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Debt Panel Begins to Take Shape

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Congress is now on recess for the month of August although party leaders remain focused on the selection of the 12 member “debt commission” charged with cutting $1.5 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years by the end of the year.

The committee is nearly assembled with 9 of the 12 members having been announced.  From the Senate leaders selected Democrats Patty Murray (WA), Max Baucus (MT), John Kerry (MA) and Republicans Jon Kyl (AZ), Pat Toomey (PA) and Rob Portman (OH).  In the House: Republicans Jeb Hensarling (TX), Dave Camp (MI) and Fred Upton (MI) were nominated to serve.  House Democrats have not yet been selected, and must do so by August 16.

Once finalized, the committee will begin its work looking for spending reductions.  The commission must agree upon an adequate level of savings by November 23 when it will then seek support of the full Congress.  Congress must vote to approve the cuts by December 23 in order for the debt ceiling to be raised again.  However, should the committee fail to agree on cuts or successfully sell their proposal to Congress, then an automatic across-the-board cut will go into effect.  This would trigger an automatic $1.2 trillion cut to the federal budget.  Medicare cuts would be capped at 2 percent and Medicaid would be exempted from the cuts.

IHA continues to monitor the ongoing work in Washington, D.C. hospital advocates should stay tuned to the IHA Policy Blog for continuing coverage as more details unfold.

Congress Picks Back up On ‘Doc Fix’

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The “sustainable growth rate” in the Medicare program is a flawed equation that leads to the proposal huge cuts to physician payments under the program each year.  However, when looking at the price tag, a mere $300 billion over 10 years, it’s easy to see why a permanent solution has been slow to come by.

However, the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently announced a bi-partisan effort to solicit ideas, feedback and proposals from national physician and hospital groups in an effort to permanently fix this flawed provision.  The key word is “permanently” as over the past decade, Congress has elected to only temporarily patch the problem passing a variety short-term fixes to prevent 15, 20, or even 30+ percent cuts to physician Medicare payments.  But like many efforts seeking to do the same - preventative procrastination hasn’t done much to solve the long-term, hugely expensive problem.

Problematically there is little agreement on a solution and the proposals vary greatly, and with so much emphasis on the federal deficit and budget debate in Washington D.C. its unclear what will come next on this issue.  However, the budget debate could present Congress with an opportunity for a fix, as it has become clear that in order to fix the nation’s budget - everything must be on the table.

The letter to stakeholders requests feedback by early April and the committee could hold as early as May. Key recipients include: The American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, Medical Group Management Association and many others.

Bored Kids Making You Crazy? Send Them to the Hospital

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About this time of year, many school-age children have one thing in common: they are making their parents crazy. A combination of mid-summer heat (or monsoons – take your pick), a declining number of organized activities and general listlessness leads to the well known distress call of bored kids:  “There’s nothing to do.” 

The answer might be to send your kid to the hospital. 

Not for treatment, but for opportunities. Hospitals are always looking for volunteers and many have very active “volun-teen” programs. There are many pluses to hospital volunteering, particularly the lessons it teaches in responsibility, compassion and community.  These lessons are valuable whether or not the young person is considering a health care career, though one of the biggest benefits of hospital volunteering is the chance to work with health care professionals. 

Olivia Goodyear (left) and Beka Prull donated $350 from their lemonade stand to the hospital in Anamosa.

Most of the time in volun-teen programs, there is a minimum age requirement (typically around 14 years old). But with some guidance and a little creativity, children of all ages can find a way to get busy by giving to their hospitals.  For example, a pair of young girls in Anamosa raised $350 at their lemonade stand that paid for a stove for Jones Regional Medical Center’s rehabilitation therapy department.  The stove helps injured patients learn to function in their homes again. 

Students in Panora made and donated more than 100 blankets to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines.  The blankets will be used in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. 

Senior softball players from Chariton High School auctioned off this quilt they created and donated the funds to Lucas County Health Center.

Players from the Chariton High School girls’ softball team made one of their home games this summer an “all-pink” event and raised $2,700 for Lucas County Health Center’s free mammogram fund.  Each of the team’s players and coaches donated a handmade item that was auctioned off for the fund, including a quilt that was stitched by the team’s senior class. 

And in Newton, two boys celebrated their recent birthdays in typical fashion: by having a party and collecting gifts.  But instead of asking for presents for themselves, they requested that their party guests bring new and used DVDs, which were then donated to Skiff Medical Center for sick and injured children and their families to enjoy during their hospital stays. More than 30 DVDs were collected. 

Talk to your local hospital. You might just find out that instead of making you crazy, your kids will make you proud this summer.

Breaking the Silence [VIDEO]

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On June 15 and 16, the Iowa Hospital Association hosted Crucial Conversations Training, which focuses on research-backed techniques for improving relationships among co-workers and addressing the issues that can sometimes result in tragedy. 

The training was led by Dr. Emily Hoffman – a master trainer and expert in the health care industry. Dr. Hoffman helped attendees work on bringing people to the table and engage in effective dialog, especially when having to converse with guarded or emotional individuals.

For more information visit: www.vitalsmarts.com

YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hauqlzY8igs

Losing A Great Health Leader

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David M. “Mike” Miller, Lucas County Health Center Trustee

This week, IHA mourns the loss of David M. “Mike” Miller, a long-time Trustee of Lucas County Health Center, Chariton, IA. On Wednesday, July 7 Miller was involved in a tragic car accident that ended his life and 35 years of dedication as both an LCHC Trustee and steadfast advocate for building and maintaining health care excellence. 

The accident occurred Wednesday morning when a 15 year old driver headed southbound on Highway 65 attempted to pass another vehicle. Upon spotting Miller approaching from the other direction, the driver lost control attempting to return to his own lane resulting in a head-on collision.

As a member of the Iowa Hospital Association, Miller went above and beyond and was regarded by many as a kind and trustworthy individual. A modest and gentle leader among his peers, Miller was awarded for his dedication in 2007 when he received the IHA Excellence in Governance Award for his commitment to improving the health care industry at both the state and federal level. Throughout the majority of his tenure as an LCHC board member, he held various executive positions including multiple terms as its chairman. Miller served five years on the national American Hospital Association Regional Policy Board and was an active member of the IHA Council on Education & Member Services and the Council on Health Information. 

In the wake of Miller’s tragic and untimely passing, LCHC workers as well as IHA members and staff have all expressed shock in hearing of the tragic news as well as sadness in light of remembering all that Miller had done over his long and successful career. 

Miller receiving the IHA Excellence in Governance Award in 2007

“Mike was an avid learner and an educator,” said Roger Struve, chairman of the LCHC Board of Trustees.

“He sought to stay abreast of current events and to educate himself continuously about the health services industry. Mike used his knowledge to teach his fellow Trustees. He had a keen intellect and was able to assess the social and political environment to help us plan for the future of health care in Lucas County. Mike was truly visionary in his work on the LCHC Board of Trustees.”

This week, the people and patients within the Lucas County Health Center community and all Iowans for that matter have lost a tremendous leader and a friend. However, while David “Mike” Miller’s life and service to his community may be over, the impact of his work will resonate for a long time to come.