Today’s NewsStand – January 3, 2018

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

Iowa News

Iowa to notify families soon about kid’s health insurance
Iowa is preparing to notify families in early February that federal money could run out soon for a health insurance program that covers roughly 60,000 low-income children in the state. The Iowa Department of Human Services has drafted letters that could be mailed out to families about dwindling money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as hawk-i in the state, which is expected to run out at the end of March or possibly April without more federal funding. (Associated Press/Sacramento Bee)

Sheriffs and deputies propose ‘triage’ centers, to assess mentally ill
County law enforcement officials are asking Iowa lawmakers to create half a dozen regional “triage” centers for people who are having a mental health or addiction crisis. The State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association is calling for more community-based treatment programs as well as more options for Iowans who need in-patient treatment for a mental illness. According to state officials, at least a third of Iowa prison inmates are suffering from a severe mental illness. (Radio Iowa)

Affordable Care Act enrollments are up in Nebraska and Iowa for 2018
Nebraska and Iowa are among eight states where people signed up for more Affordable Care Act health insurance plans for 2018 than a year ago, despite a shorter enrollment period. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid said Tuesday that Nebraskans selected 88,213 plans and Iowans selected 53,217 plans through HealthCare.gov during the seven-week enrollment period. That’s 4.5 percent more plans in Nebraska and 3.2 percent more in Iowa than during the 13-week open enrollment period from last year. (Omaha World Herald)

Several thousand Iowans could drop health insurance in 2018, but some found alternatives
Several thousand Iowans are likely to drop health insurance next year amid tumult over the Affordable Care Act —  but a wrinkle in the market should keep the situation from being even worse, experts say. The issue affects roughly 72,000 Iowans who bought their own health insurance for 2017 instead of obtaining coverage from an employer or a government program. Although those consumers represent a small slice of Iowa’s population, they are the most vulnerable to market turmoil. (Des Moines Register)

Massive, maligned Medicaid managed care expansion to start in Illinois
A vast remaking of subsidized Medicaid health care in Illinois, nearly a year in the making and criticized all the way, is set to debut this week. Representative Greg Harris of Chicago, the House Appropriations-Human Services Committee chairman, has turned his attention to the program’s viability. Harris points a warning finger to Iowa, where he contends the Medicaid managed care program is collapsing because one of three insurers pulled out, leaving more than 200,000 clients without an insurer and forcing a limitation on patient choice. (Associated Press/Fresno Bee)

340B program is working as intended
The 340B program was created by Congress in 1992 and requires drug companies to sell medications at a discount to hospitals that serve large numbers of low-income and rural patients. For many hospitals in Iowa, 340B is a vital lifeline that helps provide free and discounted medications and other important services to low-income patients, especially in these times of exorbitant drug prices.  If the 340B program is scaled back, then hospitals, and many across Iowa, would be forced to cut back or eliminate health care services. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Hospital groups dig in after cuts to discount drug program
Hospital groups are vowing to push forward with a fight against the Trump administration over changes to a federal drug discount program following a setback last week. The American Hospital Association, America’s Essential Hospitals and the Association of American Medical Colleges last year sued to block a rule from going into effect that would result in $1.6 billion in cuts to hospitals participating in the 340B Medicare drug discount program. (The Hill)

Seven key changes the new tax law will force hospitals to consider
Tax professionals are scrambling to understand the complex, often-confusing provisions of the hastily written law while trying to do tax planning for hospitals, medical groups and other healthcare clients. Not-for-profit hospital systems will have to grapple with a number of changes that make their tax-exempt status less advantageous, including new provisions on unrelated business taxable income and executive compensation. This article outlines seven key takeaways about major considerations for hospitals in the new tax law. (Modern Healthcare)

Mental health and substance-use disorders are growing problems in Colorado
Colorado is pushing for new approaches to how police officers handle cases involving mental illness and drug addiction, encouraging them to steer low-level offenders toward treatment rather than jail and giving them assistance in dealing with potentially dangerous situations. In one tactic, mental health professionals ride with officers during 911 responses and some routine patrols. In another, local communities place case managers into high-crime areas to help police keep drug users out of the criminal justice system. (Denver Post)

Conservative groups push for 2018 repeal of Obamacare
Conservative groups are pushing President Trump to make Obamacare repeal a priority in 2018, even as some Republicans signal a desire to move on from the issue. A letter to Trump signed by 43 right-leaning groups calls for health care reform to be the focus of the fast-track process known as reconciliation this year. Using that process would allow Republicans to repeal Obamacare in the Senate without Democratic votes, but it would also preclude them from using the tool for other priorities like welfare reform. (The Hill)

Terrifying brush with death drives doctor to fight for patients
The searing abdominal pain came on suddenly while Dr. Rana Awdish was having dinner with a friend. Soon she racing to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where Awdish was completing a fellowship in critical care. On that night nearly a decade ago, a benign tumor in Awdish’s liver burst, causing a cascade of medical catastrophes that nearly killed her.  The ordeal opened her eyes to communication lapses, uncoordinated care and at times a total lack of empathy at an institution. The health system has embraced many of her suggestions for change. (Kaiser Health News)