Today’s NewsStand – February 14, 2019

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

Iowa News

Opioid problem in Iowa shifting to heroin, synthetics, Iowa State report shows
While deaths caused by prescription opiates are falling in Iowa, a potential spike in heroin and synthetic opioid overdoses is looming, a new report from Iowa State University finds. The report released Monday by ISU shows opioid deaths are low and stable compared to surrounding states, but within those numbers is a transition from prescription painkillers to heroin and synthetic mixes. What’s more, a synthetic opioid like fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine, increasing the risk of overdose. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Iowa doctors blast anti-vaccine bill that would allow exemptions for philosophical belief
owa health care professionals lambasted a state Senate bill that would allow parents to avoid vaccinating their children if immunization conflicted with their philosophical beliefs. Iowa parents can already opt out of vaccinations for religious and medical reasons. Iowa will join Arkansas and Oregon in the “personal conviction” exemption if the legislation becomes law. Douglas Selover, an Iowa pediatric emergency room doctor, called the bill “a huge public safety threat,” KCCI Des Moines reported. (Newsweek)

Western Iowa counties to share cost of Woodbury County mental health crisis center
A mental health center that had an uncertain future nearly a year ago, will soon be shared by counties across the western part of the state. The move comes as Woodbury County changes the way it will provide mental health services next budget year. Starting in July, Woodbury County will manage mental health services with seven counties to the east in a region called Rolling Hills Community Services, due to some disagreements it had with Plymouth and Sioux counties. (Iowa Public Radio)

Volunteer cuddlers help heal NICU babies at Iowa hospital
More babies across the country are falling victim to the opioid crisis. Every 15 minutes, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Babies who end in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are dangerously ill or were born prematurely. Volunteer cuddlers can help provide a human connection to newborns who end up in NICU. “Touch is so important to babies,” said Vicki Agnitsch, a retired nurse who is one of 22 volunteers part of the Cuddler Volunteer program at Blank Children’s Hospital. “Without that, there would be failure to thrive.” (KCCI)

National News

Obamacare helps with housing payments, new study finds
The expansion of health benefits under the 2010 Affordable Care Act has helped many more Americans gain insurance and have access to health care. According to a new research study, greater access to health insurance also leads to a significant reduction in Americans becoming delinquent on rent and mortgage payments. In states that did not expand Medicaid, there was a sharp divide between taxpayers just above the poverty line, who have access to subsidies that allowed them to access ACA Marketplaces, and those just below, who did not. (MarketWatch)

House health panel eyes putting consumer warnings on short-term plans
Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday signaled they could band together to slap clear consumer warnings on short-term limited-duration health plans. The bill by Health Subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) aims to temper the Trump administration’s move to let people keep short-term plans for up to three years. These plans offer limited benefits and the insurers can deny claims they deem as a symptom of a pre-existing condition. (Modern Healthcare)

US launching program to spur investment in AI for health care
A top US health official said Wednesday that the government will launch an “artificial intelligence health outcomes challenge” to spur private investment in the technology and help rethink the delivery of medical care. Adam Boehler, head of Medicare and Medicaid’s innovation institute, said the goal of the initiative is to drive broader uptake of AI to help root out wasteful care, improve quality, and cut costs. (STAT)

CVS introduces new concept store with more health care, less retail
Someday soon you may walk into your local CVS Pharmacy with your prescription in one hand and your yoga mat in the other. That’s because CVS Health is testing a new concept store format as the company plans to shift more of its floor space to health care services. The drug store chain, one of America’s largest retailers, is debuting three HealthHUB locations in Houston as it heads toward a future with less space devoted to retail goods like seasonal items. Part of the concept store is closed-off space for classes, such as yoga, as well as expanded space for health treatments. (USA Today)