Today’s NewsStand – December 18, 2017

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

Iowa News

Siouxland Paramedics exit will leave gap in rural paramedic care
When longtime regional ambulance service Siouxland Paramedics Inc. stops responding to emergency calls on January 1, rural residents surrounding Sioux City likely will notice the change the most. Small towns and rural areas across the region will face a void in paramedic service. Mercy Medical Center – Sioux City, which has the region’s highest-level trauma center, also shares an unease that some patients coming from rural areas could soon face longer waits for treatment. (Sioux City Journal)

A pilot project to prepare more mental health professionals
The osteopathic medical school Des Moines University (DMU) is using grant money to launch a pilot project to address a shortage in Iowa of mental health professionals. It’s designed to train future primary-care doctors in treating psychiatric illness. As many as 50 third-year students at DMU will study at one of the nation’s top psychiatric hospitals, the Menninger Clinic in Houston. The project will familiarize more general practitioners with mental health issues. (Iowa Public Radio)

Eastern Iowa Health Center, marking 10 years, copes with ACA, managed care
Thousands of patients have received care at the Eastern Iowa Health Center in the last 10 years, a Cedar Rapids provider that offers health care for an underserved population across Eastern Iowa. The passage of the Affordable Care Act and the switch to managed care for the state’s Medicaid system had the largest impacts on the center over the past 10 years but the current state of Iowa’s Medicaid is one of the biggest concerns for the future, said Joe Lock, president and CEO of the center. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Iowa homeless shelter sees high demand for beds
A homeless shelter in eastern Iowa is facing a growing demand for beds, despite federal figures showing a drop in homeless populations statewide and in some nearby states. Dubuque Rescue Mission is overwhelmed by the demand this year that it has set up beds in hallways and a laundry room. The mission’s executive director, Rick Mihm said the rising demand is a result of chronic mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as difficulty in making ends meet. (Associated Press/New Haven Register)

National News

Final GOP tax cut bill has big loss and smaller wins for health care stakeholders
House and Senate Republicans have agreed to preserve tax-exempt, municipal private activity bonds as a way for hospitals and other not-for-profit organizations to raise capital for construction projects. Health care analysts warn that tax cut bill overall will have big downstream effects on funding for Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act subsidies and other federal and state health care programs. (Modern Healthcare)

Nebraska’s new Medicaid system got off to a rocky start, but ‘growing pains’ are healing
Nebraska’s new Medicaid system, called Heritage Health, was launched on January 1 and expanded upon Nebraska’s previous Medicaid managed care programs. Unpaid claims and balky authorization processes continue to frustrate health care providers and delay care for patients. And one small-town hospital was mistakenly left off the state’s list of Critical Access Hospitals. Nebraska Total Care rejected claims submitted by that hospital, said Elisabeth Hurst, vice president of the Nebraska Hospital Association. (Omaha World-Herald)

House panel in Georgia urges big changes to stop decline of rural health care
An influential task force of Georgia House members has approved a set of bold proposals to bolster rural health care in the state, including expanding insurance coverage through a Medicaid “waiver’’ project and making a fundamental change Certificate of Need (CON) laws. The CON proposal is already generating rumblings within Georgia’s hospital industry. The Georgia Hospital Association says sweeping changes to the CON program is of significant concern to the hospital community. (Georgia Health News)

Sign-ups show health law’s staying power in Trump era
A deadline burst of sign-ups after a tumultuous year for the Obama health law has revealed continued demand for the program’s subsidized individual health plans. On the plus side for the overhaul, official numbers showed a sizable share of first-time customers, 36 percent, were among those rushing to finish HealthCare.gov applications in the run-up to Friday’s enrollment deadline. One new challenge comes from the GOP tax bill, which repeals the law’s requirement that people have health insurance or risk fines. (New York Times)

Looking north: Can a single-payer health system work in the US?
Dr. Peter Cram, an American internist who spent most of his career practicing in Iowa City, Iowa, is part of a small cohort of American doctors who, for personal or professional reasons, have moved north to practice in Canada’s single-payer system. As a U.S.-trained physician and a health system researcher, he is now studying what he says is still a little-understood question: How do the United States and Canada compare in terms of actual results? Does one do a better job of keeping people healthy? (HealthLeaders Media)