Today’s NewsStand – August 2, 2018

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

Iowa News

Take a look inside Covenant’s new mental health space in Waterloo
It’s only four beds — and those beds are just temporary to take the strain off of Covenant Medical Center’s emergency department. But for families whose loved ones are struggling with mental or behavioral health issues, those four beds may be a lifesaver. That’s why Covenant officials decided to turn their gift shop storage room — with $250,000 in help from the Otto Schoitz Foundation — into a $646,000 expansion of the behavioral health rooms in the adjacent emergency department in Waterloo. (Cedar Valley Business Monthly)

North Iowa counties want state to investigate mental health region
The Winnebago/Hancock/Worth County Social Services (CSS) Board voted Wednesday to request that state officials investigate the mental health region that serves 22 counties in Iowa. Officials have other concerns about CSS, including how money is spent and the quality of services. Members of the boards of supervisors from Winnebago, Worth and Hancock counties, will send a letter to the state attorney general, state auditor and the state legislature’s oversight committee outlining their concerns. (Mason City Globe Gazette)

Be The Voice Game Night fights suicide stigma
When Kristena Strum’s brother, Bryan Strum, took his own life in 2009, she felt alone. The experience led her to become a tireless advocate for suicide prevention and in August, she’s hosting a Be The Voice Game Night to let others in the community know they’re not alone, either. This is the second Be The Voice event local organizers have hosted in Newton. Strum said she’s hoping residents who are struggling with thoughts of suicide or the loss of a loved one will have an opportunity to come together as a community. (Newton Daily News)

National News

Short-term health plans allowed up to three years
Consumers will be allowed to buy short-term limited-duration health plans renewable for up to three years, the Trump administration announced Wednesday morning with a newly finalized rule. The policy change expands access to lower-grade coverage options the Obama administration had restricted to three months. American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack called it “a step in the wrong direction for patients and health care providers.” If consumers are unaware of the limits on their skimpy coverage, it could ultimately drive bad debt for hospitals. (HealthLeaders Media)

Meet the group funding the fight to expand Medicaid in red states
Voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah may have the chance to achieve something their Republican state lawmakers oppose: expand Medicaid to thousands of residents. After years of being told “no” by GOP-controlled state legislatures, health care advocacy groups have spent much of 2018 leading campaigns to put the question on the ballot in November. Behind the scenes, those groups have been aided by The Fairness Project, a Washington-based organization that has become the primary funder of these ballot-initiative campaigns, spending close to $5 million in five states over the past year. (The Hill)

Virginia launches new emergency room communications program
Virginia has launched a new program connecting all emergency rooms to a new program designed to streamline and speed up doctors’ access to patient information. Officials said the Emergency Department Care Coordination Program is the first of its kind in the country. The program will incorporate the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program and Advance Healthcare Directive Registry to give doctors real-time information about patients drug history and their preferences for end-of-life care. (Associated Press/Washington Post)

To tame prescription drug prices, HHS dips a tow into drug importation stream
It came as something of a surprise when Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced that the administration was exploring the importation of prescription drugs to fight high domestic prices. Azar and Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who also endorsed the new proposal, had previously opposed the idea. But drug prices in the U.S. have continued to rise and more than 80 percent of Americans say the government should take action. (The Hill)