Today’s NewsStand – March 29, 2017

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

Iowa News

Feds’ tab could hit $225 million to help Medicaid firms cover Iowa losses
Iowa’s decision to help Medicaid managed-care companies shoulder deep financial losses would only cost the state government about $10 million, but it could cost the federal government up to $225 million, state officials say. Much of the federal money would come via the Affordable Care Act, which Governor Terry Branstad opposed but which his administration has repeatedly tapped to pay for health care for poor Iowans. The state’s recent agreements to help the three private management companies mop up their red ink were disclosed last week. (Des Moines Register)

Fewer Quad-Citians without health insurance
The number of uninsured people in the Quad-Cities has fallen dramatically since the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) kicked in, new government figures say. The local declines have been particularly noticeable for the lower-income population. In both Scott and Rock Island counties, the uninsured rate for people making 138 percent of poverty ($16,243 for an individual) or less dropped by roughly half between 2013 and 2015. ACA tried to boost insurance coverage by expanding Medicaid eligibility and providing subsidies to people farther up the income ladder to make insurance more affordable in the private marketplace. (Quad-City Times)

It’s time to embrace and fix Affordable Care Act
“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” President Donald Trump told governors during a meeting last month. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” Nobody except everyone else. It is time for Washington Republicans to move forward. That means abandoning the tired, anti-Obamacare rhetoric they’ve been spewing for eight years. It means recognizing the law has been implemented in every state and has insured more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans. The GOP can embrace the law. And for the sake of the country, it should. (Des Moines Register)

Branstad reduces proposed budget by $173 million
Governor Terry Branstad is responding to a shortfall in state revenue by cutting $173 million in spending from a budget blueprint he previously proposed to the Iowa Legislature for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Branstad aides released a revised budget package Tuesday night that totals $7.283 billion for fiscal year 2018. That’s a decrease of 2.3 percent compared with the budget the Republican governor proposed in his Condition of the State address in January. The biggest reduction from the governor’s previous budget proposal is in health and human services funding, which faces a decrease of $86.2 million. (Des Moines Register)

Safe haven for abandoned newborns expanded under Iowa Senate bill
Iowa’s Safe Haven law that allows newborn babies to be voluntarily released at hospitals for adoption would be expanded under a bill approved Tuesday by the Iowa Senate. At least 20 babies have been covered under a state law took that effect in 2002 to protect newborns, according to the Iowa Department of Human Services. The law currently allows parents to leave an infant up to 14 days old at a hospital or health care facility without fear of prosecution for abandonment. Senate File 360, which was approved on a 48-0 vote, would expand the safe haven time period to 30 days. (Des Moines Register)

National News

House Republicans say they are still negotiating Obamacare repeal
The House Freedom Caucus, which was a critical force behind the implosion of the Republican repeal and replacement bill last week, is now actively trying to resurrect a similar bill. The group of more than 30 hardline conservatives defied Republican leadership and the White House when they said they’d vote no on the legislation without major changes. Their refusal to back the bill, coupled with a handful of moderate members, ultimately caused President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan to cancel a vote on the legislation Friday. The group is working with leadership and moderate Republicans to try to bring back the bill in a different form. (USA Today)

Senate GOP leaders push for health care effort after house plan implodes
Senate Republican leaders are pushing for a bipartisan health care effort after the implosion of the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal legislation, but Democrats remain wary. “I think that’s the lesson of last week – that it needs to be done on a bipartisan basis and so we’re happy to work on it with Democrats if we can find any who are willing to do so rather than those who just want to stand back and enjoy the show,” said the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas. It’s not clear whether Democrats, who largely sat back and let the repeal effort collapse on its own, have much incentive to negotiate yet. (Bloomberg)

Governors eye changes to state Medicaid programs
To some governors, the GOP’s decision to pull the American Health Care Act (AHCA) presents them with an opportunity to usher in changes to their states’ Medicaid programs, including Medicaid eligibility expansion and more conservative policies. Such is the case in Virginia, where Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe has introduced a budget amendment that would restore his authority to pursue planning for Medicaid expansion. Other states, though, are mulling different types of changes to their Medicaid programs in the wake of AHCA’s demise. (Fierce Healthcare)

Pretending there is equal coverage for mental and physical illnesses is a joke
Almost a decade after mental health care parity became the law of the land, much of the wider culture simply doesn’t accept it. Reimbursement rates for behavioral health therapists remain so low that few take insurance, and many have found it necessary to maintain cash-only practices to survive. Someone trying to access mental health care is twice as likely to be denied coverage by a private insurer than someone seeking surgical or other medical care, according to a survey of 84 insurance plans in 15 states by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. (Boston Globe)

OIG will investigate Trump administration decision to end ACA marketing campaign
US Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson informed Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in a recent letter that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) would review a decision to end halt outreach efforts aimed at insurance exchange enrollment. Democrats criticized the decision to pull advertising and outreach in the final days of open enrollment for 2017 as an early act to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But as those efforts came to an abrupt halt Friday, supporters of the act are watching for signs that President Donald Trump’s administration may continue to work against ACA’s intentions. (Healthcare Dive)