Healthcare

oversight committee
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa lawmakers are looking into whether companies known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are overcharging public entities for prescription drug benefits.

The House Oversight Committee heard testimony Wednesday from Ottumwa pharmacist Mark Frahm, who said he lost money on prescription drugs he provided to the Wapello County Jail.

Frahm said CVS Caremark charged the county about $5,000 for a month’s worth of drugs, but CVS Caremark only paid Frahm about $1,000 to provide those drugs.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

A bill to allow cheaper health plans that don’t comply with the federal Affordable Care Act passed the Iowa Senate Tuesday and is heading to the governor’s desk.

Supporters say the new plans—offered through a Farm Bureau partnership with Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield—would be a cheaper health care option for people who can’t pay the increasing price of insurance under the ACA.

“This bill is about getting those folks insured,” says Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan. “It’s a great investment.”

University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine / https://medicine.uiowa.edu/content/match-day-2017-medical-students-anticipate-residency-locations

For medical students in Iowa and throughout the country, Friday was Match Day. That's an anxiety-filled reveal ceremony where the soon-to-be graduates open sealed envelopes to find our where they'll do their residency training. The post-graduate programs are vital to earning a license to practice, and help determine if young doctors will stay in the state.

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Hey Paul Studios

In the aftermath of mass shootings, we often hear about the importance of mental health diagnoses and treatment.

On this edition of River to River, we explore the services being provided in Iowa and as well as the mental health needs of the state in the near future.

A recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows nearly three-quarters of Iowans believe the state’s mental-health system is in crisis or is a big problem.  

Sima Dimitric

With age and illness, taking care of necessary, day-to-day tasks can become impossible. Many elders who receive help are especially vulnerable to abuse from caretakers.

On this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe chats with Celene Gogerty, Polk County Assistant Attorney, about what puts older adults at risk and how to prevent abuse.

“Nationalized studies have indicated that 10% of elders will be abused,” Gogerty says. Still, only about 4% of elder abuse is reported.  

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Funding for clinics that serve low-income and uninsured Iowans hangs in the balance as Congress considers another short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown Friday.

legislative leaders
Clay Masters / IPR

Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, says the state’s privatized Medicaid system needs to be "in a better position" before the end of the upcoming legislative session.

Iowa’s handover of its Medicaid system to private companies in 2016 has led to patients losing services and providers losing payment.

Mercy College of Health Sciences

The push to prepare more nurses to fill a growing shortage within the profession is resulting in another educational collaboration. This joint venture involves two private colleges in Des Moines.

pills in a bottle
nosheep / Pixabay

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy has filed a bill that would help fill gaps in the state’s system for tracking prescription opioid suppliers in an effort to identify patients who might be abusing prescription painkillers.

Pharmacies currently have to submit information to the Iowa prescription monitoring program (PMP) when they dispense opioids. The pharmacy board’s bill would require prescribers who supply opioids to also add that information to the PMP.

Iowa Caregivers

A new report is praising Iowa as one of three states developing solutions to the problem of a shortage of direct care workers. Advocates for caregivers in the state say they need legislative support to enact them.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

More than 56,000 Iowans are enrolled in an individual health insurance plan for 2018 through the Affordable Care Act, according to Medica, the only insurance company left on Iowa's ACA exchange. 

An Iowa Insurance Division spokesman says that number is, "roughly in line with the 18,000 to 22,000 [consumers] we expected to leave the market." 

UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health is about to make available in Cedar Falls a medical clinic with dedicated service hours for LGBTQ patients. It will be a first-of-its-kind within the hospital chain.

Beginning right after the first of the year, the UnityPoint clinic on Prairie Parkway in Cedar Falls will offer evening hours for LGBTQ patients two Wednesdays a month. Dr. Eric Neverman, a specialist in pediatrics and internal medicine,  will help staff the clinic. He and the rest of the providers there have completed what’s called Safe Zone training.

foxhoven
John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven says the state can fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) into April.

Congress has yet to renew federal funding for the program, which is called hawk-i in Iowa. It provides health insurance for about 60,000 kids from low and moderate income families in the state.

Foxhoven says he thinks CHIP will be reauthorized, but he says Congress has been unpredictable.

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

It’s one month into the sign-up period for the Affordable Care Act, and the number of Iowans who have signed up for health insurance is much higher than at this time last year.

benjamin sTone/flickr

A health care option that’s an alternative to traditional insurance has been growing in popularity in Iowa and across the country.    

Members of so-called health care sharing ministries write checks every month to cover the health care bills of other members, without the guarantees and oversight of traditional insurance.  

Even more Iowans are expected to enroll now that some premiums under the Affordable Care Act have skyrocketed.  

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Iowa’s largest health system is considering ending its contract with one of the two remaining companies that insure Medicaid patients in the state.

UnityPoint Health announced Wednesday it will end its contract with Amerigroup if "contract issues" are not resolved by the end of the year. Amerigroup is one of the two remaining companies that participate in Iowa’s privatized Medicaid program.

Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week, AmeriHealth Caritas, one of four private health care companies charged with managing Iowa's Medicaid system, announced they would be terminating their contract in Iowa. For a portion of Iowans who receive health insurance through Medicaid, that's a major headache. 

Beverly Louk lives in central Iowa and is the mother of a daughter who is disabled and receiving health care through AmeriHealth. She's very concerned about what happens now. 

Photo by John Pemble

This week, the Iowa Supreme Court decided that enforcement of a new Iowa law requiring a three-day waiting period for an abortion will remain on hold.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with law professor Todd Pettys, H. Blair & Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the University of Iowa, about what the court is considering.

He says that one of the issues before the Iowa Supreme Court is the question of whether the Iowa Constitution provides more protection for women than the U.S. Constitution.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A plan that officials had hoped would keep health insurance affordable for thousands of Iowans has been withdrawn, clearing the way for premiums to more than double.    

Governor Reynolds' administration had been urging the federal government to approve its so-called stopgap plan.  

The plan would have restructured benefits for Iowans getting individual insurance under the Affordable Care Act in order to draw in more young healthy people to keep premiums down.  

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Navigators are getting ready to sign Iowans up for Obamacare next month despite uncertainty surrounding the health care law. They are preparing for the regular enrollment period as state and federal lawmakers continue to push for changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Karen Sullivan of Visiting Nurse Services manages a program in central Iowa that helps people sign up for insurance through the ACA. She says navigators are still scheduling appointments for November. 

pills and money
Images Money / flickr

It’s less than two weeks until people have to start signing up for next year’s health insurance plans, and Iowans who buy their own insurance through the Affordable Care Act don’t know what to expect. They don’t know what system they will use to buy insurance, what plans will be available to them, or how much they will have to pay.

Iowa is waiting for a last-minute decision from federal agencies on whether Iowans will buy insurance through the ACA marketplace, or through the state’s proposed "stopgap" system.

Sarah Boden/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds says she hasn’t received any indication from the White House that it opposes Iowa’s attempt to lower premium rates for health insurance policies on the Obamacare exchange.

WIKICOMMONS / Nevit Dilmen

Iowa has enough money through March to continue providing health care to children from moderate and low income families, while Congress figures out how to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The program provides healthcare to nearly 9 million children nationwide, including 60,000 in Iowa. States structure CHIP programs differently, which means funding will run out in different places at different intervals.

Des Moines Area Community College

Des Moines Area Community College and the University of Iowa are entering into an agreement to help nurses earn bachelor’s degrees. It’s another joint effort to attract more nurses to the field.

Andy G. / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services including using new technologies like video streaming. This method has been growing in use in recent years, and the topic was the subject of a panel discussion earlier this month at the Iowa Ideas Conference in Cedar Rapids. It was moderated by River to River host Ben Kieffer.

Jon Kerstetter has experienced many "crossings" in his lifefrom a civilian doctor to a medical officer in the Army National Guard, and then, after a career-ending stroke, from a medical provider to a recovering patient.

In this hour of Talk of Iowa, Jon Kerstetter talks with host Charity Nebbe about his life's transformations, detailed in his new book, Crossings: A Doctor-Soldier's Story. 

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Organizations that help Iowans sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act are dealing with new funding cuts.

Late Wednesday night, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced various grant reductions for ACA navigators. Some cuts are as high as 90 percent.

Genesis Health in the Quad Cities is facing a 90 percent cut to is ACA navigator grant.

doug ommen
Joyce Russell / IPR

Iowa’s insurance commissioner says he is now "less optimistic" about winning federal approval for a plan to stabilize the state’s individual health insurance market.

The state of Iowa submitted a "stopgap" plan to federal agencies in August. It would change the distribution of insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen told lawmakers Tuesday he was hoping to know by now whether the plan would be approved.

Sarah Boden/IPR File

Southeast Iowa’s Des Moines County is considering applying for federal funding, know as the Title X program, to create a clinic to provide sexual and reproductive healthcare to low-income people, including to those who don't qualify for Medicaid services.

doug ommen
Iowa Insurance Division

Iowa has submitted a "stopgap" plan to the federal government with the goal of stabilizing the state’s collapsing individual health insurance market.

The plan redirects federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to encourage younger, healthier people to buy insurance.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen says the plan to change parts of the ACA will prevent thousands from dropping insurance. 

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