Health, Medicine & Nutrition
American Lung Association Commends Senator Harkin for Protecting CDC's National Asthma Control Program PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Katie Lorenz   
Friday, 15 June 2012 09:42
Senator Harkin championed the continued funding of the National Asthma Control Program and the American Lung Association applauds his efforts. Earlier today, the Senate Appropriations Committee again voted to keep the National Asthma Control Program as a stand-alone program and maintained its funding level of $25.3 million for fiscal year 2013.

Food Preservation Course Approved for Dietitian Continuing Education PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Amanda Heitz   
Friday, 15 June 2012 08:03
AMES, Iowa – Registered dietitians have a new source for continuing education on safe food preservation. Preserve the Taste of Summer, a research-based program from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, has been approved for up to 20  continuing education units from the Commission of Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

As Iowans continue to be interested in local foods, gardening and preserving food themselves, registered dietitians need to be aware of safe food preservation practices so they can properly advise their clients, said Sarah Francis, an assistant professor and nutrition specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. Gardens are advocated as a means for helping families meet the MyPlate fruit and vegetable recommendations needed for good health. Home food preservation helps families keep the produce from the garden safe year round, Francis said. “The more people who know about safe food preservation methods, the safer Iowans are going to be,” Francis said.

Preserve the Taste of Summer consists of eight online lessons covering food safety, the basics of canning, and information on specific food preservation methods, including pressure canning, freezing and drying, as well as preparing and preserving fruit spreads and pickled and fermented foods. People who do not have computer access have the option to view the online lessons in a group setting during four in-person sessions at a participating ISU Extension and Outreach county office.

After completing the online lessons, participants are eligible to take any of the four hands-on workshops covering salsa making and freezing, jams and dehydrating, pickle making or pressure canning.

Completing the online lessons and workshops does not qualify registered dietitians to teach Preserve the Taste of Summer, but does provide the research-based information they need regarding food preservation methods so they can accurately advise clients. Those who are interested would be eligible to serve as volunteers to assist ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition and health specialists with future workshops and program promotion.

Registered dietitians may receive four continuing education units for completing the online lessons and four CEUs for completing one workshop (eight CEUs total) for a combined registration fee of $100. They may receive an additional four CEUs for each of the remaining workshops (up to 12 additional CEUs), with a registration fee of $40 per additional workshop. The entire program (eight online lessons and four workshops) will provide 20 CEUs for $220. Registration is available online at Registered dietitians should sign up for Preserve the Taste of Summer at the professional level and indicate that they are registered dietitians seeking CEUs.

Registered dietitians must complete 75 CEUs every five years to retain their registration. Francis, who also is a registered dietitian, said, “With 20 CEUs, Preserve the Taste of Summer provides a solid foundation for that continuing education.”


Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Save Medicaid PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Nafia Khan   
Friday, 15 June 2012 08:00

Restructuring Package Stabilizes Medicaid and

Preserves Care for Most Vulnerable

CHICAGO – June 14, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed into law a package of reforms that will rescue the state’s Medicaid system from the brink of collapse and make the program sustainable for the future, one of his top priorities this legislative session.

The series of new laws reaches the governor’s goal of $2.7 billion in Medicaid savings, which includes $1.6 billion in Medicaid spending reductions, an increase in the price of cigarettes and resulting dollar-for-dollar federal matching funds. The legislation targets fraud and abuse in Medicaid, reduces rates for providers and decreases the burden of smoking on the Medicaid system through a dollar-a-pack increase in the price of cigarettes, which will also prevent children from smoking. The new laws also provide new federal funding for hospitals, and end the long-time practice of balancing the budget by pushing Medicaid bills into the next fiscal year.

During his budget address in February, Governor Quinn called for the fundamental restructuring of Medicaid through $2.7 billion in liability reductions to repair the program’s long-term deficit. To achieve that goal, the governor convened a working group of bipartisan legislators to develop numerous options to reach the savings. In April, the governor laid out a proposal to rescue Medicaid that was informed by the working group, which served as the basis for successful negotiations on the final package of legislation he signed today.

“One of our most important missions in Springfield this year was to save Medicaid from the brink of collapse,” Governor Quinn said. “I applaud the members of our working group and of the General Assembly, who worked together in a bipartisan manner to tackle a grave crisis. As a result, we preserved our healthcare program that millions of our most vulnerable rely upon.”

As Governor Quinn cited in his budget address, the Medicaid program faced a $2.7 billion budget gap this year and the pile of unpaid bills would have grown to $21 billion by 2017 without a series of difficult but necessary reforms. During his budget address, the Governor called for a combination of eligibility reforms, reductions in optional services, controls on utilization and cuts in provider rates to close the gap.

Governor Quinn assigned Director Julie Hamos of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to craft a Medicaid rescue package in cooperation with a bipartisan Legislative Medicaid Advisory Committee, led by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Hinsdale).

The Governor signed five pieces of resulting legislation today:

·         SB 2840, sponsored by Sen. Steans and Rep. Feigenholtz:  The "Save Medicaid Access and Resources Together Act" (SMART Act) includes $1.6 billion in 62 spending reductions, utilization controls and provider rate cuts.

·         SB 2194, sponsored by Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston) and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago):  $1 per pack increase in the price of cigarettes provides $350 million and dollar-for-dollar federal matching funds of $350 million for Medicaid; a new hospital assessment program provides $100 million for Medicaid and $480 million for hospitals.

·         HB 5007, sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Rep. Currie:  The Cook County Waiver authorizes the Cook County Health & Hospitals System to provide a limited Medicaid coverage to their patients, prior to the Affordable Care Act 2014 implementation, at no cost to the state; also extends the state's moratorium on Medicaid expansion to 2015.

·         SB 3397, sponsored by Sen. Steans and Rep. Currie:  Phases out the long-time practice of balancing the budget by pushing Medicaid bills into the next fiscal year

·         SB 3261, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago): defines charity care for purposes of property tax exemptions for non-profit hospitals.

The SMART Act scales Medicaid to fit available funding sources through spending reductions, utilization controls and provider rate cuts. Its key provisions include:

·         Reducing eligibility for adults in the FamilyCare program to 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($30,660 for a family of four).

·         The state’s subsidy for the federal prescription drug (Part D) program, IL Cares Rx, is terminated, but “Extra Help/Low Income Subsidy” provides federal assistance to low-income seniors and people with disabilities eligible for Medicare.

·         New integrity measures will aggressively target client and provider fraud through:

o   Enhanced eligibility verification of income and residency through use of private vendor’s access to national databases for annual redeterminations; and

o   Expanded authority of the HFS Inspector General to deny, suspend and recover overpayments and conduct pre-payment and post-payment provider audits.

·         Eliminates some optional services, such as group psychotherapy and adult chiropractic services, and places utilization control on certain optional services such as adult dental services (restricted to emergencies), adult podiatry services (restricted to diabetics), and adult eyeglasses (limited to 1 every 2 years).

·         Limits are placed on adult and children’s prescriptions to four per month, with additional prescriptions available based on patients’ needs.

·         Most provider groups receive a rate cut of 2.7% except for doctors, dentists, clinics, safety-net hospitals and critical access rural hospitals. Non-exempt hospitals receive a rate cut of 3.5%.  Nursing home cuts average 2.7%, but the homes serving clients who have the highest care needs are being impacted less.

“This has been a difficult process, but I applaud the Governor and my colleagues for addressing the structural deficit in the Medicaid program that has been building up for years,” said Rep. Feigenholtz. “Without making these tough choices, we could not continue to provide the critical services to those who depend on the program most.”

“The Medicaid program had become unsustainable. By taking these actions, we are ensuring that the program will survive in the future and be there to serve the most fragile and vulnerable members of society,” said Sen. Steans. “And we were able to avoid cuts to more vital services by increasing the cost of cigarettes, which will help lower our overall health care costs.”

“The Medicaid system was on the brink of collapse and was threatening financial health of our health care delivery system and state government as a whole,” said HFS Director Julie Hamos. “Now that we have put the program on a sustainable financial path, we can focus on our ultimate goal of transforming the program from one which simply pays medical bills, to one that keeps its clients healthy by coordinating their care and making sure when they do get sick, they get care that is effective and results in better outcomes.”

The dollar-a-pack increase in the price of cigarettes was hailed by healthcare advocates as an important public health measure. The price increase will decrease smoking-related costs to Medicaid, which came to $1.5 billion last year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The organization estimates it will help about 60,000 people quit smoking, prevent 60,000 deaths from smoking-related conditions and keep 80,000 kids from taking up smoking in the first place.

"The price increase for tobacco is a great win for public health because it will do more than just ease the state's Medicaid issues," said Joel Africk, president and chief executive officer of Respiratory Health Association. "The tax increase will help people who want to quit, it will save lives from being lost to tobacco-related illnesses, and it will discourage our youth from starting to smoke. Congratulations to Governor Quinn and all of the law's supporters."

"The American Cancer Society supports Governor Quinn's actions to improve  the health of Illinois residents," said Katherine L. Griem, M.D., President of the American Cancer Society, Illinois Division. "Smoking remains the leading cause of cancer and curtailing and preventing it, especially in our youth, will save thousands of lives."

For more information, go to:



Health care law helps Iowa residents receive care in their communities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Julie Brookhart   
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 13:25

Iowa will receive resources made available by the Affordable Care Act – the health care law – to help seniors and people with disabilities live in their communities, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today. These resources will help ensure Iowa residents can choose to live at home rather than in a nursing home or other facility.

The Iowa award, projected at $61.8 million, is a vital component of a broad State-based approach to expand community-based care provided by the Affordable Care Act’s Balancing Incentive Program.

“The health care law is giving many seniors and people with disabilities the freedom to continue to live in their homes and communities, rather than in a nursing home,” said Marilyn Tavenner, CMS acting administrator.  “We are pleased that Iowa is one of many States working to expand community services and supports.”

While federal Medicaid law requires States to pay for institutional care for the elderly or persons with disabilities who may need assistance with their activities of daily living, Medicaid coverage for home or community-based services is optional.  And while all States have opted to provide such coverage, consumer demand frequently exceeds the State’s available resources.

The health care law offers States additional resources through an increase in their federal Medicaid matching rates for home and community-based services, if a State commits to increasing access to these services.  A total of $3 billion is available to States under the Affordable Care Act’s Balancing Incentive Program.

The Administration strongly supports ensuring that people with Medicaid can get the support they need to continue to live in their communities. While most Medicaid dollars for long-term services and supports still go to institutions, the national percentage of Medicaid spending on home and community-based services has more than doubled from 20 percent in 1995 to 43 percent in 2009.

States are eligible for the Balancing Incentive Program if less than 50 percent of their total long-term care spending goes toward home and community-based services.  The enhanced Medicaid payments must be spent increasing the availability of home and community-based services for Medicaid beneficiaries with long-term needs.  The Iowa Department of Human Services Balancing Incentive Program, in partnership with community organizations throughout the State, plans to further develop the systems of community-based care that serve seniors and individuals with behavioral health needs, physical disabilities, and intellectual disabilities.

For more information on the Balancing Incentive Program please visit:


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In Iowa’s Interest: More Than 160,000 Medicare Beneficiaries Access Free Preventive Services under Health Reform PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 08:22

by Senator Tom Harkin

Many Iowans know that in crafting the Affordable Care Act – the landmark health reform law – one of my primary goals as Chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was to increase access to preventive care. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of preventive services, both in reducing chronic disease and in lowering health care costs. Well, according to new data released this month by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Iowans on Medicare are taking advantage of these new opportunities to access preventive care.

In just the first five months of 2012, the Affordable Care Act has helped 164,636 Iowans with original Medicare receive at least one preventive service at no cost to them. This also includes 10,841 who have taken advantage of the free Annual Wellness Visit provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Nationally, more than 14 million seniors have received at least one preventive service, including 1.1 million who benefited from the Annual Wellness Visit.

Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive benefits are offered free of charge to beneficiaries, with no deductible or co-pay, so that cost is no longer a barrier for seniors who want to stay healthy and treat problems early. The law also added an important new service for people with Medicare – an Annual Wellness Visit with the doctor of their choice – at no cost to the beneficiary.

What this means is that Iowans on Medicare can access cancer screenings, mammograms, and other preventive services to help them stay healthy and lower their health care costs by giving them the tools to take charge of their own health and prevent health problems. I encourage all eligible Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of these new benefits.

To learn more about Medicare-covered preventive services, please visit:

To learn what screenings, vaccinations and other preventive services doctors recommend, please visit the myhealthfinder tool at

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