Today’s NewsStand – January 2, 2019

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

Iowa News

Iowans signing up for Affordable Care Act down slightly
Enrollment for health plans through the Affordable Care Act dipped slightly in Iowa this year, and while many factors played into that drop, state insurance officials say the problems that have been plaguing the individual market will continue to force people out. While Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen pointed to challenges within the federal individual market, he added that the effect from new, so-called skinny health coverage plans in the state is minimal. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mental health training becoming priority for emergency crews in Johnson County
Emergency responders across the nation, and here in eastern Iowa, want to be better prepared next time they meet someone having a mental health crisis. With that in mind, last week, some of Iowa City’s firefighters spent three days, not knocking down fires, but studying up on mental illness. The goal of the lessons was to keep people in a mental health crisis from ending end up in jail or hospitals, simply because first responders have no other safe place to take them. (KCRG)

Iowa State Police Department creates mental health advocate position
The Iowa State Police Department has announced the creation of its mental health advocate position to better serve the community. According to the department’s Facebook post, the position will provide mental health related services for law enforcement calls. The position will also assist officers to follow-up each call and, most importantly, act as a liaison between the police department and mental health services. (Ames Tribune)

Drake professor works to improve life for youth with autism across Iowa
Maria Valdovinos was 21 years old when she went to work in a Mobile, Alabama, group home for people with severe intellectual disabilities. Those early career experiences would eventually lead Valdovinos to Iowa, where she’s working to improve access to applied behavior analysis, a using techniques to alter behavior for positive social interactions for those with intellectual challenges. Her work makes her one of the Des Moines Register’s 15 People to Watch in 2019. (Des Moines Register)

New hospital leader takes on ‘aspirational’ goals for value-based care
As the incoming president and CEO of UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids, Michelle Niermann has what she describes as an aspirational goal of “transforming what health care looks like.” Niermann, who will take over Jan. 1 — making her the first female leader in the hospital’s more than 130-year history — said in an interview with The Gazette on Monday that she aims to change the way the health system is reimbursed to provide better health outcomes for patients. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

National News

Federal judge halts 340B drug payment cuts
A federal judge has ruled that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar did not have the statutory authority to cut billions of dollars in 340B drug payments to hospitals. In a ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras sided with the American Hospital Association and other hospital stakeholders who asked that he vacate the 22 percent cut in 340B payments that Azar had announced late last year. (HealthLeaders Media)

How helping patients get good care at home helps rural hospitals survive
Rural hospitals close when they don’t have enough paying patients to care for, but they’re also dinged when the same patients show up over and over again. That puts outlying medical facilities in the precarious position of needing to avoid repeat customers. Hospitals used to run on a so-called fee-for-service model with virtually no limit to how many times they could see a patient. But, under pressure from private and government insurance programs, that model is transitioning to one in which hospitals are rewarded for safety and efficiency. (NPR)

JAMA findings suggest ‘unintended harm’ from Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program
New evidence links the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program to unintended harm in some patients, a JAMA editorial suggests. Researchers analyzed 8.3 million hospitalizations of Medicare enrollees for heart failure, acute myocardial infarction and pneumonia over four periods from April 2005 through March 2015. Thirty-day post-discharge mortality for heart failure patients rose following announcement of HRRP and after implementation. (Healthcare Dive)

Most hospitals sharing data, but challenges remain, ONC says
A majority of hospitals used more than one electronic method to routinely exchange patient care summaries with external organizations in 2017 — 78 percent to send records and 61 percent to receive them, a new Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT analysis shows. Still, disparities in rates of participation exist. While two-thirds of small, rural and critical access hospitals participated in networks with a national scope, three-fourths of larger hospitals did. (Healthcare Dive)