Today’s NewsStand

Today’s NewsStand

By Iowa Hospital Association|
|February 1, 2023

Iowa news

Critical number of rural Iowa nursing homes close

Health care professionals say low pay and a worker shortage have led a dramatic number of nursing homes in rural Iowa to close their doors. They hope increased government funding and more focus on rural health care this year will help. Looking at a graph that shows the number of nursing home employees between January 2019 and January 2020, the bright red line goes almost straight down. The pandemic was a big reason for that, but Iowa Health Care Association President and CEO Brent Willet said there are other economic factors at work, and the staffing shortages have already resulted in double-digit closures. (Public News Service)

Gov. Reynolds pitches wide-ranging health care bill

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has proposed a sprawling bill dedicated to health care that includes a focus on strengthening rural health care and providing care to expecting and new parents. Among the nearly dozen divisions of the bill are provisions creating an OB-GYN fellowship program, allowing pharmacists to dispense birth control without a prescription, putting funding toward rural health care systems and apprenticeships, and giving paid parental leave to state employees. Gov. Reynolds announced the plan in her Condition of the State address on Jan. 10, saying it would bolster Iowa’s health care system. (The Observer)

Medical malpractice bill advances to House floor

Legislation capping noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases could be headed for floor debate in both chambers of the Iowa Legislature soon. The House Health and Human Services Committee passed House File 161 on a 12-9 vote Monday. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a version of the bill, Senate File 148, last week. Both versions would institute a $1 million cap on noneconomic damages against health care providers in lawsuits over medical incidents which result in the loss or impairment of a bodily function, disfigurement or death. House lawmakers amended “loss of pregnancy” to that list, which was not included in the Senate bill. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

National news

COVID-19 still a public health emergency, says WHO

The World Health Organization has determined COVID-19 remains a public health emergency. The agency’s director-general accepted the recommendations of its emergency committee on Jan. 30. The WHO’s emergency committee convened Jan. 27 to vote on whether the pandemic still constitutes the global emergency declaration. Members cited a high number of global deaths compared to other respiratory diseases, low vaccine uptake in low- and middle-income countries, and uncertainty surrounding emerging variants amid a drop in surveillance and sequencing. The committee also recommended the agency work with stakeholders on a proposal for how to maintain focus on COVID-19 when the emergency declaration is terminated. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

How costs for COVID-19 tests and treatments will change after federal emergency declarations end in May

COVID-19 tests and treatments may no longer be free to all after the federal government’s emergency declarations end in May. But most people still won’t have to pay for COVID-19 vaccinations, according to two reports released last week. The White House announced that it would let the national and public health emergencies related to the pandemic expire on May 11. The former has been in place since March 2020 and the latter since January 2020. That will end some of the federal rules that eased consumer costs — for example, the requirement that insurance companies cover eight at-home COVID-19 tests a month. But other laws, like the Affordable Care Act, ensure that vaccinations will remain free to people with insurance. (NBC News)

Kaiser analysis of telehealth shows low rates of follow-up care

An analysis of telehealth visits by Kaiser Permanente found 11.8% of video visits and 12.5% of telephone visits were followed by an in-person office visit. The researchers found that just 1.2% of video and 1.5% of telephone visits required a trip to the emergency room. The study examined 734,442 patient-initiated primary care telehealth visits between March and October 2020. Despite the rise in popularity of video telehealth visits during the COVID-19 pandemic, the study found that 58.4% of telehealth visits were conducted by telephone call. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

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