Today’s NewsStand — Jan. 4, 2021

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

Iowa news

More federal money on the way for Iowa health care providers, but payback could be rough

Iowa hospitals and health care providers will receive an additional $48.7 million from the federal government’s Provider Relief Fund as part of a third round of payments totaling $24.5 billion from the US Department of Health and Human Services. The funding will be disbursed through January to more than 70,000 providers nationwide to help eligible providers recover up to 88% of their reported losses attributed to the pandemic. HHS, which had announced in October it would distribute $20 billion to health providers in this round, distributed an additional $4.5 billion to meet the demand. (Business Record)

MercyOne shines light on health providers as a way of thanks

MercyOne medical centers are lighting up the sky now through Thursday, Jan. 7, as a way to thank all those who provide medical care at clinics, patient homes, labs, testing sites and elsewhere during the COVID-19 pandemic. MercyOne President and CEO, Bob Ritz, says the beacon is also a symbol, “a beacon of light for our communities,” and a signal of hope for 2021. The spotlights that will shine at 16 MercyOne centers statewide will be turned at 5 pm daily. (KWWL)

COVID-19 vaccines off to uncertain start in Iowa facilities

The owner of one of the three pharmacies participating in a federal program to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities statewide said his company completed its distribution of more than 8,500 doses this week. Kyle Janssen, owner of and a pharmacist with Community Pharmacy, said the company distributed its allotment of the vaccine to residents and staff in more than 80 long-term care facilities in the state in three days. Janssen said the company expects next week to at least double that dosage delivery to over 70 additional assisted living facilities in Iowa. (The Gazette)

National news

Telemedicine in the US has revealed major social inequalities

In the United States, while telemedicine has helped many patients access medical care in recent months, it has also exposed many inequities in access to care, whether based on ethnicity, age or language. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of telemedicine has exploded. Although it has helped patients who otherwise would have given up on treatment, it has revealed significant disparities in the United States based on patient ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age or language. That’s the finding of a study published Dec. 29, 2020, in the JAMA Open Network. (Gilmore Health News)

Hospitals lose appeal in price transparency case

An appeals court rejected hospitals’ challenge of a rule that requires hospitals to disclose the rates they negotiate with insurers beginning in 2021. On Dec. 29, 2020, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to HHS. Under the final rule issued in November 2019, hospitals must disclose the standard charges, including payer-specific negotiated rates, for 300 services beginning Jan. 1. Seventy of the services are stipulated in the final rule. Hospitals can choose the other 230 services they post online. Hospitals that fail to publish the negotiated rates online could be fined up to $300 per day. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

The virus is still winning

Since new variants of COVID-19 have been identified worldwide, cases have surged in Britain and South Africa while holding fairly steady in the rest of western Europe and southern Africa. The new variants may not be the only reason for the surges. Britain and South Africa differ from their neighbors in other ways, as well. But there is no obvious explanation for the contrast besides the virus’s mutations. This suggests the rest of the world may now be at risk of a new COVID-19 surge. (New York Times)