hospitals & clinics

$1.25 million.

That’s the size of the bill that could have shuttered the only public hospital in rural Pemiscot County, Missouri in August 2013.

$750,000 for payroll. $500,000 for a bond payment. $1.25 million total. One August day in 2013, the hospital’s CEO Kerry Noble had to face facts: The money just wasn’t there. It took an emergency bailout from a local bank to keep their doors open. For now.

iowa hospital association
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

As the U.S. Senate crafts a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, the Iowa Hospital Association is emphasizing its opposition to the bill that came out of the U.S. House.

Iowa hospital leaders expressed concerns about proposed cuts to Medicaid funding Wednesday at a news conference in Cedar Rapids. They say cuts would cause problems for patients, hospitals, care providers and the state budget.

The Iowa Hospital Association says it’s important not to lose the gains made under the Affordable Care Act. The warning comes after the insurance carriers Aetna and Wellmark announced this week that in 2018, they’ll stop selling individual policies on Iowa’s healthcare exchange created under the ACA.

Alex Smith for Harvest Public Media

If you’re in the market for fluorescent light bulbs, you might talk to Chris Smiley.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

It was 60 years ago when mental health professionals welcomed a new option for their patients. Instead of radical brain surgery and dangerous forms of shock treatment, doctors could prescribe a simple oral medication for the first time. An Iowa woman was a nurse during this crucial turning point and IPR’s Rick Fredericksen has her story. 

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

In a small room stuffed with cubicles at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, a team of patient advocates answers phones, enters data, and determines who is eligible for financial assistance.

When a patient at Mercy is faced with a hospital bill they can’t pay, they come here. Team leader Karla Vaquerano-Serio says many times, it’s only a matter of helping a patient sign up for a federal program they didn’t realize they qualified for.

Emily Woodbury, via Wordle

A trip to the emergency room is expensive, even for more routine procedures. Take for example, Ron Smith, an Indianola resident whose $24,240 bill for a rabies vaccination was negotiated down by $17,627 by his insurance company.

Today, the third installment in our examination of hospital costs. We find out how insurance negotiations play into how much you pay for that ER visit, how Iowa’s insurance landscape may change through the Affordable Care Act, and how the number of visits to the ER may be affected by Obamacare.

Today's guests include:

Durrie Bouscaren

Some Iowans visit hospital emergency rooms more than 15 times a year. They’re known as “frequent-flyers” or super-users of the ER. Today on River to River, how our system handles them.

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

Emergency Rooms are often the catch-all of the medical world, where patients can receive care at any hour, regardless of their ability to pay.

But physicians and hospital administrators say it’s an expensive and disjointed way for people to receive care, particularly when patients visit the ER multiple times a year.

A pilot program to manage care for ER ‘super users’ in Cedar Rapids is now in its third year—and administrators say it saves St. Luke’s Hospital about a million dollars annually.

Coordinating Care for Multiple Diagnoses

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

No matter how you slice it, medical care is expensive—especially in an emergency.

Martha Norbeck shuffles through paperwork as she looks back over her itemized hospital bill from a bike accident five months ago.

“Just to have the guy come to the ER to do my stitches was $460, the six stitches was $846… so that was $140 a stitch or something?” Norbeck muses. 

Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

Is winter almost over?  And how has the long, harsh season affect Iowa's waterways and aquatic life?  Also, the latest Quinnipiac poll, 2014's Cancer in Iowa report, Iowa's new tourism ad campaign and Pi Day at the Science Center of Iowa.

Bairo Pite Hospital / http://www.bairopitehospital.org/

There’s a place in the world where 75% of the population still live in villages with no access to electricity, running water, or the Internet. That place is a little island in SE Asia, called East Timor.

Today on River To River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa native Dan Murphy, who founded the Bairo Pite Hospital in the country back in 1999. Dan shares his experiences treating illness and disease in the area, and gives us an idea of why we should be focused on this little known developing country.

Bill Leaver is CEO of Iowa Health System, the state's largest network of hospitals and clinics.  He says the ruling will pave the way for more streamlined and prevention-focused healthcare.