Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Grassley, Issa, Gowdy Continue Review of Minnesota’s Use of Federal Tax Dollars for State-only Health Programs PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 05 September 2012 14:42

WASHINGTON -- Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee continued their examination of Minnesota’s inappropriate and possibly illegal misuse of federal tax dollars to cross-subsidize its state-only health programs.

The issue has been under the close inspection of Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and House Oversight Subcommittee on Health Care Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-SC.

A state legislative audit report found that Minnesota was underpaying managed care companies in the state for state-only health programs and overpaying insurance companies for Medicaid.  Since federal taxpayers pay half of Minnesota’s Medicaid expenditures, federal taxpayers were inappropriately cross-subsidizing managed care companies in Minnesota for state-only health plans.

In March 2011, UCare, the smallest of Minnesota’s four managed care companies operating in the state, returned $30 million to the state.  UCare’s CEO attributed this contribution to excess 2010 operating margins, which largely resulted from Medicaid overpayments.

It appears that the Minnesota Department of Human Services attempted to disguise this repayment as a “donation” in order to keep all of it in state coffers, as opposed to returning the appropriate amount to the federal taxpayer. Minnesota finally agreed to return the federal share to the U.S. Treasury the day before a April 2012 House Oversight Committee hearing.

However, because of conflicting statements at the hearing from Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and other contradictory information, questions remain about whether or not the state agency was attempting to defraud the federal taxpayer.

“The State’s agreement with UCare to count UCare’s $30 million repayment toward the 2011 profit cap raises serious questions regarding your insistence that half of UCare’s $30 million “donation” was not subject to federal recoupment,” write Grassley, Issa, and Gowdy.

The letter directs Commissioner Jesson to clarify contradictory testimony, given under oath, before the House Oversight Committee; clarify the timeline and decision-making process on the remission to the U.S. Treasury; and to produce documents inappropriately withheld from earlier requests.

The text of the letter is available here. The House Oversight Committee held a hearing in April, and issued a staff report.

 

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Inspector General Releases Iowa City VA Report PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 30 August 2012 07:37

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Senator Chuck Grassley gave the following statement after the Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs released a report on a “Review of Quality of Care, Management, and Operations” of the Iowa City VA Health Care System.  Grassley requested the report after employees and patients contacted his office with serious allegations at the facility that were cause for concern about the direction of the facility and its impact on patient care. Nearly 1,000 employees responded to the Inspector General’s survey request.  The Inspector General also conducted two site visits during its review.  The Inspector General will be conducting follow-up inquiries in October to determine if improvement has been made.

The Inspector General’s report can be found here.  Grassley’s original letter requesting a review can be found here.

“I appreciate the whistleblowers’ willingness to come forward and alert me to these problems.  Veterans deserve the highest quality of care, and we needed to make sure the high quality that we’ve come to know from the Iowa City VA hospital was still being delivered.  The good news is that while the Iowa City VA facility has serious management problems to address, our veterans are receiving stellar care thanks to the hard work of the hospital’s ‘highly competent professional staff.’  The key for the management is to immediately take steps to address the problems laid out by the Inspector General before patient care is impacted.  There are several actions recommended in the report that the leaders of the hospital can take to help rectify the problems that were identified.  I strongly suggest the senior management take the conclusion and recommendations of the review to heart and make substantive changes.”

 
Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Thornton to Host Virtual Office Hours to Discuss How USDA is Making the School Day Healthier for America’s Students PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Tuesday, 28 August 2012 15:07

WASHINGTON, August 28, 2012 – TOMORROW at 1 pm EDT, Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Janey Thornton will host a live Twitter chat focusing on the new nutrition standards for school meals to kick off USDA’s “The School Day Just Got Healthier” back to school campaign.

Ask the Deputy Under Secretary about USDA’s school meals programs and its work to make the school day healthier. She played a key role in bringing these changes to fruition and this is a great opportunity to touch base with a national leader in school meal services. The new standards, established under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, ensure students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week; substantially increase offerings of whole grain-rich foods and low-fat or fat-free milk; limit calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.

Submit your “The School Day Just Got Healthier” related questions in advance to the @USDA Twitter account using the hashtags #AskUSDA and #SchoolFoodsRule.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

1 p.m. EDT

WHAT: USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Thornton will answer questions about the new nutrition standards for school meals.

WHERE: Tune in online by following the @USDA Twitter account. Use hashtags #askUSDA and #SchoolFoodsRule to submit questions in advance and during the live Twitter chat.

 

USDA Virtual Office Hours, a monthly live question and answer series allows stakeholders to directly engage with USDA leadership and subject matter experts-through Twitter. Sessions will be focused on a specific mission, issue or program, as aligned with the Department’s strategic goals and based on stakeholder interests.

 

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Genesis Wellness Program Earns National Recognition PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Craig Cooper   
Tuesday, 28 August 2012 14:36

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- August 27, 2012 -- Genesis Health System has been recognized by Wellness Councils of America (WELLCOA) as a national leader in employee wellness.

Genesis has received a Gold Award, which recognizes organizations developing comprehensive programs producing results. Criteria for each designation is based on progressive development and implementation of an organization's wellness initiative within the context of seven critical benchmarks.

Genesis Health System is one of 25 Gold Award winners from across the country. Genesis was less than 3 points from earning a Platinum Award, which is the highest level of recognition.

"A healthy workforce is very important to us,'' said Doug Cropper, President and CEO, Genesis Health System. "Our employees take responsibility for the health choices they make. Our role as leaders is to provide them with wellness programs and opportunities that promote health.''

Genesis Health System offers its employees a variety of incentives and programs to maintain and improve their health.

One of the most successful initiatives has been the Healthy Lifestyles program. Employees receive an annual screening for the five risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Employees who have fewer than three risk factors qualify for lower health insurance rates. Because of the program, Genesis employees have enjoyed nearly stable health insurance costs while rates across the country have risen steeply over the same period.

The Genesis WellPower Program, managed by Jan Treftz-Allen, is a key component of employee health. The program introduces employees and spouses to health habits to improve their lives. The program focuses primarily on exercise, nutrition and stress management, which have the biggest impact on health risks.

Within the Genesis WellPower Program are challenges for participants. Exercise, improved food choices, stress coping skills and taking part in Genesis-sponsored events are documented as part of an incentive program to reinforce good habits. The WellPower website offers employees online education and a variety of other resources to manage their health.

Genesis employees receive discounts for YMCA memberships and other health clubs. The Genesis food service offers healthy entree selections every day and vending machines have healthier options.

Another successful wellness program at Genesis is an annual employee bike sale. Employees are able to purchase bikes, biking gear and exercise equipment on a discounted basis and can have their purchase deducted from their payroll checks.

"We're very proud of the total wellness program at Genesis and the participation by employees and their families in the program,'' Cropper said. "Our wellness initiatives have helped save millions of dollars in our organization's employee health care costs, but more importantly, our employees are benefitting through improved health and lower costs for health insurance premiums.''

Genesis Occupational Health is working with area employers to introduce successful Genesis initiatives to their employees.

Wellness Councils of America, based in Omaha, focuses on building Well Workplaces – organizations that are dedicated to the health of their employees. To date, more than 600 companies have received Well Workplace awards.

WELCOA's Seven Benchmarks of results-oriented workplace wellness programs are: Capturing CEO Support; Creating Cohesive Wellness Teams; Collecting Data to Drive Health Efforts; Carefully Crafting An Operating Plan; Choosing Appropriate Interventions; Creating A Supportive Environment; Carefully Evaluating Outcomes.

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Celebrate Labor Day by giving the gift of life to patients in need PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Ben Corey   
Tuesday, 28 August 2012 14:33

As the summer season wraps up and Labor Day approaches, it’s important to remember that the need for blood and platelets does not take a holiday. Throughout the summer, especially during the holidays, lifesaving blood donations decline. This often occurs as donors pack their schedules full of fun summer activities, leaving little time to donate.

This Labor Day, the Red Cross is encouraging individuals to end their summer right by making a difference in their community. All presenting donors who give at Red Cross blood drives from August 30 through September 5 will be entered for a chance to win one of five GiftCertificates.com prize packages worth $200 for items of their choosing.

All presenting blood and platelet donors August 30 to September 5 have the chance to win one of five $200 prize packages redeemable at GiftCertificates.com

PEORIA, Ill. (August 27, 2012) – As the hot summer winds down and individuals and families look forward to the Labor Day holiday, the American Red Cross reminds eligible donors that patients can’t take a holiday from needing blood or platelets. To help ensure an adequate blood supply this Labor Day holiday, from August 30 to September 5, presenting blood and platelet donors can give a little and live a little by being entered to win one of five $200 GiftCertificates.com prize packages redeemable for items such as books, music, electronics, restaurants, department stores and more!

“Summer holidays pose a serious challenge to the nation’s blood supply as donors have less time to give lifesaving blood,” said Shelly Heiden, CEO of the American Red Cross Heart of America Blood Services Region. “But patients don’t get to take a holiday from needing blood. Approximately every two seconds, a patient in the United States needs blood. So make blood donation a part of your Labor Day plans and help patients enjoy more summers with their friends and families.”

The Labor Day promotion is part of the Red Cross’ Live Life. Give Life. campaign. The summer-long giveaway (May 21 through September 5) raises awareness of the need for summer blood donations and offers all presenting donors the chance to win a prize certificate package worth $5,000 redeemable at GiftCertificates.com. One lucky donor can use the prize certificate to choose from hundreds of available prize options, including vacations, shopping sprees or meals out for a year. For more information, visit redcrossblood.org/GiveWin.

Donors of all blood types are needed, but eligible donors with blood type O negative, O positive, A negative or B negative are especially encouraged to give. Anyone who gave blood at the start of the summer may be eligible to donate again as summer comes to a close.

How to Donate Blood
Simply call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license, or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

About the American Red Cross

The need is constant. The gratification is instant. Give blood.™

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.

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