Today’s NewsStand – October 4, 2019

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

Iowa News

Iowa’s rural hospitals are in crisis
Iowa’s rural hospitals are in a crisis. It’s not just one single cause. Population declines, the difficulty of recruiting physicians, cuts to Medicaid reimbursement, hospital consolidation and competition have driven rural health care to a breaking point. Kirk Norris, CEO of the Iowa Hospital Association, said, “For the first time in 30 years combined margins for Critical Access Hospitals are a negative 2.8 percent.” Solving the problem will take a multifaceted approach from politicians on a state and federal level, hospitals, and insurance companies. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Iowa still considering third Medicaid manager
On Thursday, Iowa Medicaid Enterprises Director Michael Randol told an audience at The Gazette’s Iowa Ideas symposium that while Iowa is in its third year of managed care, it’s more like year one because of the turnover of managed care companies. The changes disrupted efforts to focus on quality and better outcomes as the system works to regain stability. He said he expects Human Services officials will work on actuarial numbers into January before starting a new round of contract talks for fiscal 2021. He also said he expects the state will issue requests for proposals to find a third organization, but did not have a timetable for bringing another private company on board. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Mental health region cuts budget by $1 million
The Eastern Iowa Mental Health board approved over $1 million in budget cuts for fiscal year 2020 due to funding issues. The Eastern Iowa board approved a $1.2 million cut in services last week for fiscal year 2020 so the region would end the year with enough funds to get through the first three months of fiscal year 2021, Region CEO Lori Elam told Clinton County Supervisors Monday. The Mental Health Region board approved cuts from the Robert Young Contract and eliminated the bridge appointments, Elam said. (Clinton Herald)

National News

Trump speech offer dizzying preview of his health care strategy
President Donald Trump offered a preview of what his 2020 health agenda might look like in a speech Thursday — blasting Democratic proposals for reform and saying he would tackle issues such as prescription drug prices and affordability. He outlined the pillars of his health care vision, which included protecting vulnerable patients; delivering affordable care and prescription drugs; providing choices and control; and improving care for veterans. But the speech included several other claims directed at Democrats and the currently buzzy proposal of “Medicare for All” that could easily have left some people befuddled. We broke down a few. (Kaiser Health News)

Tennessee block grant experiment would boost federal funding, state Medicaid
Tennessee wants to be the first state to test a radical approach for federal financing of Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income people. The proposal, Tennessee Medicaid Director Gabe Roberts said, would increase the federal government’s contributions by millions of dollars and allow Tennessee to improve care for enrollees, perhaps offering additional services such as limited dental care for some people. But critics fear the plan will harm the poor. Tennessee has proposed altering its federal funding into an annual lump sum. (Kaiser Health News)

Medicare ACOs generate nearly $740 million in 2018 net savings
The Medicare Shared Savings Program generated $739.4 million in total net savings across 548 accountable care organizations in 2018, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma announced this week. Participating ACOs agree to be held accountable for the quality, cost and experience of care of an assigned Medicare fee-for-service beneficiary population, and can participate at different levels of risk. In particular, ACOs taking accountability for cost increases, or “downside risk,” showed an average reduction in spending relative to their targets of $96 per beneficiary in 2018, Verma said. (American Hospital Association)