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POLITICO New York Health Care: Some tobacco retailers complying less; wrapping up Skelos

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written by Dan Goldberg

NONCOMPLIANT — New York City retailers are checking ID far less since the legal age to purchase tobacco was raised to 21, according to an NYU- UCLA study, calling into question the effectiveness of the new policy, which was meant to curtail teenagers from smoking. Before the law took effect, 29 percent of retailers sampled did not ask for ID when selling cigarettes, according to the research, which appears in the journal Tobacco Control. After the law took effect, 38 percent of retailers did not ask for ID. The city's Department of Community Affairs disputed the findings. The department believes compliance for sales to those under 21 is 92 percent, and questioned the researchers’ methodology, pointing out that NYU used people above the age of 21 to purchase cigarettes, while the department tries to purchase cigarettes with adults under 21. It's not clear what effect that really has, and the discrepancy in the findings is more likely related to the fact the city inspects all retailers, including chain stores, which tend to have a higher compliance rate.Read my story here: Read the study here:

ACROSS THE RIVER — The New Jersey Assembly’s health committee on Thursday will consider raising the legal age to buy tobacco products from 19 to 21. The state senate passed a version of that bill in June, 2014. POLITICO New Jersey’s Katie Jennings has more:

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SKELOS TRIAL For roughly three hours Tuesday afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Mukhi detailed three “schemes” in which state Sen. Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, were allegedly involved: with a real estate developer (Glenwood Management), an environmental technology company (AbTech) and a medical malpractice insurer (Physicians Reciprocal Insurer). Prosecutors allege the elder Skelos consistently asked the head of Long Island-based Physicians Reciprocal Insurer to hire his son, who was having some financial difficulty and needed health insurance for his family. Officials at PRI testified that despite being hired as a full-time employee with a yearly salary of $78,000, the younger Skelos claimed his father and the head of the company, Anthony Bonomo, had an agreement that he would work only two days a week, setting his own hours.

NOW WE KNOW — Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology say men have a better sense of direction. But if you give a woman a drop of testosterone under her tongue, she can orient herself better in the four cardinal directions. "Men's sense of direction was more effective. They quite simply got to their destination faster," Dr. Carl Pintzka, said in a press release accompanying the article. And, women are better at finding things locally, which helps explain why I can never find anything in the refrigerator. The reason for this, according to the study, is because men were hunters and women were gatherers. “Therefore, our brains probably evolved differently,” Pintzka said. “For instance, other researchers have documented that women are better at finding objects locally than men. In simple terms, women are faster at finding things in the house, and men are faster at finding the house."

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NOT HAPPENING TODAY — The city’s Board of Health meeting was canceled.

MAKING ROUNDS — SUNY Downstate Medical Center president John Williams will resign after this academic year, university chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced.

DON’T DO THAT — An employee at Ellis Hospital, accused of forging narcotic prescriptions, was arrested Monday, according to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Kristie Clemovich, 45, allegedly forged seven prescriptions for hydrocodone-acetaminophen to Rite Aid and Walmart pharmacies in Rotterdam between Oct., 2014 and Jan. 2015. She allegedly used the name of a relative as the patient and then picked up the drugs. She was caught when a nurse practitioner, treating the relative, used the state's I-STOP program, a prescription monitoring database, and found unexpected prescriptions from Ellis Hospital.

OR THAT — Randy Crowell has been charged with fraudulently distributing, through his Utah-based wholesale distribution company, more than $100 million worth of prescription drugs obtained through a nationwide black market, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

PHARMA REPORT: The American Medical Association last month called for a ban on consumer ads for prescription drugs and medical devices. Ed Silverman explains why that isn’t likely to happen.


-NY HEALTH SYSTEMS SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO THIS — Modern Healthcare reports: “The Federal Trade Commission plans to ask a federal judge Wednesday to block Penn State Hershey Medical Center's proposed merger with PinnacleHealth System, saying the combination would lead to higher prices and lower healthcare quality in the area.”

-CUTTING COMMISSIONS — Cigna is eliminating commissions for gold plans, according to Kaiser Health News. Cigna CEO David Cordani explained the company's concern with gold plans. "The whole way the benefits are configured and the way marketplace is working — the performance of those plans — is much less reasonable than all the other plans," he said.

-JOBS REPORT — The health care sector is expected to add the greatest share of jobs between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Health care-related jobs are projected to account for 13.6 percent of all U.S. jobs by 2024, up from 12 percent in 2014. The health care sector should become the largest employer by the middle of the next decade, overtaking state and local government.

-ADHD REPORT — More than one-in-10 children have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to Reuters, which examined a report in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. “Diagnosis rates jumped 43 percent overall during the study period, from 8.4 percent of children in 2003 to 12 percent by 2011. Over that time, diagnosis among girls jumped 55 percent from 4.7 percent in 2003 to 7.3 percent in 2011, though prevalence remained higher among boys.”

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the Cleveland Clinic: “Is holiday stress affecting your relationship? Hug it out! Cuddling can increase levels of oxytocin, the so-called love hormone.”


-GROWING DIVIDE — Remember the good ole days when Medicare and commercial payments for inpatient hospital care were closely aligned. No more, says an article in Health Affairs. Hospital expenditures are expected to exceed $1 trillion this year, and “in 2012 private insurers’ payment rates for inpatient hospital stays were approximately 75 percent greater than Medicare’s payment rates — a sharp increase from the approximately 10 percent differential in the period 1996–2001.”

-EXPLAINER — Health Affairs has an excellent explainer of why the ERISA case before the U.S. Supreme Court matters for states, such as New York, looking to run an All Payer Claims Database, and why it may not matter at all. The justices will determine whether a national employer that self-insures health coverage for its workforce must comply with a Vermont law requiring comprehensive health care claims data to be reported to the state’s All-Payer Claims Database. “If Vermont prevails and other states pile on, large national employers can ask the Department of Labor to issue reporting regulations that would render conflicting state requirements invalid. If Liberty Mutual prevails, Vermont can ask the Department of Labor for a formal waiver (which it probably has authority to grant) allowing its law to be enforced. These possibilities also demonstrate that ERISA federalism, like other evolving areas of law, is no longer a simple question of state versus federal control but has become subject to shared governance based on statute. Still, the justices may use the case to partially extricate the Court from the ERISA preemption morass by applying somewhat less idiosyncratic legal standards such as ‘field preemption,’ though the tripartite structure of Section 514 would make defining the preempted field somewhat difficult.”

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 12/8, 12/7, 12/4, 12/3, 12/2

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