During the Senate recess last week, Senator Chuck Grassley’s health care advisor, Nic Pottebaum, was in Iowa hearing and learning from health care providers. Among those stops were three UnityPoint Health hospital/programs. Although Senator Grassley’s seniority and committee assignments enables him to be influential on numerous health care issues, the Senator is prioritizing Drug Pricing, Rural Health and Women/Maternal and Child Health. Below are some highlights from Nic’s visit.
On Monday, August 16, Nic visited Grinnell Regional Medical Center to learn more about the Rural Health Clinics that were impacted by Senator Grassley’s technical fix legislation for provider-based clinics. In attendance were CEO Jennifer Havens and CFO Kyle Wilcox. Aside from rural health clinics, discussion included Grinnell’s participation in the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration, 340B drug pricing, access to rural EMS and 911 services, maternal health deserts, workforce issues, and the benefits for an integrated health system during a pandemic.
On Tuesday, August 17, Nic stopped by the Dubuque Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), which is affiliated with Finley Hospital. With the Senator’s interest in child and maternal health, VNA leadership and program specialists were able to describe the benefits of the First Five Program (for which they were first pilot) as well as other public health wrap-around programs. Finley CEO Chad Wolbers highlighted some ongoing advocacy areas including potential Metropolitical Statistical Area (MSA) reclassification, continuation of telehealth flexibilities, workforce and specialty recruitment challenges, 340B drug pricing program eligibility, and stringent network adequacy standards for Medicare Advantage.
On Friday, August 20, Nic’s last visit was to one of our community network hospitals, Pocahontas Community Hospital. Senator Grassley was instrumental in getting a new Medicare rural hospital designation – Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) – in place. Pocahontas CEO James Roetman has been heavily involved with UnityPoint Health Government & External Affairs and the Iowa Hospital Association in advocating for this stand-alone emergency department designation. As hospitals examine whether to participate as a REH, there are areas for improvement including EMS funding, assuring inpatient bed capacity during pandemics, and considering other levers to increase participation by Iowa hospitals. While REH was the main focus, the negative impact of reinstating sequestration was discussed and Nic was able to see firsthand how Provider Relief Funds were used by Pocahontas.
Overall Nic’s visits were well received. A big thank you to Grinnell Regional Medical Center, Finley Hospital and the VNA, and Pocahontas Community Hospital for hosting Nic. Your visits were able to bring home how all care is local and the great work that UnityPoint Health provides daily.