Featuring hospital and health care headlines from the media and the Web.
Three western Iowa counties consider joining new mental health regions
Three Western Iowa counties are exploring new ways to coordinate regional mental health services next fiscal year after a series of disagreements led to what some call an uncooperative relationship. Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury counties have shared a community mental health system called Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health & Disability Services since it went into effect in 2014. They’re on track to join a region next July called Rolling Hills Community Services that caters to several nearby eastward counties, including Sac and Ida. (Iowa Public Radio)
Hubbell says more resources and funds needed for Iowa’s mental health agencies
Fred Hubbell, the Democratic nominee for governor of Iowa, was in Sioux City Monday attending a roundtable discussion on mental health at the Jackson Recovery Center. Hubbell heard concerns about a lack of funding and resources to provide adequate care for adults and children afflicted with mental illness and addiction. Hubbell wants to see more investment in community based treatment, including adding 50-75 long-term care beds, establishing a youth mental health system, and investing in diversion and substance abuse programs. (KSCJ)
St. Luke’s baby cuddlers give comfort, receive joy
Five years ago, when St. Luke’s announced a new volunteer program that would train adults to hold the hospital’s smallest patients, Kris Miltenberger of Sloan eagerly filled out the necessary paperwork, submitted to a background check and welcomed a few needle sticks. Her son and two grandchildren were born at St. Luke’s; and she wanted to give back. The hospital started the Cuddler Program after recognizing a need for additional comfort and care for babies spending an extended period of time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. (Sioux City Journal)
Health care costs leave Missourians facing tough decisions. How can they be lowered?
According to a study released by the Urban Institute last year, Missouri ranks seventh in the country in percentage of working-age adults who have past-due medical debt, at more than 30 percent. Missouri is one of 17 Republican-led states that have so far opted not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Expanding Medicaid would cover some of the 12 percent of working-age Missourians who are uninsured. Even if Missouri is able to reduce costs, access to care will remain an issue, especially in rural areas, where providers are becoming fewer and farther between. (Kansas City Star)
Trump administration sued over Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirements
Advocacy groups on Tuesday filed a lawsuit challenging the decision by President Donald Trump’s administration to allow Arkansas to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients in the state. The lawsuit, filed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in federal court in Washington on behalf of three Medicaid recipients in the state, claims that the federal Medicaid law does not allow the administration to approve work requirements. (Reuters)
States leverage federal funds to help insurers lower premiums
Amid a public outcry, Minnesota’s legislature last year took several steps to stabilize its individual insurance marketplace. Among those moves, lawmakers launched a “reinsurance” program. The program helps pay the costs insurers incur for people with high medical bills. In turn, the companies — knowing that these “outlier” expenses will be covered — can lower premiums. Alaska had launched a similar program in 2016. The Alaska and Minnesota models have now become touchstones for other states eager to prevent startling premium increases in the individual insurance marketplace. (Kaiser Health News)
In radical move, Oregon’s Medicaid program weighs cutting off chronic pain patients from opioids
Oregon officials are considering a first-in-the-nation proposal that would end coverage of opioids for many chronic pain patients who are enrolled in Oregon’s Medicaid program. Over just 12 months, beginning in 2020, they would see their opioid doses tapered to zero. The state declined to provide an estimate of how many pain patients the policy could affect. But nearly 1 million Oregonians are enrolled in Medicaid. More than 10 percent of adults nationwide have experienced pain every day for the previous three months. (STAT)