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POLITICO New York Health Care: Tampon talks reach Albany; Zika mosquitos miss NYC

Dear readers: POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive an enhanced version of this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it, 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 Josefa Velasquez

TAMPON TALK — As a debate over taxing feminine hygiene products begins to be heard nationwide, a Democratic assemblywoman from the Upper West Side is pushing New York legislators to support removing sales taxes from tampons and pads.

…“It's a proposal that has merit and we'll look at in the context of the overall budget,” Mike Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, told the Daily News.

… Spokesmen for Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not reply to emails asking about the men’s position on the tax.

IN THE CLEAR, SORT OF — The wintry weather means there are no active mosquitoes in New York City. And the mosquitoes that do live here are not the same species as those that typically carry the Zika virus.

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AND MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW Josefa and me on Twitter @J__Velasquez & @DanCGoldberg. And for all New Jersey health news, check out @katiedjennings

DEFENDING MARIJUANA PROGRAM — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday recognized that the state’s slow-moving medical marijuana program is not “perfect,” but said he’d rather err on the side of caution than move it along too quickly.

NOW WE KNOW — Feeling lonely? Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have identified a region in the brain that represents the feeling of loneliness.

WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU: This roundup is for you, so please tell us how we can make it even better. Send tips, news, ideas, calendar items, releases, promotions, job postings, birthdays, congratulations, criticisms and corrections to

SOME HEALTH POLICY FUN — Because this weekend is Valentine’s Day, a twitter meme, #healthpolicyvalentines, is all the rage. Here are my Top 10. Please email me your best. You can see them all here:

10) Will you have a qualifying life event with me?

9) Unlike potentially successful Medicare drug negotiations, I'll never say no to you

8) Between you and me, I don't think consolidation is a problem

7) Check out those cost curves

6) Let's give this risk sharing agreement a shot

5) It's not the size of your network that matters, it's the quality of care it provides

4) It's like you are Obamacare and I'm a Republican. After five years I still can't think of a way to replace you

3) Girl, your body got me acting a fool; come over and let me show you my two-midnight rule.

2) Come on over to my place. I'll make you your favorite DSH.

1) I suppose #HealthPolicyValentines still beats friends with Zenefits.

PHARMA COMPANY COMING UPSTATE — New York will spend $200 million to build a pharmaceutical factory in Chautauqua County, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday, a move he said will create 1,400 jobs in the cities of Buffalo and Dunkirk.

RAISING INCOME LEVELS FOR SNAP BENEFITS — A proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for raising the income eligibility level for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, a move that could help 750,000 New Yorkers receive food assistance.

...The New Jersey State Senate on Thursday passed two bills related to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. One measure (S993), sponsored by Senate Democrats Joseph Vitale, Nellie Pou and Bob Gordon, would require the state to apply for federal waivers to remove the time limit on SNAP benefits for “able-bodied adults without dependents,” known as ABAWDs, for certain geographic areas with unemployment rates higher than the statewide average.

ABOUT THE CHILDREN — Greg Smith, for the Daily News, investigates why some licensed day care operators seem to get so many chances from the city and state, and why it can be so hard for parents to know who to trust. The top of this story is really heartbreaking.

FLU SEASON — State health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker on Thursday declared flu prevalent in New York State, meaning all health care workers who are not vaccinated must wear surgical masks when dealing with patients. The flu virus has been found in 44 counties and all five boroughs of New York City, according to the state health department. There have been no flu-related deaths so far this season.

AIDS ACCESS — A new proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office seeks to extend to minors the confidentiality that is already given to them for the treatment of other sexually transmitted infections, according to The New York Times.

EXPANDING — City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Thursday the Council is proposing an $8 million expansion for the Nurse Family Partnership program in the city.

...Flashback, State Sen. Daniel Squadron wanted $100 million to expand the program in 2014.

NO ACTION — The University of Rochester Medical Center will not face any federal consequences after a breach of patient privacy last year, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.

OVERTIME — Denise Williams, a security hospital training assistant at the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center in Manhattan earned $171,994 in overtime last year on top of her $68,249 salary. That means she accrued 3,190 extra hours of work, equaling to about 61 overtime hours a week.

GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE — A Long Island-based home care company with 300 employees in Buffalo has been sold for the second time in 18 months, according to Buffalo Business First.

MAKING ROUNDS — The Primary Care Development Corporation is hosting a summit where experts will discuss the fundamental inadequacy of spending on primary care, and how, through adequate and appropriate investments, primary care can deliver on the promise of better care, smarter spending and healthier people. The event takes place at 5:30 p.m. on March 9 at the New York Academy of Sciences.

COMING ATTRACTIONS — Gay Men's Health Crisis will now offer free HIV and STI testing on Saturdays at the David Geffen testing center in Chelsea thanks to support from the Calamus Foundation. Beginning on Saturday, the GMHC testing center will open its doors from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. every Saturday for walk-in testing, according to a press release.

...Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio and Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett will make a Valentine’s Day announcement, releasing new condom data and debuting the most recent #PlaySure media campaign, which continues the city’s sex-positive message that all New Yorkers should play safe. The fun begins at 10 a.m. at Woodhull Medical Center.

...Public Advocate Letitia James will be in Union Square at 9 a.m., handing out free condoms, Planned Parenthood Safer Sex Kits, and information on birth control, healthy relationships, and PREP.

ACROSS THE RIVER — State Senate Democrats in New Jersey pulled legislation on Thursday that would require businesses to offer employees paid sick time. With two Democrats absent from the voting session, the bill sponsor, Sen. Loretta Weinberg , said there weren’t enough members present who supported the measure to get the 21 votes it needed for passage. Weinberg said the Senate will likely try again on Tuesday in a brief voting session before Gov. Chris Christie delivers his annual budget address.


-SURPRISE! — Unexpected insurance fees typically follow when you’re recovering from a medical procedure, the Associated Press reports.

-ZIKA MISCARRIAGES — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday two women who contracted the Zika virus while traveling out of the country miscarried after returning home. The virus was later found in the placentas.

-DON’T DO THAT — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden strongly urged Senate appropriators to commit new funds to fight the Zika virus, rather than draw on unspent Ebola money as some Republicans have proposed, according to POLITICO.

-OLYMPIC CONCERNS — The U.S. Olympic Committee is hiring two infectious disease specialists to counsel any Olympians who might have concerns about the Zika outbreak in Brazil, according to the Associated Press.

-UNDER INVESTIGATION — Bloomberg Business reports: “Zenefits has been under investigation by the California Department of Insurance since last year, the state agency disclosed, saying the resignation of co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Parker Conrad earlier this week doesn’t resolve compliance issues at the human-resources software startup.”

-UNDER PRESSURE — The Wall Street Journal reports: “After most health insurers racked up financial losses on Affordable Care Act plans in 2014, many companies’ results for last year worsened, creating heavy pressure to improve performance this year.”

-SOUP SEASON — Looks like people indeed eat more soup when they’re sick. Analysts for Grubhub found that soup orders spiked during strange intervals in the winter that couldn’t be explained by a drop in the weather, the Times reports.

-WHERE’S THE MONEY — Senate Democrats are threatening to withdraw support for the first major piece of legislation meant to address the opioid epidemic because of a political squabble over funding. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved a bill, S. 524, that would authorize the Obama administration to redirect existing funds to give states and organizations grants for opioid education, prevention and treatment. But the third-ranking Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, who cosponsored the bill, said that lawmakers can't effectively address the problem unless they appropriate new funding through the bill. He and other Democrats want to attach a $600 million emergency appropriation, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, to the legislation when it gets to the Senate floor, which is expected after next week's recess. A spokeswoman for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the demands.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the New York City Health + Hospitals Corporation. “If you’re feeling stressed, talk to someone. A family member or a friend can help lighten your mental load.”


-COUCH POTATO — If you spend your days sitting on your couch and watching Netflix, you may have a smaller brain later in life. A study by the American Academy of Neurology, and published in the online issue of Neurology, found a correlation between poor physical fitness and brain volume.

-TYLENOL-TIED ASTHMA — Taking Tylenol during pregnancy can slightly increase a child's risk for asthma, Norwegian researchers found. The study, in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found prenatal exposure to Tylenol, acetaminophen, was associated with a 13-percent increased risk for asthma at age 3. The more a mother consumed Tylenol during pregnancy, the higher the risk.

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 2/11, 2/10, 2/9, 2/8, 2/5

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