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POLITICO New York Health Care: Health Republic customers chose plans; St. Joseph's finds Legionella

Dear readers: POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it at that time, along with a customized real-time news feed of New York health care policy news throughout the day, please contact us at and we'll set you up for trial access.

written by Dan Goldberg and Josefa Velasquez

HALF OF HEALTH REPUBLIC CUSTOMERS CHOSE THEIR OWN PLAN — About half the customers who lost their coverage when Health Republic Insurance of New York folded last month chose a new plan for themselves, according to state officials. The rest of the individual customers were automatically enrolled into one of three plans — Fidelis Care, MVP and Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Data on small businesses is still being compiled. Health Republic stopped serving customers on Nov. 30 after state and federal regulators found the insurer did not have the cash to remain in business. Customers were given only a few weeks to choose a new insurance plan, or be automatically enrolled by the state.

Patients being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering were in a particular bind because no other insurer on the exchange had MSK in its network. The cancer center last month reached a deal with MetroPlus to insure all of the New York City residents at the hospital. Dr. Cliff Hudis, vice president for government relations and chief advocacy officer, said the hospital has not reached a similar deal for the 100-plus patients who live outside of New York City, but many of those patients have purchased new insurance. “Based on this we remain cautiously optimistic that all of our actively treated patients will be able to continue receiving care with us,” Hudis said in an email.

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MAYOR ON DRUGS — Mayor Bill de Blasio will be on Staten Island today, announcing a new plan to fight opioid addiction, according to the Staten Island Advance. “Over the next three years, between 1,000 and 1,500 new providers will be trained and authorized to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication that treats opioid analgesics use by stopping cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms. Despite benefits, the city reports that availability of buprenorphine remains low.”

NOW WE KNOW — If you’re living with your girlfriend, there is no scientific reason to get married, according to the Journal of Family Psychology. The research found when it comes to emotional health, young couples — especially women — do just as well moving in together as they do getting married. The study is based on measurements of emotional distress. "At one time, marriage may have been seen as the only way for young couples to get the social support and companionship that is important for emotional health," said Claire Kamp Dush, coauthor of the study and associate professor of human sciences at the Ohio State University. "It's not that way anymore. We're finding that marriage isn't necessary to reap the benefits of living together, at least when it comes to emotional health."

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MAKING ROUNDS — Ellen Rautenberg, the former president and CEO of Public Health Solutions, has been elected to a two-year term as chair of the New York State Health Foundation’s board of directors. She succeeds Robert Smith, the founder and chief investment officer of Smith Affiliated Capital Corp., according to a spokeswoman for the New York State Health Foundation. Rautenberg and Courtney Burke, chief strategy officer at Albany Medical Center, were both appointed to the board this fall.

EN ESPANOL — The NYS Department of Health has announced the video “Value Based Payments: An Introduction” is now available in Spanish.

SYRACUSE LEGIONNAIRES UPDATE — A “small amount” of the Legionnaires’ bacteria was found in cooling towers at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse, the Post-Standard reports. The hospital received the test results last month but did not announce them until Sunday. Hospital officials said there was no evidence anyone had become ill from the contaminated cooling tower. Earlier this year, the hospital found traces of the bacteria in its drinking water.

JOBS REPORT —The healthcare industry created 23,800 jobs in November, another month of solid job growth. Here’s the breakdown: Hospitals added 13,400 jobs, doctors’ offices added 2,700 jobs and home health lost 1,600 jobs. Health care spending spiked 5.3 percent and is now more than $3 trillion. So, while job growth is generally a good thing, there are reasons to wonder whether health systems are doing enough to contain costs.

PHARMA REPORT: Mylan has received a subpoena from the Justice Department related to the marketing and pricing of its generic antibiotic Doxycycline, according to The Wall Street Journal.


-THE END OF DAYS — Bloomberg News profiles Sylvia Mathews-Burwell, President Obama’s health secretary, as she spends the last 13 months of the president’s term trying to make the Affordable Care Act as hard to repeal as possible.

-SODA BAN — Applebee’s and IHOP are taking soda off kids' menus, according to Fox News. “McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Dairy Queen have instituted similar changes and comes amid a push by food chains to meet customer demand by providing healthier menu offerings.”

-BREAKING THROUGH Forbes writes about why 2015 may well be remembered as the renaissance of immunotherapy. “This year has seen the achievement of one immuno-oncology milestone after another, from patients with blood cancers being cured in clinical trials of specially engineered immune cells called chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CARTs), to the approval of the first therapeutic virus, Amgen’s Imlygic, a modified herpes bug that treats melanoma.”

-WORTH IT — Dr. Dennis Burke was fired from his job at Massachusetts General after he worked with Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigators to report on concurrent surgeries, or double-booking, in which doctors work on more than one patient at a time. He’s a whistleblower. And, according to management, he violated “hospital rules and perhaps federal privacy laws by supplying the Globe with copies of some internal records.”

-NORTHERN EXPOSURE — Kaiser Permanente announced it will acquire Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative, expanding Kaiser's geographic reach and boosting its health plan membership by 6 percent, according to Modern Healthcare.

-MEDICARE CONSIDERING COVERING SEX CHANGE — Modern Healthcare reports: “The CMS is considering whether Medicare should pay for sex change operations. The agency is also considering paying for treatment to treat gender dysphoria, which describes individuals who experience significant discontent with their biological sex or birth gender, according to a notice released Thursday night.”

-PENIS TRANSPLANT — “Within a year, maybe in just a few months, a young soldier with a horrific injury from a bomb blast in Afghanistan will have an operation that has never been performed in the United States: a penis transplant. The organ will come from a deceased donor, and the surgeons, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, say they expect it to start working in a matter of months, developing urinary function, sensation and, eventually, the ability to have sex. From 2001 to 2013, 1,367 men in military service sustained wounds to the genitals in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense Trauma Registry. Nearly all were under 35 years old and were hurt by homemade bombs, commonly called improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.s, sometimes losing all or part of their penises or testicles — what doctors call genitourinary injuries.” Read more from The New York Times here:

-ON THE RISE — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a superbug dubbed the “phantom menace” is on the rise in the U.S. and is particularly difficult to treat because it’s part of a family of bacteria resistant to most antibiotics, killing about 50 percent of the people it infects.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the Cleveland Clinic. Don’t drink soda. Sugar in soda stimulates the reward system in your brain and over time you need more and sweeter drinks to get the same level of reward.


-RUDENESS IS CONTAGIOUS — Researchers at the Lund University in Sweden found that workplace rudeness is contagious. The study, published in the journal Biomed Research International, found that rude behavior, such as forgetting to invite someone, taking credit for someone else’s work, spreading rumors and sending malicious emails can spread.

-DENTISTRY CHANGES — A study in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology found that tooth decay can be stopped, reversed and prevented without the traditional method of drilling and filling. A seven year study by the University of Sydney found that the need for teeth fillings were reduced by up to 50 percent through preventative care. Researchers said that a high concentration of fluoride to weak areas, brushing and a lower sugar intake can help reduce or eliminate cavities.

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 12/4, 12/3, 12/2, 12/1, 11/30

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