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

Iowa News

Iowa Legislature approves partial mental health fix
The Iowa House on Thursday approved a measure that would partly alleviate a longstanding problem with how mental health and disability services are funded in Scott County. However, county officials and some lawmakers say the bill didn’t go far enough. The Iowa House approved the measure on a 97-1 vote Thursday afternoon. The Senate passed it earlier this week so the bill now goes to Governor Terry Branstad. The legislation would equalize how the counties within each of the state’s 14 mental health regions raise money to pay for services. (Quad-City Times)

Ernst pushes for health care, regulatory reform during GCMH stop
The fate of the Affordable Care Act and Critical Access Hospitals dominated the discussion when US Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) visited the Grundy County Memorial Hospital (GCMH) to meet with executives, board members and local officials last Wednesday morning. “A lot of our constituents out in these rural areas, that’s how they’re serviced is through Critical Access Hospitals, so we need to maintain them as best we can,” she said. (Grundy Register)

Genesis HealthPlex coming to West Davenport
Identifying the growing demand for medical services on the west side of Davenport, Genesis Health System will break ground on a new HealthPlex later this year. Chief Marketing Officer Ken Croken said the $8 million to $10 million development, similar to its health complexes in Moline and Bettendorf, will break ground after July. Croken said Genesis’ latest project is a response to the trend in health care that consumers expect the “one-stop shopping” approach. (Quad-City Times)

OCH receives $400,000 grant for diagnostic tool
Patients at Osceola Community Hospital (OCH) will soon benefit from access to the latest computed tomography (CT) diagnostic technology made possible through a grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program. Helmsley has awarded OCH $400,000 for a new 64-slice CT scanner. “Our goal is to ensure that people who live in rural America have access to quality health care as close to home as possible,” said Walter Panzirer, a trustee of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. (Worthington Daily Globe)

Hand therapist helps man with reattached hand regain function
The field of hand therapy is growing as patients with everything from a broken finger to carpal tunnel syndrome look for ways to improve function and deal with pain. One hand therapist helped a young man get back to his normal life. Surgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, reattached Kennedy Folkedahl’s hand after it was cut off during a construction accident. Three months later, Folkedahl went to the UnityPoint Hand Therapy Clinic. (WHO)

National News

For doctors, a clamp down on visas could have an uneven effect in the US
Limiting the number of foreign doctors who can get visas to practice in the US could have a significant impact on certain hospitals and states that rely on them, according to a new study. The research, published online in JAMA this week, found that more than 2,100 US employers were certified to fill nearly 10,500 physician jobs nationwide, in 2016. That represents 1.4 percent of the physician workforce overall. (Kaiser Health News)

Many veterans gained health care through the Affordable Care Act
Almost half a million veterans gained health care coverage during the first two years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a report finds. In the years leading up to the implementation of ACA’s major coverage provisions, nearly 1 million of the nation’s approximately 22 million veterans didn’t have health insurance. Two years after ACA’s implementation, 429,000 veterans under the age of 65 gained coverage, which is a 40 percent drop in vets without insurance from 2013 to 2015. (Iowa Public Radio)

White House pushes uncertain bid to revive health care bill
Eager for a victory, the White House expressed confidence Thursday that a breakthrough on the mired Republican health care bill could be achieved in the House next week. The chamber’s GOP leaders, burned by a March debacle on the measure, were dubious and signs were scant that an emerging plan was gaining enough votes to succeed. During a news conference, Trump said progress was being made on a “great plan” for overhauling the nation’s health care system, though he provided no details. (Associated Press)

Conservatives’ goal to relax mandatory health benefits unlikely to tame premiums
As House Republicans try to find common cause on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, they may be ready to let states make the ultimate decision about whether to keep a key consumer provision in the federal health law that conservatives say is raising insurance costs. At the heart of those changes reportedly is the law’s requirement for most insurance plans to offer 10 specific categories of “essential health benefits.” (Kaiser Health News)

Secret hospital inspections may become public
The public could soon get a look at confidential reports about errors, mishaps and mix-ups in the nation’s hospitals that put patients’ health and safety at risk, under a groundbreaking proposal from federal health officials. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them. (Pro Publica)

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

Iowa News

University of Iowa hospitals raise alarm over Medicaid managed care denials
Iowa’s biggest and most-profitable hospital, University of Iowa Health Care, is lowering by more than half its operating income projections for 2017 and signaling a possible shift in strategy thanks to a sharp increase in denials from Medicaid managed care payers and a corresponding drop in the hospital’s collection rate. The hospital still is seeking about $6.4 million in Medicaid reimbursements for old cases dating back 270 days or more — contributing to concerns with the bottom line. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Thanks to grant, hospital to benefit from CT technology
Patients at George C. Grape Community Hospital will soon benefit from access to the latest computed tomography (CT) diagnostic technology made possible through a grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Rural Healthcare Program. Helmsley has awarded George C. Grape Community Hospital $400,000 for a new 64-slice CT scanner. A new CT scanner will produce high-quality images, allowing medical staff to quickly determine health status and course of treatment. (Nebraska City News-Press)

National News

Groups warn of rural health ‘crisis’ under Obamacare repeal
Rural areas would be hit particularly hard if Congress and the Trump administration don’t send clear signals that they’re committed to helping keep Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces stable next year, advocates warn. Rural areas already have fewer care options than their urban peers. A “crisis in rural counties,” is possible without more clarity, said Alan Morgan, the CEO of the National Rural Health Association, an umbrella group representing hospitals, doctors and others that work in rural areas. (The Hill)

Oregon lawmakers consider ending Medicaid expansion to shore up budget
Democratic lawmakers in Oregon are considering ending the state’s Medicaid expansion in an effort to address a $1.6 billion budget shortfall. Hospitals have benefited greatly from Medicaid expansion as they’ve seen uncompensated care costs drop from $1.3 billion in 2013 to $315 million in 2015 according to state data. Andy Davidson, president and CEO of the Oregon Hospital Association said, “We stand firm in our belief that we all must lean in to ensure that we preserve that access and coverage.” (Modern Healthcare)

Arizona hospital ERs to screen patients for signs of trafficking
A hospital chain with several hospitals in Arizona says is taking steps to counter human trafficking. Dignity Health says it has trained staff at three hospitals in the Phoenix area to look for indicators of possible human and that it has implemented mandatory screening in emergency rooms (ERs) and obstetrics departments. Dignity says trafficking victims who are identified will be referred to community agencies for support and assistance. (Associated Press/Miami Herald)

Chuck Grassley pushed for tougher scrutiny of private Medicare Advantage plans
Republican Iowa senator Chuck Grassley wants federal health officials to tighten scrutiny of private Medicare Advantage health plans amid ongoing concern that insurers overbill the government by billions of dollars every year. Grassley has asked Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials to explain why they failed to collect nearly $125 million in potential overcharges identified at five Medicare Advantage plans audited in a single year. (Healthcare Finance)

White House looking to revive Obamacare repeal before 100-day deadline
Two sources close to the health care legislative process tell CNN the White House is exploring whether to take one more stab at repealing and replacing Obamacare before President Donald Trump hits the key milestone of 100 days in office late next week. The renewed effort comes as Congress returns from recess next week and as the Trump administration is fielding questions about its legislative accomplishments during its first 100 days in office. (CNN)

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

Iowa News

Aetna, Wellmark roil health market
Insurance providers Aetna’s and Wellmark’s recent pullout from the Iowa individual insurance market could leave almost 60,000 Iowans and hospitals across the state in limbo. Scott McIntyre, the vice president for communications at the Iowa Hospital Association, said this increased instability could leave hospitals across the state in the lurch. Two major issues with uncompensated or “charity” care McIntyre points to are that uninsured individuals tend to not have regular relationships with health care providers and tend to be treated in expensive emergency departments. (Daily Iowan)

Iowa Medicaid: How well is it working (really)?
Is Medicaid privatization a tremendous success, resulting in “healthier Iowans and better outcomes” while saving taxpayers hundreds of millions? Is it a dismal failure coming at the expense of needy Iowans and taxpayers? Or is it somewhere in between? All Iowans need and deserve clear, objective answers, not political spin. Government officials, managed care organizations, taxpayers and, most of all, clients and their advocates need to be part of the conversation. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

Senator hears Iowans’ concerns about health care costs
Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley is holding meetings around the state during the April recess. Grassley says the recent news that two companies will stop selling individual policies in the state, and the failure to get a new health care law signed, concern him. Grassley says he’d like to hear from the insurance companies if they have specific ideas about how Congress could help them stay in the Iowa individual market. (Iowa Public Radio)

UPH-Waterloo prepares to acquire CIH
UnityPoint Health (UPH)-Waterloo CEO and President Pamela Delagardelle and associates have successfully taken on many challenges. On Tuesday, the former nurse told the local Rotary Club they are ready to take on another, as UPH-Waterloo prepares to bring Central Iowa Healthcare (CIH) into the UPH-Waterloo fold. Delagardelle made it clear that she and other staff will work as a team with remaining CIH staff to bring the best possible outcomes to patients in a patient-centered approach. (Marshalltown Times Republican)

GOP bill bans underage sales of e-cigarettes online
Electronic cigarettes and other so-called vaping products sold to Iowans on the internet would be regulated for the first time under a last-minute spending bill as the GOP majority strives toward adjournment of this year’s legislative session. Under the bill, sellers would be required to obtain a permit to sell the alternative nicotine products online. And the products would be subject to the state sales tax. (Iowa Public Radio)

National News

Hundreds rally against closure of Kansas hospital at center of Medicaid expansion debate
Several hundred people turned out Monday night to protest the possible closure of St. Francis Health in Topeka. The financial struggles of the hospital have taken center stage in the debate over whether to expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program. Governor Sam Brownback recently vetoed an expansion bill that would have generated an additional $10 million a year in federal funding for St. Francis, according to the Kansas Hospital Association. (KCUR)

House Republicans push to repeal Florida CON law
Legislation to repeal Florida’s Certificate of Need (CON) law is expected on Wednesday to pass the Florida House. Democrats and others say getting rid of CON is unnecessary and might reduce the quality of care by overcrowding the market. “Won’t repealing CON create a two-tiered system: One for the insured living in wealthy areas and one for uninsured in low-income areas?” said Representative John Cortes, D-Kissimmee. The state’s safety net hospitals oppose repealing CON for exactly that reason. (Miami Herald)

Medicaid may require work, payments from the poor, as Indiana tried
Far more people may also have to adjust to the new reality of formerly free health coverage through Medicaid: It will cost money. As once-reluctant Republican governors consider expanding Medicaid to their lowest income residents, the Medicaid plan developed by the now-head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and approved by former Indiana governor, now Vice President, Mike Pence is the one many are expected to model. (USA Today)

Detroit program to train hospital patient sitters, care associates
Three major hospital systems in Detroit are partnering with the city to train Detroiters for entry-level health care jobs. The Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System and St. John Providence will provide training and placement opportunities for 240 city residents over the next 12 months for patient sitter and patient care associate jobs. “The need to fill health care jobs continues to increase, especially the need for patient care associates,” said Focus: HOPE CEO Jason Lee. Focus: HOPE will provide services to the trainees. (Michigan Live)

Health insurers asked for reassurance on Obamacare. They didn’t get it.
Health insurance executives seeking certainty on the future of federal funds that help lower-income Americans with their out-of-pocket health care costs got no commitment that they would be paid next year in an hour-long meeting with Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). A CMS official confirmed that Verma “did not comment” on the payments, called cost-sharing reductions, at the meeting and told those gathered that it was a decision to be made by Congress. (Washington Post)

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

Iowa News

Surgery touched by big-screen technology
Buena Vista Regional Medical Center (BVRMC) in Storm Lake is one of the first health care institutions in Iowa that has the VISERA 4K Ultra High-Definition (UHD) System, a big-screen TV and camera system that delivers four times the pixels, higher resolution, better light and a wider color spectrum than standard high-definition displays. The technology should allow BVRMC surgeons to operate with increased precision and confidence. (Sioux City Journal)

CareNow clinic opens at West Locust Hy-Vee
Medical help is now available at the new Genesis Convenient CareNow clinic in an unexpected location: Hy-Vee on West Locust St. It’s located next to the supermarket pharmacy, a big help when a patient is treated for common ailments, such as sore throat, earache and cold and flu symptoms. While these clinics have rolled out across the country, this is the first partnership with Genesis Health System and Hy-Vee. The clinic is part of the hospital organization’s convenient care network with a new name: Genesis Convenient CareNow. (Quad-City Times)

National News

New attention to struggles of Kansas hospitals fuels Medicaid expansion effort
Renewed attention to the financial struggles of several Kansas hospitals is giving supporters of Medicaid expansion a potentially powerful argument as they work to build a veto-proof majority for a new bill. “The conversation became much more real with the renewed talk about hospital closures,” said David Jordan, director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas. House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said information provided by the Kansas Hospital Association has convinced him that expansion would be a “lifeline” to many of the state’s struggling hospitals. (KCUR)

Scott Walker’s plan to drug test Medicaid applicants would backfire
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is proposing changes to the state’s Medicaid program, also known as BadgerCare, that would require drug testing and treatment for some applicants. An official in the Walker administration said the measure aims to help individuals transition to work. Jon Peacock, research director at Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said the program would actually work against Walker’s previously stated goal to decrease the number of uninsured Wisconsinites. (Madison Capital Times)

Trump’s threat to gut Obamacare on his own worries Minnesotans
President Trump is warning he may try to withhold $7 billion in health care subsidy payments until Democrats agree to negotiate an Obamacare replacement bill. Local observers in Minnesota say that could be disastrous to people who depend on that aid. Earlier in his presidency, he took steps to end another key provision: ceasing enforcement of the mandate to carry health insurance. Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper recently warned that weakening or eliminating the mandate would be problematic for the already troubled non-group market for insurance. (Minnesota Public Radio)

South Carolina hospital system’s telehealth efforts show change is hard but not impossible
Palmetto Health, a six-hospital system headquartered in Columbia, South Carolina, has been working to push its telehealth efforts. As some care seems to be moving away from hospitals directly and into retail clinics and telehealth apps, forward-thinking organizations are beginning to experiment with new modes of care delivery. With change comes uncertainty, but some like Tripp Jennings, chief value and informatics officer at the health system, believe that organizations need to work through the uncertainty to stay relevant in today’s landscape of changing health care expectations. (Healthcare Dive)

Ryan, Trump-aligned groups change focus in health care ad campaigns
Political groups aligned with President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan are doling out millions of dollars to defend House Republicans who are taking heat at home for supporting the GOP’s now-stalled plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. The moves show a shift in the groups’ focus, from targeting skeptics of the health care plan to focusing on its supporters, which have faced pressure from both the political right and left. (Morning Consult)

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

Iowa News

When Iowa’s mental health crisis lands next door
On April 7, Mark and Charla Nicholson, and their 24-year-old daughter Tawni, had been murdered by their son Chase, who had long struggled with mental illness. The unpleasant truth is that the Nicholsons were living in a state that ranks last for state-run psychiatric beds and has reduced overall state funding for mental health treatment for years. And Chase will now be treated for his mental illness in the Iowa penal system, not the Iowa mental health system. Therein lies the tragic irony of it all: Chase is finally getting the help his family fought so hard for and, ultimately, died for. (Des Moines Register)

Lutheran Services in Iowa to host mental health event
James Guentherman has seen his share of people suffering from mental illness. And he knows there are many other such sufferers out there needing help. “A lot of people are unwilling to seek treatment for mental health problems because they do feel embarrassed or ashamed,” said the licensed mental health coordinator and service coordinator for therapy and behavioral health services at Lutheran Services in Iowa (LSI). He’s hoping such people will be drawn to the LSI’s Community Mental Health event on April 25. (Dubuque Telegraph Herald)

National News

10 years after the Virginia Tech massacre, Virginia still falls short on mental health care
It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the horrific day at Virginia Tech when 32 students and faculty were killed and many others were injured by a young student with untreated mental illness. At the time, Virginia’s community mental health system was stretched extraordinarily thin and was severely underfunded. After the tragedy, lawmakers responded swiftly and decisively. Although progress has been good, Virginia sits in the bottom half of states in overall ranking for mental health care per person. (Washington Post)

A crisis in rural health care puts mothers-to-be on a risky road
Financial pressures, insurance problems and doctor shortages forced more than 200 hospitals to close their birthing units between 2004 and 2014, according to the University of Minnesota’s Rural Health Research Center. That’s left millions of women of reproductive age facing longer drives to deliver babies — who sometimes arrive en route. The long drives, understandably, increase anxiety. They also make mothers and babies less safe; studies show these distances bring with them increased rates of complications and infant deaths, as well as longer stays in neonatal intensive care units. (STAT)

In Alaska, anxiety grows as debate over health care rages
Going without health insurance is a risk. Going without it in Alaska can be a gamble of a much higher order, for this is a place unlike anywhere else in the US, a land of pitiless cold, vast expanses and dangerous, back-breaking work such as pulling fishing nets from the water or hauling animal carcasses out of the woods. And yet many people on the Last Frontier do not carry insurance. In the meantime, many of those who gained coverage under the law or have affordable plans are fearful about losing their lifeline. (Associated Press/Raleigh News and Observer)

How Medicaid expansion saved one Ohioan
In four years of dealing with cancer and its consequences, Richard Cotterill, of Springdale, Ohio has relied on a good attitude, his parents, his old dog Ranger and the mechanisms of the Affordable Care Act. “Without this health insurance, my parents and I would probably be in massive debt, or I would be dead,” Cotterill said. “Some of the medicine I would need, if I did not have this health insurance, would cost thousands of dollars. And we just don’t have that kind of money.” (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Medicaid expansion in Kansas may come up again when legislative session resumes
Democrats are preparing for another run at Medicaid expansion when lawmakers return, hoping they can offer changes to conservatives to gain their support. But opponents vow to fight, saying there are no modifications that would win them over. The Legislature will reconvene May 1. Supporters of expansion mounted an unsuccessful effort earlier this month to override Governor Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill that would have increased eligibility for the program. And recent news about a struggling Kansas hospital may intensify efforts to expand. (Wichita Eagle)

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