opened two Medically Oriented Gyms, known as M.O.G.’s, at each of those locations. The concept of the gym is to make access to working out less complicated and educational. “We’re kind of a mixture of a regular gym and a physical therapy gym,” said Jon Young, the Exercise Program Coordinator. (KTIV)

Hospital’s summer program teaches kids driving rules
A program that’s been around for about two decades will finish another session this Friday. Mercy Medical Center’s Safety Village teaches the rules of the road to children ages five to seven. About 200 will finish the curriculum this week at Grant Wood Elementary. The kids practice driving in a miniature town, equipped with a post office, law enforcement, a library and more. Director Stacy Rustvold says she sees a noticeable improvement by the end of the program’s two weeks. (KCRG)

Hospital’s ‘Be The Match’ drive looks to sign up potential bone marrow donors
Mercy Medical Center hosted a ‘Be The Match’ bone marrow donor drive this morning in Cedar Rapids. Be The Match is an international non-profit organization that matches peripheral blood stem cell and bone marrow donors to patients battling blood cancers. Anyone between the ages of 18 to 44 were able to register at the event. Those between 45 and 60 are asked to register online because of the high demand of donors younger than 45. (KCRG)

National News

Supreme Court rules Obamacare subsidies are legal
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday handed the Obama administration a major victory on health care, ruling 6-3 that nationwide subsidies called for in the Affordable Care Act are legal. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” the court’s majority said in the opinion, which was written by Chief Justice John Roberts. But they acknowledged that “petitioners’ arguments about the plain meaning … are strong.” (National Public Radio)

Does Medicaid make a difference?
As millions of Americans gain Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, attention has focused on the access to care, quality of care, and financial protection that coverage provides. This analysis uses the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2014, to explore these questions by comparing the experiences of working-age adults with private insurance who were insured all year, Medicaid beneficiaries with a full year of coverage, and those who were uninsured for some time during the year. (Commonwealth Fund)

How Obamacare has impacted the uninsured rate
An annual survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded the sharpest drop in uninsured adults in 2014 since the survey began in 1997. The uninsured rate among adults under 65 dropped from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 16.3 percent in 2014. The uninsured rate among adults 19-25, especially, saw progress from 31.3 percent uninsured to 26.9 percent in 2014. (Fortune)

Tackling the very high costs of big health care users
Imitation is the highest form of flattery—and it may end up helping greatly reduce the highest source of health-care costs in the U.S. A new project is aiming to identify the kinds of treatments and models of care that lead to the best results for so-called high-need patients, and then try to replicate those results on a broad scale. Such high-need patients, often senior citizens and frequently suffering from multiple chronic health conditions, with multiple medical providers treating them, represent a very large fraction of total health-care spending in the U.S. (CNBC)

Medicare slow to adopt telehealth due to cost concerns
Nearly 20 years after such videoconferencing technology has been available for health services, fewer than 1 percent of Medicare beneficiaries use it. Anthem and a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center health plan in western Pennsylvania are the only two Medicare Advantage insurers offering the virtual visits, and the traditional Medicare program has tightly limited telemedicine payments to certain rural areas. And even there, the beneficiary must already be at a clinic, a rule that often defeats the goal of making care more convenient. Congress has maintained such restrictions out of concern that the service might increase Medicare expenses. (Kaiser Health News)

3 out of 4 medical residents clueless on cost
Only about 25 percent of internal medicine residents say they know where to find costs estimates for tests and treatments and that they can share those estimates with patients, according to a survey by the American College of Physicians. The cross-sectional survey questioned more than 18,000 U.S. internal medicine residents who took the Internal Medicine In-Training Examination in October 2012. The study was published in the June issue of Academic Medicine: The Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges. (HealthLeaders Media)

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

Iowa News

34,000 Iowans could lose health care subsidies depending on Supreme Court ruling
Days before the anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling that will decide the fate of health care subsidies for 6.4 million people in 34 states — including 34,000 Iowans — one group has released state-specific information that shows the Congressional districts of the thousands of voters at risk of losing health insurance. The federal government contends that the ACA allows subsidies to anyone who purchases insurance through an exchange while challengers say subsidies should be available only to those buying on state-run exchanges. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mental hospital supporters plead for its future
Supporters of the state mental hospital here made a last-ditch plea to the governor on Tuesday to sign a compromise plan that legislators passed to keep it open. Gov. Terry Branstad’s administrators have been moving to close the facility and a sister hospital in Clarinda within the next few weeks. Branstad contends that the services can be provided more efficiently by private agencies or at the state’s other two mental hospitals, which are in northern Iowa. Two of the three programs at the Mount Pleasant facility have been emptied, and most employees of the third program received layoff notices last week. (Des Moines Register)

Mental health regionalization: One year later
Now one year into a new method of overseeing and handling mental health in the state of Iowa, Muscatine County officials say that there remains some uncertainty about what those services will look like in the near future. In July 2014, the state of Iowa changed its mental health system from one which individual counties were responsible for serving those needs to a region-based system. Muscatine is part of the Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disabilities Services Region, which also includes Scott, Clinton, Cedar, and Jackson counties. (Muscatine Journal)

Jennie Edmundson’s cancer campaign leaders determined to make a difference
Dr. Lori Platt is an OB-GYN specialist who practices at Methodist Jennie Edmundson Hospital. Marcia Antworth is trades and industry coordinator at Iowa Western Community College. Scott Hartman is vice president and senior financial adviser with U.S. Bancorp in Council Bluffs. At one time strangers, today these three people are working together on behalf of everyone in Council Bluffs, southwest Iowa and the region beyond. The link that binds their efforts can be summed up in one word: Cancer. (Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil)

Decorah government, hospital support solar initiative
The city of Decorah has joined the Winneshiek Medical Center and Winneshiek County in supporting a possible community solar panel array. After hearing a presentation from Winneshiek Energy District Director Andy Johnson, the Decorah City Council voted 5-1 to send a letter of interest to Alliant Energy. Council member Jody Niess was the only council member voting against the motion to send the letter. The Iowa Utility Board is asking for solar pilot projects, so Johnson has been asking local entities if they are interested. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

National News

Hospital cost of uninsured: $900 per patient, per year
New research suggests the financial strain on hospitals and households will be immediate and significant if a U.S. Supreme Court decision ends subsidies for health insurance in 36 states. As many as 6.4 million Americans who bought insurance may drop it and become a financial burden to providers. The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found a “minimum and unavoidable” demand for hospital care among the uninsured at an annual cost to hospitals of $900 a patient. (Modern Healthcare)

House votes to kill health law’s Medicare savings panel
The House voted Tuesday to kill a federal panel that is supposed to find ways to curb Medicare spending, as Republicans ignored a veto threat and leveled their latest blow at President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Members of the Independent Payment Advisory Board have never been appointed, and the panel has never recommended savings from Medicare, the $600-billion-a-year health care program for the elderly. (Associated Press/KWWL)

Covered California data-mining project will collect patient health, insurance info
California’s health insurance exchange wants to know why you got sick this summer. With 1.4 million people enrolled, the state-run marketplace is embarking on an ambitious effort to collect insurance company data on prescriptions, doctor visits and hospital stays for every Obamacare patient. Covered California says this massive data-mining project is essential to measure the quality of care that patients receive and to hold health insurers and medical providers accountable under the Affordable Care Act. The state in April signed a five-year, $9.3-million contract with Truven Health Analytics Inc. of Michigan to run the database. (Government Technology)

Major Philadelphia institutions launch collaborative
A new initiative has been launched to position the Philadelphia region as a global leader in health care innovation. Through the involvement and support of its founding members — Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Comcast, Drexel University, Independence Blue Cross, Safeguard Scientifics, Inc., Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health System, and University of Pennsylvania Health System — the collaborative will identify and solve institutional needs by connecting its members to innovative solutions. (Philadelphia Tribune)

Google testing a cardiac sensor wristband
Google is working on a wearable device that can help doctors remotely monitor patients’ health. The connected wristband can take a person’s electrocardiogram (or EKG) and assess environmental stressors, including light and noise levels. Activity sensors in the wristband could detect changes in a person’s mobility, which would help in studying Parkinson’s, for example. Physicians could also advise heart attack patients to wear the wristband after being released from the hospital. (CNN Money)

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

Iowa News

Obamacare ruling could affect millions, except for plaintiff
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling within days in a case called King v. Burwell. At stake are federal subsidies created by the Affordable Care Act to help millions of Americans pay for private health insurance. These Americans could lose that financial assistance and coverage if the court rules against the Obama administration and in favor of David M. King. So who is this plaintiff? How will King be personally affected by the ruling? Apparently he won’t. He is a veteran and has access to medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Des Moines Register)

Branstad signs broadband expansion bill into law
“Our state already has a low unemployment rate of 3.8 percent but, to continue our growth, we must look at ways to encourage connecting every acre of Iowa to high-speed broadband,” Governor Branstad said before signing House File 655 into law. “I’m pleased with the strong bipartisan support this measure received in the Iowa Legislature,” the governor told reporters and others who gathered at an implement warehouse to witness the bill signing. “Together, Iowa lawmakers came together to pass this meaningful legislation to continue building Iowa for the future.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Patients test drive pacemakers before permanent implant
A medical conference in Italy is sparking conversation about pacemakers. It included a presentation by Professor Michael Giudici, director of arrhythmia services in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Patients are test driving pacemakers outside the skin before deciding whether or not to have a permanent implant. Researchers at the University of Iowa looked at six patients who spent two to three weeks with a temporary pacemaker. At the end of the trial period, all six went with the permanent one. (KARE)

National News

Doctors propose tool to help gauge the value of cancer drugs
The pushback against soaring cancer drug prices is gaining steam. A leading doctors group on Monday proposed a formula to help patients decide if a medicine is worth it — what it will cost them and how much good it is likely to do. The move by the American Society of Clinical Oncology is the third recent effort to focus on value in cancer care. Two weeks ago, the European Society for Medical Oncology proposed a similar guide. Last week, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York posted an online tool suggesting a drug’s fair price, based on benefits and side effects. (Associated Press/ABC News)

Groups recommend additional U.S. action to prepare for emerging infections
Trust for America’s Health, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and UPMC Center for Health Security today called on the United States to take additional steps to prepare for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus and other emerging infections. The report calls for action to strengthen communication strategies; incorporate health alerts into practice; routinely take complete travel histories; build on Ebola and all-hazards preparedness; modernize disease surveillance; and advance a shared framework for quarantine decisions. (Trust for America’s Health)

Tennessee hospitals want Obamacare, senators don’t
Conventional wisdom says big corporations that employ lots of people in a state generally call the shots with local politicians, especially when those corporations are the source of major campaign contributions. But that’s not the case in Tennessee. At least when it comes to Obamacare. Tennessee is looming as ground zero for the political fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision, which could come as early as Thursday, on the insurance subsidies at the heart of President Barack Obama’s health care law. (Bloomberg)

North Dakota seeing big changes in its hospital landscape
North Dakota previously has lacked the population base to generate much interest in hospital acquisitions by outside groups, North Dakota Hospital Association President Jerry Jurena said. The state’s population, buoyed by an oil boom, has grown by nearly 10 percent to a record 740,000 residents since the 2010 Census. That’s up about 94,000 residents since 2004. That has driven an increase in the volume of medical services in the state. (Associated Press/Washington Times)

Connecticut hospitals say they are hurt by higher taxes, looming Medicaid cuts
Hospitals in the state are lobbying as hard as any group to eke out higher contributions from the state, but pressure from other sectors, particularly corporations looking for tax changes, could temper any gains as a special session draws near. In each of the next two years, the state’s hospitals as a group will pay an estimated $105 million more between increases in taxes and adjustments in Medicaid rates, as well as other cuts, according to figures from the Connecticut Hospital Association. (New Haven Register)

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