Today’s NewsStand — May 31, 2017

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

Iowa News

Embattled Human Services chief Charles Palmer retires in wake of teen deaths
Iowa’s Human Services director, Charles Palmer, has retired amid intensifying scrutiny over his agency’s handling of the deaths of two teens adopted out of the state’s child-welfare system. Palmer was a longtime political target who weathered numerous high-profile controversies in his second tenure as director. Palmer told the Register in April that he had no immediate plans to retire. He said he hoped to stay in the job “as long as I feel like I’m making a difference and I’m feeling good.” (Des Moines Register)

Iowa’s GOP Senators say health care law repeal unlikely
Iowa’s two Republican senators say the long-promised repeal of “Obamacare” is unlikely, and any final agreement with the Republican-controlled House is uncertain. The comments Tuesday by Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst come as the Republican-controlled Senate moves forward on its work to dismantle the 2010 health care bill while facing conflicting demands within their own party. Both senators are active players in the health care debate. (Associated Press/US News and World Report)

Medicaid needs legislative action
Former Governor Terry Branstad predicted his privatization of Iowa’s Medicaid system would save the state money. However, managed care organizations want substantial rates increases, while reducing negotiated payments to health care providers. Complaints about a decline in available services and timely payments have spiked. With proposals by House Republicans to substantially reduce Medicaid allocations, the situation could get worse. Legislators should become proactive before Medicaid detonates a very large chunk of the state budget. (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier)

Progress made in Lee County’s Health Improvement Plan
In February 2016, Lee County Health Department, in conjunction with the Keokuk Area Hospital and Fort Madison Community Hospital, submitted a three-year Lee County Health Improvement Plan to the Iowa Department of Public Health. The Health Improvement Plan was developed as a result of a community health needs assessment process. This resulted in four taskforce groups charged with the planning, implementation and moving to action four health improvement goals. (Fort Madison Daily Democrat)

National News

Trump’s budget forces states into ‘difficult decisions’ about spending for hospitals
Moody’s Investors Service said recently the proposed Trump administration budget could form an even darker financial cloud over the nation’s not-for-profit health care systems and state legislatures. “The measure overall reflects a significant cost shift away from federal funding to states,” Moody’s said. “It would force states to make difficult decisions about safety-net spending for hospitals that serve large numbers of indigent patients.” (Winston-Salem Journal)

Pennsylvania Democrats say they’ll protect rural Americans from AHCA Medicaid cuts
Some Democrats continue to highlight the pain they say the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would cause rural Americans, including more than half a million Pennsylvanians living on Medicaid. Fewer insured individuals could result in the closure of hospitals, which already are difficult to come by in rural communities. In Pennsylvania, 48 of 67 counties are considered rural, with hospitals being the number one or number two employers in 28 of those counties. (McClatchy)

Most Americans want Senate to change or ditch House health care bill
Most Americans hold an unfavorable view of the House-passed health care bill and want the Senate to change it substantially or block it entirely, according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. A 55 percent majority of Americans view the American Health Care Act negatively, the same proportion who want the Senate to make major changes to the legislation or reject it, the survey finds. Only eight percent want the legislation, which would repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, approved as it now stands. (Washington Post)

The ‘junk insurance’ coming post-Obamacare could be like having no insurance at all
If certain parts of the House Republican health care bill become law, states that opt out of Obamacare protections could see an explosion of “junk insurance” in their individual markets – which could leave millions of people with very little coverage. Such plans often can be dirt-cheap, but they offer so few benefits that the recent Congressional Budget Office score on the Republicans’ American Health Care Act said such coverage basically amounted to no coverage at all. (Sacramento Bee)

CMS chief hints at changes to Medicaid
The administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Tuesday said she questioned whether addressing health insurance for low-income people should have happened through Medicaid, as it did under Obamacare. “We need a solution for low-income, non-disabled Americans … I question whether Medicaid is the best vehicle,” Seema Verma said. She was open to more states designing their own Medicaid programs, including through work requirements that have “appropriate safeguards” so people who need it could access it. (Washington Examiner)