Today’s NewsStand – May 1, 2017

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

Iowa News

Will UI’s Medicaid concerns break Branstad’s state of denial?
Perhaps it wasn’t obvious before, but it should be now: If the hired guns paid to “manage” Iowa’s Medicaid program are saving taxpayers any money at all, they’re doing it by denying claims for payment and slow-walking the payment-approval process. Iowa’s biggest hospital, University of Iowa (UI) Health Care, says that it must cut in half its operating-margin projections for 2017 due partly to a sharp increase in claim denials from Medicaid’s managed care payers. (Des Moines Register)

Mercy Iowa City joins statewide health network
Mercy Iowa City officials announced recently that the hospital has entered into a strategic affiliation agreement with the statewide Mercy Health Network, headquartered in West Des Moines. Hospital officials report that the agreement will allow Mercy Iowa City to retain its name and local control. The new affiliation, which takes effect June 1, also gives the Iowa City hospital access to the Mercy Accountable Care Organization (ACO), the largest ACO in the state. (Des Moines Register)

Mental health levy may fall
Legislation passed during the Iowa Legislature’s recent session will change the way mental health tax levies will be set in each county. Under the legislation, counties in each predetermined mental health region throughout the state will essentially have the same mental health tax levy, regionwide. Levies in each region do not have to be the same compared to other regions, however. Initial indications are that Clinton County’s levy will fall, while neighbors such as Scott County will receive an increased levy. (Clinton Herald)

New police chief plans to make mental health a priority
Nearly a month into the job, Iowa State Police Chief Michael Newton continues to adjust to a new campus. In Wisconsin, Newton was the board president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Looking into NAMI Iowa, Newton makes mental health a priority. “Mental health was really important to me of making sure that we have the right systems and processes in place to help students or faculty and staff with mental health concerns,” Newton said. (Iowa State Daily)

National News

Pushing for vote on health care bill, Trump seems unclear on its details
After two false starts on President Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump administration officials are pressing the House to vote on a revised version of the Republican repeal bill this week, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. And on Sunday, Mr. Trump insisted that the Republican health legislation would not allow discrimination against people with pre-existing medical conditions. (New York Times)

Facing a financial squeeze, hospitals nationwide are cutting jobs
Hospitals nationwide are cutting jobs amid a whirlwind of financial pressures — and sharp fears about the direction Republicans will steer health care policy. Just in the past month, hospitals in 10 states, from Kentucky to Minnesota to New Mexico, have made public plans for staff reductions. So far, many “hospitals have been able to make cuts using a scalpel instead of an ax,” said John Palmer, spokesman for the Ohio Hospital Association. “But they’re running out of options.” (STAT)

GOP plan to kill Ohio Medicaid expansion may fuel drug crisis
A House GOP plan to gut Ohio’s Medicaid expansion would severely undercut the state’s battle against the opioid epidemic, critics say. “Medicaid expansion has given more people access to treatment than anything else we’ve done,” said Cheri L. Walter, executive director of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities. “Lack of coverage is a huge barrier to accessing treatment,” said Julie DiRossi-King, director of policy and government affairs for the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers. (Columbus Dispatch)

NIH to get a $2 billion funding boost as Congress rebuffs Trump’s call for cuts
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will get a $2 billion funding boost over the next five months, under a bipartisan spending deal reached late Sunday night in Congress. The agreement marks a sharp rejection of President Trump’s proposal to cut $1.2 billion from the medical research agency in the current fiscal year. But it sends a clear signal that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle prioritize funding for medical research and intend to honor the agreements laid out in the 21st Century Cures Act. (STAT)

Lawmakers settle on $1T plan to avoid US government shutdown
Lawmakers on Monday unveiled a huge $1 trillion-plus spending bill that would fund most government operations through September but would deny President Donald Trump money for a border wall and rejects his proposed cuts to popular domestic programs. The bill is the product of weeks of negotiations and is tentatively scheduled for a House vote on Wednesday. The spending bill would be the first major piece of legislation to advance during Trump’s tenure in the White House. (Associated Press)