Florida Hospital Association Argues Against Cutting Medicaid Funds

The worry is that budget proposals which cut around $300 million for a “critical care fund” will affect the lots of the most vulnerable patients, WUSF reports. Meanwhile Axios notes results from a FAIR Health study showing the cost of an ambulance ride has “soared” over the last five years.

WUSF Public Media:
Hospital Leaders Are Criticizing State Proposals To Cut Medicaid Funds

Hospital leaders are voicing concerns about budget proposals in the state House and Senate that would cut funding for hospitals that treat the most vulnerable patients. Both chambers’ budgets would eliminate about $300 million for what is known as the “critical care fund.” This money is used to give automatic rate enhancements to a group of safety net hospitals in the state that treat large numbers of Medicaid patients, who include Florida’s elderly, children, low-income families and people with disabilities. The House also recommended cutting $100 million in state Medicaid reimbursement money to all hospitals, which is matched by federal funds, and would divert that money instead to higher education to train future nurses. (Colombini, 2/18)

Ambulance Rides Are Getting A Lot More Expensive

The cost of an ambulance ride has soared over the past five years, according to a report from FAIR Health, shared first with Axios. Patients typically have little ability to choose their ambulance provider, and often find themselves on the hook for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Most ambulance trips billed insurers for “advanced life support,” according to FAIR Health’s analysis. Private insurers’ average payment for those rides jumped by 56% between 2017 and 2020 — from $486 to $758. (Reed, 2/22)

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A Federal Court Says Requiring A License To Give Dietary Advice Doesn’t Violate Free Speech Rights 

A federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of a Florida law that restricts unlicensed people from giving dietary advice, rejecting arguments that it violates First Amendment rights. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the challenge filed by Heather Kokesch Del Castillo, who was cited by the Florida Department of Health in 2017 for getting paid to provide dietary advice without being a state-licensed dietitian or nutritionist. Del Castillo ran what the ruling described as a “health-coaching business,” which included offering dietary advice to clients. After receiving a complaint from a licensed dietitian and investigating, the Department of Health alleged Del Castillo violated a law known as the Dietetics and Nutrition Practice Act. (2/21)

Karex Sees Rising Demand For Condoms As Covid Restrictions Ease

The world’s largest producer of condoms said it expects the demand for its products to increase as the widening vaccine coverage prompt governments to ease social-distancing rules. “As vaccination rates ramp up around the world, more economies continue to relax restrictions and societies begin to adapt to post-pandemic life,” Malaysia’s Karex Bhd. said in a note accompanying its earnings on Monday. (Ngui, 2/21)

In health care staffing news —

Travel Nurses Becoming More Costly For Hospitals During Pandemic 

Travel nurses were a lifeline for hospitals during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for overwhelmed hospitals around the country, but two years into it, the rising cost is having a ripple effect. “I often wonder where have all the nurses gone?” Jody Leonard, a nurse with nearly 25 years of experience, said. “Most hospitals are doing what they have to do to get staff in place. Because without nurses, the hospital can’t function.” (Lucas, 2/21)

UNMC Receives $2.2M Grant To Address Nursing Burnout

The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing has received a $2.2 million federal grant to address burnout among the state’s nurses as the coronavirus pandemic stretches into a third year. The three-year grant is funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services, the Omaha World-Herald reported. It’s part of an estimated $103 million in coronavirus relief funding to reduce burnout and promote mental health among the nation’s health care workforce. (2/21)

Anchorage Daily News:
Plan To Add Alaska Spots To WWAMI Medical School Wins Support, But Administrators Say There’s No Fast Way To Get There

As part of the state budget, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed opening up the regional medical school program that serves Alaskans to 10 additional Alaska students each year — from 20 students to 30 instead — beginning with this year’s incoming class. University partners say they’re glad to see funding earmarked for the state’s WWAMI program and that expanding the class size could be a good thing: The pandemic has highlighted Alaska’s need for more doctors, and the program has a track record of training and retaining a significant proportion of the state’s physicians. (Berman, 02/21)

Albuquerque Journal:
Nursing 911: Shortage Of Workers Requires Expanded Training Capacity

Intensive care units throughout New Mexico are operating beyond capacity. Hundred-day hospital stays are almost commonplace now but were unheard of before 2020. Nurses, aging along with our U.S. population, are retiring. As demand for health care services mounts, the shortage of registered nurses worsens. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the nursing shortage by increasing the number of patients entering the health care system and skewing the patient-to-nurse ratio toward dicey territory. (Lee, 2/21)

Rural Hospitals Stave Off Mass Exodus Of Workers To Vaccine Mandate

Rural hospital officials who expected Covid vaccine mandates to cause a staffing crisis are facing a pleasant surprise: Religious exemptions and education efforts for the hesitant are keeping almost all health care workers on the job. Nearly two dozen rural hospital officials and state hospital association leaders told POLITICO they have lost just a fraction of their staff to the federal immunization requirement, which mandated that health care workers in every state except Texas received at least one shot of the vaccine by last week. (Messerly, 2/22)

Surging Behavioral Health Care Needs For Children Put Strain On School Social Workers

On paper, the social worker’s role at public K-12 schools is straightforward: to support a caseload of students with special needs to thrive in often-challenging academic setting. But ask a social worker employed in a public school these days, and they’re likely to tell a much different story. For social worker Jara Rijs, who works at Windham Center School, where more than half of its pre-K through fifth-grade students qualify for subsidized lunch, the job responsibilities bleed well beyond the job description, particularly since the pandemic hit. (Heubeck, 2/19)

San Diego Union-Tribune:
Will COVID-19 Long-Haulers Push Outpatient Medical System To Breaking Point?

Carolina Nieto of Escondido and Julio Lara of Valley Center became the newest patients at the Sharp HealthCare COVID-19 Recovery Program Friday, meeting with rehabilitation specialists about lingering symptoms that they have suffered since 2021. Nieto, 63, arrived still pulling an oxygen tank more than one year after the virus put her in the hospital for 15 days. She continues to struggle with multiple COVID-19 symptoms, including short-term memory and exhaustion when she tries to walk more than a few steps at a time. (Sisson, 2/21)

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‘Injections, Injections, Injections’: Troubling Questions Follow Closure Of Sprawling Pain Clinic Chain

On May 13 of last year, the cellphones of thousands of California residents undergoing treatment for chronic pain lit up with a terse text message: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Lags Medical Centers will be closing effective May 19, 2021.” In a matter of days, Lags Medical, a sprawling network of privately owned pain clinics serving more than 20,000 patients throughout the state’s Central Valley and Central Coast, would shut its doors. Its patients, most of them working-class people reliant on government-funded insurance, were left without ready access to their medical records or handoffs to other physicians. Many patients were dependent on opioids to manage the pain caused by a debilitating disease or injury, according to alerts about the closures that state health officials emailed to area physicians. They were sent off with one final 30-day prescription, and no clear path for how to handle the agony — whether from their underlying conditions or the physical dependency that accompanies long-term use of painkillers — once that prescription ran out. (Maria Barry-Jester and Gold, 2/22)

Journalists Review Hospital Penalties And Problems Riddling Medicaid Rx Program

Samantha Young, a political correspondent for California Healthline, on Feb. 15 discussed how Medi-Cal patients struggle to get their prescription drugs on KCRW’s “Press Play.” Interim Southern bureau editor Andy Miller discussed Medicare penalties for hospitals in Georgia on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Lawmakers” on Feb. 10. (2/19)

By Percy