August 1, 2015

Congressman Fortenberry calls for suspension of money for Planned Parenthood

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says federal funding for Planned Parenthood should be suspended while Congress investigates videos released by an anti-abortion group.

A fourth video has been released by the Center for Medical Progress in which it appears a Planned Parenthood officials discusses the trafficking of fetal tissue and organs after abortions.

Fortenberry says Planned Parenthood has carefully cultivated an image of providing women health care.

“Now the façade has come down,” Fortenberry tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “The gruesome realities of this organization are exposed. It is sickening. It is shameful. And this is a taxpayer-funded organization, by the way, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars and that doesn’t even count what they receive through various affiliates and associates in overseas monies.”

The selling of fetal tissue and organs from abortions is illegal. Planned Parenthood insists it has not broken the law and has stayed within federal statutes.

Fortenberry says federal funding for Planned Parenthood should be suspended while Congress investigates whether that is true.

“But there is a deeper issue here of really what this organization has stood for in the past and why we continue as Americans to not really work hard to heal the past,” according to Fortenberry. “Everyone out there, everyone is affected in some way or another by the painful reality of abortion. But the selling of unborn baby parts brings this to a gruesome level that should awaken the conscience of the entire nation.”

Fortenberry rejects the notion that if Planned Parenthood doesn’t receive federal money, women won’t receive medical care.

“As a matter of first principle, abortion is not health care,” Fortenberry responds. “This organization is completely entangled in profiting in the profitable industry of abortion and that’s the reality.”

Fortenberry says Congress needs to investigate, but the nation needs to reflect.

“As gruesome and sickening as this is, the reality is it makes us confront something that we all want to push off to the side and just sanitize and not deal with.”

Congressman Smith pushes to ease regs on rural hospitals (AUDIO)

Congressman Adrian Smith

Congressman Adrian Smith

A Nebraska Congressman says federal rules don’t just hurt the bottom line of rural hospitals, they interfere with patient care.

Congressman Adrian Smith proposes changes for two federal rules.

One requires a doctor be on hand, even for routine medical decisions; a burden on rural hospitals which Smith says should be able to rely on other trained medical professionals on hand.

“We need to stand behind that training and entrust our providers to make good, professional decisions in the best interest of the patient without the federal government getting in the way,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The other rule targeted by Smith requires hospitals guarantee a patient-stay not exceed 96 hours for the hospital to receive reimbursement from Medicaid or Medicare.

Smith would lift the rule for Critical Access Hospitals.

Smith’s legislation got a boost when the Brown County Hospital CEO Shannon Sorensen told Ways and Means Committee members the rules added undue burdens for her hospital in Ainsworth.

[Click here for our story on Sorensen’s testimony.]

Sorensen testified at a committee public hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Sorensen told committee members Brown County has only one physician and requiring him to be at the hospital for routine procedures is unrealistic; often causing her hospital to postpone medical care. A strict interpretation of the 96-hour rule will cost Brown County Hospital Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, vital to the hospital’s bottom line, according to Sorensen.

Congressman Smith sponsors H.R. 169, the Critical Access Hospital Relief Act, removing the 96-hour precertification requirement for patients at Critical Access Hospitals. He also sponsors H.R. 170, the Rural Health Care Provider Relief Act, which would delay the physician supervision requirement for a year until its impact can be studied.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Rural Nebraska hospital administrator testifies fed rules too big a burden (VIDEO)

A rural Nebraska hospital administrator testifies at a Congressional hearing in Washington that federal regulations threaten the financial stability of rural hospitals and restrict their ability to care for patients.

Brown County Hospital CEO Shannon Sorensen has testified before the United States House Ways and Means Committee.

Sorensen tells committee members the federal rule that limits Medicare and Medicaid patients to a 96-hour stay in the hospital interferes with patient care.

“It impedes rural providers in their ability to care for their patients,” according to Sorensen. “Having to focus on regulatory burden interferes with the best judgment of physicians and other health care providers, placing them in a position where our providers are constantly making regulatory decisions to dictate the medical decisions they need to make.”

Sorensen says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have changed how they will interpret two regulations; both changes detrimental to rural hospitals.

The first, the 96-hour rule, had some flexibility in the past, according to Sorensen. The rule requires assurances that patients on Medicaid and Medicare will spend no more than 96 hours at a hospital in order for the hospital to be reimbursed. Once treated as an average, the rule now is to be strictly enforced, according to Sorensen.

The second mandates a physician directly supervise certain medical procedures.

“Rural facilities and providers face many challenges without the heavy hand of government,” Sorensen says. “We must be given the flexibility to provide affordable and efficient health care.”

Sorensen says the 96-hour rule doesn’t just interfere with treatment, it threatens a vital source of funding for rural hospitals. The physician mandate creates a real burden for rural hospitals with few resources.

“Our community has one, full-time primary care physician who is supported by two mid-level providers,” Sorensen explains. “With some of the regulatory burdens we face, such as requiring only a physician to oversee cardiac rehab or only a physician being able to order durable medical equipment, home-health, or hospice services, any time our lone physician is not on our campus, takes a vacation, or attends continuing education, significant patient needs have to wait.”

Sorensen backs legislation by Congressman Adrian Smith called the Critical Access Hospital Relief Act. It would remove the 96-hour requirement for patients at critical access hospitals and relax the physician mandate for rural hospitals.

Outreach group offers comfort to families of suicide victims

LOSSAn average of 180 Nebraskans commit suicide every year while 1,200 more are treated at hospitals for suicide attempts and self-inflicted injuries.

Renae Zimmer is co-founder of the Central Nebraska LOSS Team, which stands for Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors. She explains the mission.

Zimmer says, “We’re a national organization and we just formed the Central Nebraska LOSS chapter as an outreach group to go out and call on families at their wishes at the time of a loss of a loved one to suicide.”

Suicide was the leading cause of injury death for Nebraskans between 25 and 64, and the second-leading cause of injury death for all age groups combined between 1999 and 2003.

Having lost her brother to suicide last year, Zimmer says it’s a comfort to have help available for the family members.

“We just offer support in times of need,” she says. “We can help them in the healing process and encourage them to seek additional help if they need to and we invite them to our different functions and events and our meetings.”

While there are other chapters around the state, the central Nebraska chapter meets once a month in Kearney.

For more information, visit the Central Nebraska LOSS Team on Facebook or send e-mail to

There’s also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney


Insurance mergers could mean higher rates

Blue Cross – Blue Shield insurer Anthem has agreed to acquire Cigna in a $54-billion deal. Earlier this month Aetna and Humana struck a merger deal for $37-billion. University of Nebraska – Omaha’s Finance, Banking and Real Estate Development Chairman Dr. David Volkman says there is one thing that has spurred these mergers.

Dr. Volkman says, “The reason for the mergers is the Affordable Care Act. The rulings restrict the pricings and margins that insurance companies can charge. They are looking at any way they can to keep profits up and one way they do that is merging with another company and decreasing their operating costs – and hopefully profits up.”

Now the question is if this will increase premiums? Dr. Volkman says insurance companies say they will be able to offer more competitive services because they have a larger power. They will be able to negotiate better with hospitals and doctors. However, every time you have less competition you have more pricing power and what you can offer consumers.

Dr. Volkman adds, “The theory shows when you have a decrease in competition you have an increase in rates. There is also the possibility there could be a decrease in service provided because they may try to consolidate other services. If they have the marketing clout to do it because they are so big they will do that.”

The two recent mergers leave only three big names left in the game with the third being United Healthcare.