Today’s NewsStand – March 8, 2018

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

Iowa News

Iowa hospitals add $7.1B to economy
Iowa’s hospitals add more than $7.1 billion to the state’s economy and generate more than 132,000 jobs, according to a new report from the Iowa Hospital Association’s (IHA) latest hospital economic impact report. It examines jobs, income, retail sales and sales tax generated by the state’s hospitals as well as the rest of its health care sector. “With more than 330,000 jobs, health care is one of Iowa’s largest employers, and hospitals remain by far the biggest contributor to that enormous impact,” said Kirk Norris, president and CEO of IHA. (Quad-City Times)

Two local hospitals responsible for a combined nearly $90 million economic impact
Two area hospitals are responsible for a more than $89 million impact on our local economies. St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll and Stewart Memorial Community Hospital in Lake City are both reporting results of the latest Iowa Hospital Association study. St. Anthony is responsible for 714 jobs that add $52.3 million to the Carroll County economy. For Stewart Memorial, their 404 jobs add nearly $20 million to Calhoun County’s economy. (KCIM)

Senate approves letting Wellmark, Farm Bureau sell insurance outside of Obamacare rules
The Iowa Senate voted Wednesday to let the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield sell health insurance plans that don’t comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. The new coverage could offer relatively low premiums for young and healthy consumers, but people with pre-existing health problems could once again be charged more or denied coverage. Critics fear the change would further destabilize Iowa’s already fragile health insurance market and undermine Affordable Care Act rules designed to protect consumers. (Des Moines Register)

Kim Reynolds kicks off campaign for governor
Governor Kim Reynolds kicked off her election campaign Wednesday asking Iowans to join her effort to “pass on an Iowa greater than the one we inherited … where the norm is unleashing opportunity.” Reynolds, who was elevated from lieutenant governor to Iowa’s 43rd governor in May 2017 when Terry Branstad stepped down to become ambassador to China, kicked off her campaign for a full four-year term at the Clarke County Fairgrounds in front of friends and supporters. Now she’s running for her own term. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

UnitedHealth tightens reins on emergency department reimbursement
UnitedHealth Group is following rival Anthem’s footsteps with a new payment policy aimed at reducing its emergency department (ED) claims costs. Under the policy, UnitedHealth is reviewing and adjusting facility claims for the most severe and costly ED visits for patients enrolled in the company’s commercial and Medicare Advantage plans. Hospitals worry that the policy will be yet another way for insurers to deny claims. “It’ll just make it more difficult to collect for services, said Jim Haynes, chief operating officer at the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. (Modern Healthcare)

Petition drive seeks to take Medicaid expansion question to Nebraska voters
A newly announced petition drive seeks to put the question of Medicaid expansion to Nebraska voters. Backers of the Insure the Good Life campaign have scheduled a Friday launch for their effort to put a proposal on the November ballot. The measure would allow Nebraskans to decide whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program to cover more low-income people, as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. (Omaha World Herald)

Oklahoma exploring plan for Medicaid work requirement
Oklahoma will develop a plan within the next six months on how to add work requirements into its Medicaid program. Oklahoma joins a list of more than 10 states that have expressed interest in adding the requirement — or have already received federal approval — that people who are getting Medicaid benefits work or participate in other activities, such as job training and volunteering. Democrats decry the move as an attempt to push people out of the Medicaid program, which they say is against Medicaid’s objectives. (The Hill)

Amazon offers Prime discount for Medicaid recipients
Amazon has had no problem getting affluent households to buy from its online store. But people with low incomes have been less loyal to the retailer. Now, Amazon is taking another step to persuade them to spend their money on the site. Starting Tuesday, the company will offer a discount on its Prime membership program to the millions of recipients of Medicaid. The move expands an effort started last year, when Amazon started offering the Prime discount to people with electronic benefit transfer cards, used to distribute aid for food purchases. (New York Times)

White House pushes for conservative changes to Obamacare fix
The White House is pushing for several conservative policies to be included in a bill aimed at stabilizing Obamacare. The document supports funding controversial Obamacare payments known as cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs). But it also lays out conservative policies that the administration wants included as well. The White House requests include codifying into law a recent Trump administration action to allow cheaper, skimpier health insurance plans known and allowing them to be renewed beyond one year. (The Hill)