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

Iowa News

Response to Palmer: Still need for mental illness beds
The closing of facilities built in the 1800s because the facility itself is outdated and costly is one thing, but to suggest or imply that the need is diminished is another. I was a psychiatric consultant to two residential treatment facilities, now closed. There were numerous occasions when a bed for an acutely individual with serious mental illness could not be found, which left all in a precarious position. (Des Moines Register)

Mental health screening proposal would connect students, providers
A $2.5 million proposal for a pilot program that would offer mental health screenings in Iowa schools passed a state Senate subcommittee Monday. The program was proposed by the state’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs), which provide schools with special education, professional development and technology services, among other things. The AEAs would run the program to give students mental health screenings, provide some basic counseling and refer more serious cases to community mental health providers. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

New sensor could cut hospital trips for heart failure
Complications from congestive heart failure landed Everett Fensterman in the hospital a few times over the past year. In February, he was one of the first patients at UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology to receive a new wireless sensor aimed to better manage heart failure and possibly prevent future hospitalizations. “I just lie on a pillow for 20 seconds and it sends it to the office. I do it once a day,” he said. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City opens chest pain unit
Patients suffering from chest pain are now being placed in a special unit in Mercy Medical Center’s emergency department. The chest pain unit, which was developed by interventional cardiologist Mir Rauf Subla and emergency room physician Joseph Liewer a year ago, is designed to reduce hospitalization rates among patients with a low risk of heart disease, thereby saving patients and the hospital time and money. (Sioux City Journal)

Mobile food pantry ‘something the community needs’
More than 200 Dubuquers — and nearly 70 volunteers — attended a St. Stephen’s Food Bank’s mobile pantry at Audubon Elementary this morning. The Dubuque-based food bank distributed about 9,000 lbs of food and a few toiletries to area residents in need. Today’s event was the second mobile food pantry hosted by St. Stephen’s. The event was sponsored by the nutrition department at Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque and the Schoen Family Charitable Trust of Neenah, Wis. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

National News

What are the best hospitals? Rankings disagree
What makes a top hospital? Four services that publish hospital ratings for consumers strongly disagree, according to a study in the journal Health Affairs. No single hospital received high marks from all four services—U.S. News & World Report, Consumer Reports, the Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades—and only 10% of the 844 hospitals that were rated highly by one service received top marks from another, the study published Monday found. (Wall Street Journal)

CMS: Report shows ‘clear progress’ on quality improvement
A new report evaluating the effects of measures used in 25 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services quality reporting programs from 2006 to 2013 “demonstrates that the nation has made clear progress in improving the health care delivery system to achieve the three aims of better care, smarter spending, and healthier people,” said Patrick Conway, M.D., CMS deputy administrator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer. (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)

Challenge to health law stokes fears
Samantha Allen, 30, is one of millions of Americans who have come to rely on the insurance aid in the law. Few of them will be in the courtroom Wednesday when the Supreme Court takes up a legal challenge to the subsidies, but perhaps no one has more at stake. An estimated 7 million people could lose assistance if the court backs the challengers. The lawsuit argues that a strict reading of the statute makes subsidies available only in the handful of states like California that established their own insurance marketplaces through the law. (Los Angeles Times)

Majority in poll says SCOTUS should uphold Obamacare
The majority of people in both parties say they would be opposed to a Supreme Court decision gutting a key provision of Obamacare, according to a new poll. Plaintiffs in the case, King v. Burwell, claim that people in 37 states are illegally receiving subsidies under Obamacare. But 61 percent say they hope the subsidies are upheld, according to a national survey conducted by Hart Research Associates for the Service Employees International Union. (The Hill)

Improving housing can pay dividends in better health
Faiza Ayesh giggles with delight as she describes her brand-new two-bedroom apartment in Oakland, Calif. She shares her home with her husband and three little girls, ages 3, 2 and 5 months. Ayesh, 30, says she just loves being a stay-at-home mom. “It’s the best job in the world.” But Ayesh wasn’t always this happy. A little over a year ago she was living in a cramped one-bedroom apartment with her family. It was in just terrible shape, she says. (Iowa Public Radio)

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

Iowa News

Insurance Subsidy showdown looms
The Affordable Care Act will face another huge fight on Wednesday. That’s when the Supreme Court will hear arguments for King v. Burwell, a case that ultimately will decide the fate of health care subsidies in states where the federal government completely or partially runs the health insurance marketplaces — including Iowa. Large numbers of people without insurance means a huge problem for hospitals and the providers who care for them, said Kirk Norris, president and chief executive officer of the Iowa Hospital Association. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” he said. If the number of uninsured were to increase, “you’d see charity care increase, bad debt increase.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Poll: Iowans favor tighter vaccination rules for kids
Most Iowans believe the state should require all children to have vaccinations unless they have a valid medical reason not to, a new Iowa Poll finds. That would be a tougher standard than Iowa’s current policy, which requires children to be vaccinated before starting school, but allows exemptions when parents cite medical or religious reasons. The new Iowa Poll finds that 59 percent of Iowa adults favor allowing only medical exemptions to childhood vaccinations. (Des Moines Register)

Mary Greeley pharmacy program receiving safety award
Mary Greeley Medical Center is receiving a patient safety award for a new pharmacy program in the hospital’s oncology unit. In January 2013, the pharmacy department began supporting its 16-bed inpatient oncology unit with staffed pharmacists Monday through Friday. Since then, physicians have reported receiving fewer calls to the clinic with medication questions after discharge. MGMC will be recognized for establishing a “clinical pharmacy model unique to community hospitals” by the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative at a Patient Safety Conference on March 12. (Ames Tribune)

Vinton hospital paramedic earns state ambulance service award
Virginia Gay Hospital Paramedic Wendy Frentress will attend the Stars of Life Conference in Washington, D.C. in April, as a result of being awarded the Volunteer Individual of the Year award from the Iowa Emergency Medical Services Association. The Stars of Life Conference honors those who make outstanding contributions to ambulance service throughout the U.S. (Vinton Today)

Siouxland PACE program to move, serve more seniors
UnityPoint Health — St. Luke’s recently announced a nearly $3 million project that will triple the space for its Siouxland PACE program. The expansion also is expected to create 20 to 25 new jobs and allow for future growth of the program, which provides health care and support services to enable aging individuals to remain at home. “While our current location meets the needs of participants today, we recognize the need to grow our program in order to care for the growing aging population,” PACE Director Randy Ehlers said. (Sioux City Journal)

Tanning’s health dangers drive legislative effort
Many young people have seen the ads that show people with no teeth, or no voice box. They have seen the statistics that say cigarette smoking causes 443,000 deaths per year. They have been told that cigarettes can cause cancer, but still smoke. What they might not know is that visiting a tanning bed earlier that day to get some color for that night out damaged their bodies, too. They don’t know because they are not bombarded by the kinds of ads they see about cigarette smoking. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Supreme Court’s health care law ruling worries 34 states
Officials in several Republican states that balked at participating in President Obama’s health care initiative are revisiting the issue amid mounting panic over a possible Supreme Court decision that would revoke federal insurance subsidies for millions of Americans. The discussions taking place in state capitals across the country are part of a flurry of planning and lobbying by officials, insurance and hospital executives and health care advocates to blunt the possible impact of a court ruling. The justices hear arguments about the matter this week. (Washington Post)

GOP Senators pledge help if Court bars health law subsidies
Three leading Republican senators are promising to help millions of people who may lose federal health insurance subsidies if the Supreme Court invalidates a pillar of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Orrin Hatch of Utah are saying they have a plan to do that in a Washington Post opinion article posted online late Sunday. They provide no detail on how much assistance they would propose, its duration or how to pay for it. (Associated Press/New York Times)

Health care access ‘doctors up’ local economies
Many thoughts go into choosing a place to live and work. Access to affordable housing, high-quality schools and a comprehensive health care system are among those considerations that typically rise to the top of the list. “Access to health care service is one thing you want for yourself and your family,” said Blaine Miller, administrator for the Republic County Hospital in Belleville, Kansas. “If you have a robust hospital with doctors and the health care services you would need, the likelihood of going there is better than going someplace that doesn’t have those health care services.” (High Plains Journal)

Telemedicine to transform Hancock County Healthcare
The doctor is making house calls again, but you will not find anyone in scrubs on your doorstep. These days, physicians get a little help from technology. Several members of the medical community met Friday as part of a project to bring telemedicine to Hancock County. The sound of a heartbeat thumps loud and clear through the monitor. With telemedicine, someone can have a doctor’s exam without setting foot in a waiting room. (WMAZ)

Retail could do to health care what Uber has done to taxis
Uber came out of nowhere and managed to overhaul the traditional taxi business in just a few short years. It now has a valuation of approximately $41 billion. Now Wall Street is searching for the next industry that can be Uber-fied. There are rooms full of analysts in search of the next “sharing economy” juggernaut. And I’ll bet they’re not looking at health care — an industry that’s proven one of the most difficult to drag into the tech age. But they could be missing something big. Recent movement from the U.S.’s biggest retailers into the primary care business indicates that health care might finally be in for some big disruption. (VentureBeat)

When health care is far from home
For decades, Hayfork had been fortunate. Well after the rise of urban health systems and their intricate business models, it had a tight-knit local “system” founded on the simple, generous commitment of two people: a general practitioner and a pharmacist. “He was everybody’s doctor,” Barnett says of Dr. Earl Mercill, a GP who moved up from the Central Valley almost 50 years ago. “You never thought about going to anyone else.” (Kaiser Health News)

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

Iowa News

State details plan to use private firms to manage Medicaid
Turning Iowa’s Medicaid program over to private operators will save money and improve service, a top state official said Wednesday, but lawmakers questioned how it would impact people enrolled in the program. Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer told the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee that the state is moving forward with a plan to shift the Medicaid program to two or more managed care organizations, to which Iowa will pay fixed amount per enrollee to provide health coverage. (Associated Press/ Newton Daily News)

Closing Mount Pleasant Mental Health Institute has local law enforcement worried
Funding for two mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda, Iowa is set to run out by the end of June. That has local law enforcement worried about an influx of inmates who really don’t belong in jail, but have mental illnesses and need treatment. Currently, there are four mental health institutes in Iowa. (KWQC)

Dubuque health insurance marketplace users frustrated with coverage situation
One of only two providers on Iowa’s health insurance exchange will be liquidated Saturday. The move is the last in a series of steps that have come since Iowa’s insurance commissioner took over CoOportunity Health Insurance amid financial troubles late last year. About 24,000 people still have plans through CoOportunity. That includes 5,500 patients who bought coverage on Iowa’s marketplace, which is part of the federal Affordable Care Act. (KCRG)

Coaches help patients manage health care
Health coaches have worked with diabetes patients for the last couple of years at Mercy Medical Center, but now their numbers are growing and they’re helping patients with a variety of conditions take charge of their own health. Mercy-affiliated clinics and rural critical access hospitals scattered throughout Siouxland employ nine health coaches. (Sioux City Journal)

National News

Supreme Court insurance subsidies decision could trigger price spikes
If the Supreme Court strikes down the insurance subsidies of millions of Americans who rely on the federal insurance marketplace, it could leave many worse off than they were before the law took effect, say experts. “The doomsday scenario could materialize and it does impact everyone” — those getting subsidies, as well as those paying the full cost of their plans on the individual market in states using the federal exchange, said Christopher Condeluci, an attorney who worked for Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley on the Senate Finance Committee staff during the drafting of the law. (Kaiser Health News)

Georgia abandons its rural hospitals
How do you rescue Georgia’s rural hospitals — often the heart and soul of the communities that they serve — from the financial challenges that are forcing them to close their doors forever? Apparently, you don’t. If you’re the state of Georgia, you express insincere concern for their health, slap a Band-Aid on their gaping wounds and push them out the door to face the ugly future that awaits them. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Veterans propose major changes in VA health care
A national veterans’ task force is advocating radical changes in the medical system for America’s former military personnel, including a choice to receive subsidized private care and conversion of the Veterans Health Administration into a non-profit corporation rather than a government agency. The reform measures, if enacted into law, would affect America’s roughly 22 million veterans dramatically, especially the 8.5 million enrolled for care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. (USA Today)

Infections with dangerous gut microbe still on the rise
A potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal infection is more common than previously estimated, federal health officials reported Wednesday. The infection, caused by a bacterium known as Clostridium difficile, or C-diff, causes nearly 500,000 illnesses in the United States each year and kills about 29,000, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (National Public Radio)

Indiana may allow ‘baby boxes’ for surrendering newborns
On the outside, the metal box looks like an oversized bread container. But what’s inside could save an abandoned newborn’s life. The box is actually a newborn incubator, or baby box, and it could be showing up soon at Indiana hospitals, fire stations, churches and selected nonprofits under legislation that would give mothers in crisis a way to surrender their children safely and anonymously. (KWWL)

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

Iowa News

Lawmakers concerned over fast-tracking Medicaid modernization
The Iowa Department of Human Services is seeking bids to outsource parts of the more than $4 billion Medicaid program. Some lawmakers question the quality of care and cost savings the move will provide. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, says there are opportunities to improve health care and many states have had mixed results implementing similar plans. (Iowa Public Radio)

ISU professor chairing VA review
One Iowa State University professor is taking a closer look at Veterans Affairs mental health services through her position as chair of an Institute of Medicine committee tasked with conducting an independent evaluation. Alicia Carriquiry, a Distinguished Professor of statistics at ISU, has been a member of the institute’s panels in the past, and she said it was her objective approach that ultimately led her to being appointed as chair of the review. (Ames Tribune)

Ban on conversion therapy advances in Iowa
A bill that would ban Iowa mental health professionals from trying to change the sexual orientation of gay patients under age 18 was approved by the Iowa Senate Human Resources Committee Wednesday on a straight party line vote. Senate File 31 was sent to the Iowa Senate floor with the committee’s eight Democrats in favor and four Republicans against. While the measure could be approved this session by the Democrat-led Senate, it appears unlikely the GOP-controlled House will consider the bill. (Des Moines Register)

National News

More than half of Obamacare signups were new customers
More than half of the nearly 9 million people who enrolled in ObamaCare coverage through the federal website were new customers, the administration said Wednesday, touting the number to show the vibrancy of the law. Fifty-three percent of the 8.84 million people who signed up through Healthcare.gov were new to ObamaCare this year. The administration had previously praised the better-than-expected total number of enrollments, but it was unclear how many already had health insurance. (HealthLeaders Media)

New online tool gives patients insight into the cost of medical care
Buying health care in America is like shopping blindfolded at Macy’s and getting the bill months after you leave the store, economist Uwe Reinhardt likes to say. A tool that went online Wednesday is supposed to give patients a small peek at the products and prices before they open their wallets. Got a sore knee? Having a baby? Need a primary-care doctor? Shopping for an MRI scan? Guroo.com shows the average local cost for 70 common diagnoses and medical tests in most states. (Kaiser Health News)

Minnesota struggles to reduce medical errors
Even the best protocols can’t guarantee that a mistake won’t be made because health care workers are human and over time they naturally become less vigilant, said Kathleen Harder, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Design in Health. “It’s not conscious; it’s just something that occurs as people are doing the same sort of activity over and over,” she said. “Again, they aren’t aware that various elements aren’t perhaps executed as well as they were in the beginning.” (Minnesota Public Radio)

CMS: First end-to-end testing of ICD-10 successful overall
The health care community will be ready for ICD-10 on Oct. 1, according to recent results from end-to-end testing, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced in a blog post Wednesday. About 660 health care providers and billing companies submitted nearly 15,000 test claims. “Overall, participants in the Jan. 26 to Feb. 3 testing were able to successfully submit ICD-10 claims and have them processed through our billing systems,” the agency said. (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)

Wyoming House committee cuts uncompensated care bill again
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would provide funds to cover a portion of hospitals’ uncompensated care. But Senate File 145 only passed after committee members voted to further cut the amount of money the bill would provide from $5 million to $3.9 million. Committee chairman Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper, supported the amendment, suggested by Rep. Mike Greear, R-Worland, as a way to keep the state’s budget balanced. (Casper Star-Tribune)

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

Iowa News

Iowa opens Medicaid program to managed-care bidding
Two health insurers already operating in Iowa have indicated they will bid on Iowa’s new proposal to outsource its $4.2 billion Medicaid program to managed-care companies. It’s the latest state move to privatize the health insurance program for low-income Americans. The Iowa Department of Human Services recently released a request for proposals, saying it will contract with two to four insurers to manage benefits and care for the state’s Medicaid population. The contract also will cover residents with coverage through the state Children’s Health Insurance Program and people who qualify for substance-abuse services. (Modern Healthcare)

Buena Vista University students selected for 2015 URMED internship program
The URMED internship is awarded to select BVU pre-med students who have an interest in practicing rural medicine. During their internship, the students are introduced to a variety of clinical and healthcare practices at BVRMC and other area rural hospitals. The URMED scholar recipients are also each given a $3,000 stipend provided by BVU and the participating hospitals to help them cover the costs of applying to medical school. (Storm Lake Pilot)

Poll: Iowans favor legalizing fireworks
Sixty percent or more of men, Iowans under 35, parents, and Republicans favor legalizing fireworks, according to results from a new Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. Legislation moving through the Iowa Senate would legalize fireworks in the state. A number of groups have opposed the measure, saying it will lead to increased accidents and injuries, particularly among children. Sixty-two percent of men say they support legalizing fireworks, compared with 46 percent of women. (Des Moines Register)

Iowa State professor working to improve mental health care for veterans
Tasked with leading an independent evaluation of Veterans Affairs mental health services has given Alicia Carriquiry a new perspective as to the challenges veterans and their families face. It’s an issue the Distinguished Professor of statistics at Iowa State University was aware of before being appointed chair of the Institute of Medicine committee conducting the review. But she never fully understood the need for better mental health services until listening to parents, spouses and veterans’ advocates testify about their situation – stories she will never forget. (Iowa State University)

National News

Health law drives down U.S. rate of uninsured adults, survey finds
Led by Arkansas and Kentucky, which both had double-digit declines, seven states saw the percentage of adults without insurance fall by more than 5 percentage points between 2013 and 2014. All but one of the 11 states with the biggest drops implemented both pillars of the federal health law: expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income adults and setting up a fully or partially functioning state-based marketplace. (Los Angeles Times)

Congress told ruling against health laws would impact poor
The Obama administration told Congress on Tuesday that it had no plans to help low- and moderate-income people if the Supreme Court ruled against the administration and cut off health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, said a court decision against the administration would do “massive damage” that could not be undone by executive action. (New York Times)

Medicare drug costs shrinking under Obamacare
ObamaCare has led to substantial savings in prescription drug costs and a strong increase in the use of preventive services, administration officials announced Tuesday. “Our parents and grandparents on Medicare saved more than $15 billion on prescription drugs since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said. Those savings amount to nearly $1,600 per person enrolled in Medicare — an increase from about $1,400 in average savings last year. (The Hill)

Patients, doctors see benefits of sharing medical records
When Stacey Whiteman was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years ago, she didn’t realize the toughest challenge would be its impact on her brain. The 53-year-old from Massachusetts was forced to quit work as an executive assistant after becoming easily confused and prone to forget, even about priorities like doctor appointments. When her physician suggested OpenNotes, an electronic portal allowing patients full access to their medical records, including doctors’ notes, Whiteman was eager to log on. (Reuters)

Pittsburgh nurses undergo mindfulness training to cope with job pressures
Caring for patients can be “organized chaos,” nurses say. As the foot soldiers of health care, they function at the pressure point, the front lines of the war zone, where “you have to be flawless.” “You can’t make one mistake,” said Daniel Griffiths, 47, of Greenfield, a nurse at UPMC Montefiore. “It’s physically draining. You’re on your feet for a 12-hour shift.” It helps explain why stress levels in nursing can lead to mental and physical exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and sleep disorders, with occupational hazards trespassing onto one’s free time. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

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