Today’s NewsStand – March 28, 2017

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

Iowa News

Branstad defends pledge to help Medicaid firms cover losses
Governor Terry Branstad on Monday defended his administration’s decision to help private Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) shoulder huge financial losses, and he said it doesn’t mean the project is in trouble. “We’re partners in this and we’re going to continue working with MCOs with regard to what makes the most sense going forward,” Branstad said. The three companies have complained they’ve lost hundreds of millions of dollars in Iowa and the Department of Human Services has signed contract amendments under which the state agreed to help the companies cover some of those losses. (Des Moines Register)

UnityPoint’s Trinity pumps more than $70M into FD economy, study says
Trinity Regional Medical Center is proving to be a valuable commodity in not only stimulating the local economy, but also attracting new businesses to the Fort Dodge region. According to the latest study by the Iowa Hospital Association, Trinity generates 1,156 jobs that add more than $70 million to Fort Dodge’s economy, an increase of about $10 million from 2015. “It is extremely rewarding to see the positive impact we have on the economic growth taking place for Fort Dodge and our surrounding communities,” Mike Dewerff, president and CEO of UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge, said. (Fort Dodge Messenger)

Prominent advocate for poor, disabled Iowans dies
Rhonda Shouse, who championed the health-care rights of poor and disabled Iowans, died Saturday, her family said. The Marion resident, who was 49, was a Medicaid recipient and a leading critic of Iowa’s shift to private management of the $4 billion program. “We want to make sure Iowans are being taken care of,” Shouse said in an interview shortly before three for-profit companies began running the program in April 2016. “She was the voice for thousands of Iowans who felt like they weren’t being heard by the governor or the administration,” said Senator Pam Jochum, a Dubuque Democrat. (Des Moines Register)

National News

Kansas Senators back Medicaid expansion to aid vulnerable hospitals
Financially fragile hospitals in Kansas — especially facilities in rural areas of the state — have a lot to lose in the Kansas Legislature’s debate about expanding Medicaid services. The Alliance for a Healthy Kansas reported 31 of the state’s 107 hospitals are financially vulnerable because each must grapple with costs of providing care to people who are uninsured. According to the Kansas Hospital Association, Kansas has forfeited more than $1.7 billion in federal funds since January 2014 by declining to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Topeka Capital-Journal)

A depleted Massachusetts system fails many with serious mental illness
While thousands with serious mental illness in Massachusetts struggle to get any help, the roughly 21,000 Department of Mental Health clients are promised treatment at state-run facilities and state-funded programs in the community that are operated by private vendors. But the department is releasing a steady stream of people with serious mental illness to live in the community without proper supervision. Part of the problem is the continuing pressure to move patients from inpatient units into the community. Some patients are released before they’re ready, employees say, and, once back in the community, they get little oversight. (Boston Globe)

As US hospital stocks soar, the industry’s many ills linger
With the failure of the Republicans’ overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, hospital administrators from every corner of the US have been breathing a sigh of relief. But the respite will likely be short-lived. True, 24 million Americans won’t be losing their insurance, a fact that has investors buoying hospital stocks for now. Even so, the industry is up against market forces that will compel hundreds of hospitals to shrink, remake themselves or even close in the months and years to come. Obamacare made big strides in providing health coverage, cutting the US uninsured rate almost in half. But more than 220 US counties still have uninsured rates at or above 20 percent. (Bloomberg)

White House looks to bounce back after health care loss
Regrouping after a rocky few weeks, the White House declared Monday that President Donald Trump doesn’t consider the health care battle to be over, suggesting he may turn to Democrats to help him overhaul the system after his own party rejected his proposal. The sudden interest in bipartisanship is a shift for a president who has spent months mocking Democratic leaders as inept. And Democrats indicated they have no interest if his intent is still to dismantle “Obamacare.” But Trump’s interest reflects the strained state of his relations with conservatives in his party and his search for a way to regain his footing after the painful withdrawal of his health care legislation. (Chicago Tribune)

With AHCA defeat, some Democrats see chance to push for universal coverage
At their first town meeting since the Republicans’ surprise surrender on the Affordable Care Act, progressives in blue America celebrated — then asked for more. “We have to look harder at a single-payer system,” said Representative Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), using a term for universal coverage. “I supported single payer since before you were born,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has argued since the passage of the Affordable Care Act that it could be a bridge to European-style universal coverage. (Washington Post)