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

Iowa News

New Iowa budget has $171 million ‘spending gap’
State Auditor Mary Mosiman said Monday the “true” general fund expenditures for the budget year that began July 1 are projected to be $7.401 billion, while the revenue under the state’s 99 percent spending limitation law available for budgeting stood at $7.23 billion, resulting in a $171 million “spending gap” that would be balanced using part of the carry-forward surplus. (Des Moines Register)

Program encourages 69 people to lose 610 pounds
In the past 10 weeks, Sue Morris of Davenport has lost 18 pounds, reduced the amount of medicine she takes each day and estimates that she will save $100 a month in medical expenses. He and 68 other people have taken part in the Naturally Slim Inc. weight-loss program sponsored by Genesis Philanthropy, part of Davenport-based Genesis Health System. (Quad-City Times)

National News

Report: Medicare hospital fund solvency extended four more years
The Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund will remain solvent until 2030, four years longer than projected last year, according to an annual report issued today by the Medicare Board of Trustees. The improved outlook “is primarily due to lower than expected spending in 2013” for most hospital service categories, according to the Treasury Department. (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)

In Ohio, Medicaid numbers are up, uninsured are down significantly
When Ohio expanded Medicaid last fall, Governor John Kasich estimated as many as 330,000 more people would take advantage. A new survey — and a separate study — indicate that may be coming true. The Ohio Hospital Association surveyed 130 hospitals and about half responded. About four in 10 said they are seeing fewer patients with no insurance. More than two-thirds said they’re seeing more patients covered by Medicaid. (WCBE)

Who’s saying no to the ACA? The states that might need it the most
Most media attention of this issue has focused on the politics of reform; some coverage has played up the finances, too. But remember: There’s more at stake than just the optics of coverage expansion. Based on measures of mortality and other health outcomes, the states that are generally saying no to Medicaid—the ones that are resisting the ACA—are the states that might need it the most. (The Advisory Board)

Commission says discharge trends driving Massachusetts health care spending
Massachusetts hospitals discharge a larger portion of their patients to other health care settings than the national average, a difference that has contributed to the state’s higher post-acute care costs and has driven health care spending, a state analysis concludes. The findings come courtesy of a supplemental cost trend analysis report undertaken by the state’s Health Policy Commission, which is tasked with keeping state health care costs and quality in check. (Boston Business Journal)

Study: Fist bumps are less germy than handshakes
A nice firm handshake has long been a mark of good manners and elevated social skills. It is also a very germy way to greet your fellow humans, much worse than a couple of more casual alternatives, a new study shows. “A short, sweet fist bump will transmit the least bacteria,” and even a high-five is better than a traditional shake, says David Whitworth, a senior lecturer in biochemistry at Aberystwyth University-Ceredigion in the United Kingdom. (USA Today/Des Moines Register)

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

Iowa News

Medical excellence is a key factor in Des Moines growth
Two critically important factors in corporate decision-making about site selection are the quality of a community’s schools and the ready availability of comprehensive, top-quality health care. This has been proven repeatedly with every ranking of the Des Moines metropolitan area as one of the best places to live in the nation. Consequently, it is no exaggeration to assert that the excellence of Des Moines’ medical facilities is helping the entire metro area achieve its dreams for tomorrow. (Des Moines Register)

Health fair underscores diversity, poverty in Des Moines
Des Moines’ East High School was transformed into a shopping mall of health care services on Saturday. In the cafeteria, nurses offered behavioral health screenings. Down one wide hallway, dentists and dental hygienists interviewed schoolchildren on their brushing habits, and poked around on their teeth. In a band room lined with musical instruments, volunteers administered state-mandated vaccinations — including for tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. (Des Moines Register)

Local agencies battle heroin addiction
Cody Shafer, health educator with Johnson County public health, said increased heroin use, intravenous use in particular, is having another concerning health implication through the spreading of HIV and hepatitis C. Shafer said hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted through shared drug equipment, from needles to cotton and cookers. “Basically anything used in the process,” Shafer said. “I’ve seen a definite increase in the hepatitis C inpatients.” (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Medical marijuana advocates want Iowa law expanded
A narrowly focused medical marijuana law just took effect in Iowa, but advocates are already looking to see how they can expand access to the drug for the chronically ill. State lawmakers this year approved legislation that allows the use of oil derived from marijuana to treat chronic epilepsy. The law — driven largely by advocacy from mothers of children with epilepsy — includes strict rules for acquiring the oil, such as requiring a state registration card and that the oil must be bought from another state that produces it. (Associated Press/Des Moines Register)

Harvest to begin soon at Independence hospital garden
This spring, Buchanan County Health Center staff decided to add a hospital garden to their attractive campus, desiring to grow fresh produce for both the hospital cafeteria and the Independence area “SPARK” program. SPARK is a preschool/elementary program that not only educates little one’s about the importance of healthy food and exercise, but also gives them a chance to sample some fresh fruits and vegetables they may have never tried before. (Independence Bulletin Journal)

National News

With deadline looming, lawmakers reach deal on VA health care
House and Senate negotiators have agreed on a compromise plan to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays. The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have scheduled a news conference Monday afternoon to unveil a plan expected to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care. (Associated Press/National Public Radio)

Costs of expanded audits aimed at Medicare fraud hit health care firms
In a bid to cut Medicare spending and help pay for health-care changes, the Obama administration has significantly expanded audits designed to recover improper payments from health-care providers. “We are taking, I would say, a brutal spanking, those that are fully compliant and within regulation,” said Tim Fox, founder and chief executive of Fox Rehabilitation. He said the government was “cracking down” to help pay for the expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire
If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises. Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts. (Washington Post)

NY state health care experiment emphasizes prevention
Patients scheduled to get hip replacements at Glens Falls Hospital must attend a pre-operation class, where they learn about the procedure, recovery and post-surgical therapy. At Moreau Family Health Center, doctors, nurse practitioners and care managers start the day huddled over data to share perspectives on patients who have appointments. These are scenes from the emerging American health system, where increasingly more time is spent on coordination, prevention and education, and less on expensive tests and hospital stays. (Albany Times Union)

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

Iowa News

Multi-million dollar expansion for Siouxland medical center
As the shovels break ground for the first time at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, a 26 million dollar two-year addition is set in motion, bringing about the change that CEO Rob Colerick says they need to stay competitive. “Healthcare is changing. It’s important for us to keep up with that change, and also make sure that we’re here for the next future generations. We think this project will help us do that,” Rob Colerick, BVRMC CEO said. (KTIV)

New ACO partnership for UnityPoint Health
UnityPoint Health, the parent organization of UnityPoint Health Trinity in the Quad-Cities, has entered into a new Accountable Care Organization, or ACO, with one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. The ACO between UnityPoint Health and United Healthcare was announced Wednesday and is expected to impact 36,000 individuals who have the insurer’s employer-sponsored coverage in the Quad-Cities, as well as Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fort Dodge and Waterloo. (Quad-City Times)

New Covenant clinic to open in College Square Hy-Vee store
A trip to Hy-Vee may soon mean more than just picking up some groceries. It might include a medical checkup. Next week, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa will open its first walk-in clinic in a retail store in the Cedar Valley, a Convenient Care Express at College Square Hy-Vee, 6301 University Ave., in Cedar Falls. The clinic is scheduled to open Tuesday. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

A groundbreaking day for local health care
22,000 square feet will give Muscatine’s health care system a bigger footprint by next year. But before Trinity Muscatine takes that big step, local officials had to put their foot down — on a shovel. The first phase in a six-phase health care project got its ceremonial send-off during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new UnityPoint Clinic Wednesday afternoon. (Muscatine Journal)

Branstad: Conflicting rulings add to health care uncertainty
Gov. Terry Branstad said Wednesday that Iowans are caught in a wait-and-see dilemma due to court rulings which have heaped more uncertainty on the federal Obamacare health system. During a stop at the Iowa Association of Health Underwriters Annual Healthcare Symposium, Branstad said it did not appear there would be a direct impact on Iowans who receive taxpayer subsidies via Iowa’s hybrid insurance exchange that partners with the federal government. But that may be subject to change depending on the outcome of contradictory court decisions. (Quad-City Times)

We need motorcycle helmets, at least for kids
Iowa remains one of only three states with no law requiring anyone, including child passengers, to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle. It’s time for Iowa lawmakers to bring common sense to this issue. Members of the Legislature have an obligation to do what they can to help Iowans stay alive on the road. And helmets can save lives. Ideally, Iowa law would require everyone on a motorcycle to protect their heads. At the very least, lawmakers should require helmets for minors. (Des Moines Register)

National News

More than 10 million gained coverage under Obamacare
A new study estimates that more than 10 million uninsured Americans gained health coverage over the past year due to the Affordable Care Act. The biggest gains came in states that expanded eligibility for Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor. Under health care reform, popularly known as Obamacare, states had a choice about expanding eligibility. (HealthDay News)

Two Americas on health care, and danger of further division
For decades, the United States has had a fragmented health policy. States called the shots on major elements of how health care and health insurance were financed and regulated. The result: a hodgepodge of coverage and a wide variance in health. The Affordable Care Act was intended to help standardize important parts of that system, by imposing some common rules across the entire country and by providing federal financing to help residents in all states afford insurance coverage. But a series of court rulings on the law could make the differences among the states bigger than ever. (New York Times)

Why do other rich nations spend so much less on health care?
Why does the United States spend so much more than other wealthy nations? The biggest reason is that U.S. health care delivers a more expensive mix of services. For example, a much larger proportion of physician visits in the U.S. are to specialists who get higher fees and usually order more high-tech diagnostic and therapeutic procedures than primary care physicians. (The Atlantic)

Why one hospital thanks the Ritz-Carlton for low readmission rates
Thirty-day readmission rates for hip and knee replacements at Indiana University Health Saxony Hospital are at 0.74 percent, more than seven times lower than the national average. Length of stay is also on the extreme low end. So how does the 42-bed hospital in Fishers do it? The answer stretches back to one surgeon’s experience at a hotel. A Ritz-Carlton hotel. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Mayo Clinic sees big future for personalized medicine
Medical treatment will become more genetically specific to individuals as the 21st century progresses, the Mayo Clinic’s director of laboratory medicine told a congressional subcommittee Wednesday. Dr. Frank Cockerill said that Mayo, one of the world’s leaders in specialized diagnostics, develops 150 tests per year in an attempt to become more precise in treating patients. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

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

Iowa News

Health care ruling could affect tens of thousands in Iowa, Illinois
More than 24,000 Iowans and 168,000 people from Illinois selected insurance plans with the aid of taxpayer subsidies, which now are in doubt because of a federal appellate court ruling. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., circuit, issued a ruling Tuesday saying the tax credits that are a key part of the Affordable Care Act are valid only for people who went through state-based marketplaces. (Quad-City Times)

Regional board approves Community Life Program mental health recommendations
The 10-county Central Iowa Community Services governance board reviewed a report Monday on how to transition Story County’s Community Life Program to a recently implemented regional mental health system by the end of the current fiscal year, approving a $30,000 contract amendment to the firm that wrote the report. (Ames Tribune)

Oskaloosa hospital designated Blue Zones worksite
Blue Zones Project Oskaloosa today announced Mahaska Health Partnership has been named a designated Blue Zones Worksite. Mahaska Health Partnership was designated after completing the necessary items in the Blue Zones Project worksite pledge, including successfully registering more than 25 percent of their employees to pledge and take action. “We are proud to be part of the movement that we believe will help improve the quality and length of life of Oskaloosa residents,” said Jay Christensen, CEO of MHP. (Oskaloosa Herald)

Algona is first to be Blue
Led by Jenny Weber, the community health consultant at Wellmark for the Blue Zones Project, the volunteers were waiting to hear if the work they had done for more than two years had bore fruit. It has, which means that Algona is the first of the nine small communities in Iowa to be designated a Blue Zones community — and the first small community in the nation to be given that designation. (Algona Upper Des Moines)

National News

Rulings on health law are far from last word
An appellate court ruling issued Tuesday would be very bad news for the Affordable Care Act if it became the law of the land. But it’s still a long way from a settled issue, as a second appellate decision, issued a few hours later, highlighted. In the first ruling, Halbig v. Burwell, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that federal dollars used to make health insurance more affordable for middle-income Americans can be used only in the handful of states that created their own insurance marketplaces. (New York Times)

Poll: Most say Obamacare working
More than half of Americans believe that they or others are better off with Obamacare, a new poll shows. The CNN poll released Wednesday found that 18 percent of respondents said they or their family had benefited from the health care law, while an additional 35 percent said while they may not be better off, the lives of others have improved. Forty-four percent say no one has benefited from Obamacare. (Politico)

The answer to the doctor shortage isn’t more doctors
While I do agree that ensuring access to care is important, to think that the solution is simply more doctors comes from framing the question incorrectly. The question shouldn’t be “how many doctors do we need for a growing population?” Rather, the question should be “how do we care for a growing population in a cost-effective way?” When you reframe the problem in this manner, it’s easy to see that simply churning out more doctors isn’t the answer. (The Health Care Blog)

Hospital rents ‘innovation space’ from health care accelerator
New York-Presbyterian Hospital is taking up residence at accelerator Blueprint Health LLC, where the hospital will work with startups to more quickly develop new technologies that improve patient care as federal regulators have demanded. Although health care historically has lagged in fostering new technologies, recent federal “meaningful use” requirements for improving patient care quality and lowering costs have pushed hospitals to explore new solutions. Hospitals are taking pages out of corporate playbooks, hosting hackathons to generate fresh ideas and tapping startups. (Wall Street Journal)

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

Iowa News

Stewart Memorial Hospital and Lake City businesses discuss health care
Business leaders in Lake City and leaders of Stewart Memorial Community Hospital held a forum this past week to focus on the changes in health care and the impact it will have along with trying to find ways collaborate and navigate the changing system. They participated in a roundtable discussion talking about ways to create better health among the area population and better health care for the communities they serve. (KCIM)

Iowa tops in the U.S. for children’s health
An annual national survey that measures major trends of children’s well-being ranks Iowa as the top state for youngsters’ health and near the top overall. The 2014 Kids Count Data Book being released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, lists Iowa No. 1 for health, third place for children’s economic wellness and third overall. The survey compares data from 2005 to 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. (Quad-City Times)

Health official: Iowa received 122 illegal immigrant children
Iowa received 122 unaccompanied illegal immigrant children during the first six months of this year, according to a federal official. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said the children were released to relatives or other sponsors. None was placed in a shelter. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s spokesman said the governor had not been notified of any placements and could not get confirmation from the federal government about the home countries and circumstances of the 122 children. (Omaha World-Herald)

Spencer Hospital endowment campaign launched
The Spencer Regional Healthcare Foundation has announced a fund development campaign to help sustain and enhance local health care provided at Spencer Hospital into the future. The foundation’s goal is to establish a permanent endowment fund in which the initial gifts are preserved and earnings are used to improve health care services. (Spencer Daily Reporter)

UI College of Medicine opens up tech to outside researchers
X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy may not mean much to most of us, but for scientists like Jerry Honts, it’s exciting stuff. Those are some of the high-caliber, high-dollar tools that Honts, an associate professor of cell and molecular biology at Drake University, has access to this summer during a unique program hosted by the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

National News

Federal appeals court panel deals major blow to health law
The three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with plaintiffs who argued that the language of the law barred the government from giving subsidies to people in states that chose not to set up their own insurance marketplaces. Twenty-seven states, most with Republican leaders who oppose the law, decided against setting up marketplaces, and another nine states partially opted out. The government could request an “en banc” hearing, putting the case before the entire appeals court, and the question ultimately may end up at the Supreme Court. (Washington Post)

Medicare modifies controversial hospice drug rule
In response to strong criticism, Medicare officials are modifying rules intended to prevent the agency from paying twice for the same prescriptions for seniors receiving hospice care. Under the rules that took effect in May, hospice patients or their families could not fill prescriptions through their Part D drug plans until first confirming that the prescriptions were not covered by hospice providers. Drugs related to palliative and comfort care are supposed to be covered under the fixed rate payments to the hospice. (Kaiser Health News)

How a team of doctors at one hospital boosted hand washing, cut infections
Dr. Gerald Hickson had two primary concerns after his wife’s double-knee replacement operation at Vanderbilt University Hospital in July 2008: making sure she received appropriate pain control and getting her moving as quickly as possible to avoid blood clots. But as he sat with her during her recovery, Hickson made a disturbing discovery. Most of the nurses, doctors and other hospital workers filing in and out of the room to care for his wife, who was at risk of contracting an infection after surgery, were not washing their hands. (Yahoo News)

Doctors upset over skill reviews
Besides holding a state medical license, about 75 percent of U.S. doctors are certified by 24 privately run boards, signifying that they have mastered their area of specialty, in fields ranging from internal medicine to orthopedics. The specialty boards require their physicians to pass rigorous exams, generally every 10 years, to stay certified. In recent years, those boards also have begun requiring doctors to enroll in official Maintenance of Certification programs in between exams to show they are committed to lifelong learning and quality improvement. (Wall Street Journal)

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