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POLITICO New York Health Care: Guaranty fund a no-go; Bassett's TEDMED Talk

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

GUARANTY FUND IS A NO-GO — After last year's collapse of Health Republic Insurance of New York, the head of the State Senate’s insurance committee said Thursday the creation of a guaranty fund that would help pay back physicians and hospitals that lose money when a health insurance company goes bust isn’t a palatable option and would only drive up insurance costs.

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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

SOUND THE ALARM — City health commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett spent nearly two decades in Zimbabwe as HIV and AIDS ravaged the African country. She has no regrets, she said, about the clinical care she provided. It was the best she could do. What she does regret all these years later is not taking a more active role in the political discourse even when she knew the burden of HIV was more prevalent in socially marginalized populations. Make sure you watch the video:

...Somewhat related: Medscape has an article examining how physicians should respond to a racist patient.

NOW WE KNOW — Want to be the boss? Start hitting the gym. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business found that a muscular physique is an important attribute when judging a person’s leadership potential.

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

UP IN SMOKE — Arguing that tobacco-free shisha amounted to a loophole in the city’s Smoke Free Air Act, several Council members on Thursday pushed for greater regulation of hookahs during a health committee hearing.

HOOSICK HEARINGS — Senate deputy majority leader John DeFrancisco has joined the call for legislative hearings on water quality issues in light of the pollution in Hoosick Falls.

END OF LIFE CHOICES — Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined to comment Thursday on a push to allow aid in dying in New York, saying he hasn't seen legislation that has now been introduced in both the Assembly and Senate.

BILL TRACKER — Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz’s bill that would require the commissioner of health to take action in areas designated to be at high risk of lead poisoning passed the Assembly.

...Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes’ bill requiring maternity patients and the other parent of a newborn child to be educated in safe sleeping practices passed the Assembly.

...Over in the Senate, Sen. Velmanette Montgomery’s bill, which clarifies the exception to how and when a prisoner, who is giving birth, may be shackled while being transported from the jail to the hospital, passed the Senate.

PAYMENTS AND CONTRACTS — Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office announced the contracts and payments approved for the month of January. Contracts approved for the Department of Health included$5.7 million to Erie County for a childhood lead poisoning grant; $2.7 million for eight spinal cord injury research grants, including $337,000 to Cornell University; $2 million for six spinal cord injury institutional grants, including $337,000 to Syracuse University; and $2 million for drinking water enhancement program grants.

BUFFALO’S HEROIN SCOURGE MIRRORS NATION — “In 2014, opiate overdoses in Erie County claimed the lives of 128 people. The following year, that number is expected to top 270, though the exact number hasn’t yet been confirmed. This year, the number of deaths from overdoses is set to outpace previous years.”

SMALL THINGS — Buffalo Business First reports: “Roswell Park Cancer Institute researchers see lots of commercial potential in a new high-powered microscopy system that offers new way to look at cancer tumors.”

BLACK SMOKE — Firefighters are again pushing for presumptive cancer coverage for volunteers statewide, arguing carcinogens in the acrid black smoke of a fire don’t care who volunteers and who gets paid. The Albany Times Union reports that a number of advocates are pushing legislation that would change the existing volunteer firefighters’ benefit law to provide the path for medical coverage for a variety of cancers.

AMBULANCE COMPANY GOES BUST — Crain’s reports that TransCare, a Brooklyn-based ambulance company with ties to Lynn Tilton’s private equity firm, has declared bankruptcy resulting in a potential job loss of 1,200 jobs.

... The Fire Department of New York should be able to increase ambulance service while also lowering the costs of doing so, the Citizens Budget Commission said Thursday, after news that TransCare filed for bankruptcy.

SETTLED — ”An appellate division court has upheld the state Health Department’s 2013 order that health care workers get flu shots or wear masks around patients, once the flu is declared to be prevalent, or widespread in New York. The Public Employees Federation, which represents public sector nurses and other health care providers had sued, contending the rule amounted to administrative overreach on the part of the Health Department and was ”arbitrary and capricious.”

CHECK THIS OUT — The Manhattan Institute is hosting a conference March 23 on hospital consolidation and competition in New York State. Distinguished health care experts, from academia, business, and nonprofits, will examine various tools that policymakers can use to deliver better outcomes across New York’s vast health care ecosystem, including regulatory reforms to boost competition, better state and federal antitrust oversight, and value-based purchasing strategies.

...I’ll be moderating the first panel and want to know what you think I should ask and/or discuss. Email me at

MAKING ROUNDS — Emily Fetterhoff, the director of communication and advocacy at HRHCare, was named an “outstanding advocate” by the National Association of Community Health Centers.

ON THE MOVE — Dr. Paul N. Casale has been appointed executive director of New York Quality Care, the accountable care organization of NewYork-Presbyterian, Columbia and Weill Cornell Medicine. He previously served as chief of the Division of Cardiology and medical director of quality at Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine.

ACROSS THE RIVER: The state Department of Health released Thursday its proposed charity-care payments for hospitals for fiscal year 2017, and while Newark Beth Israel Medical Center would get the biggest charity-care cut, Bergen Regional Medical Center faces the biggest overall funding drop. POLITICO New Jersey’s Katie Jennings has more:


-REALLY GOOD NEWS — California Healthline reports: “Levels of harmful flame-retardant chemicals in women’s breast milk have dropped by nearly 40 percent since California’s decade-old ban on these chemicals took effect, according to a new study by state environmental scientists.”

-DON’T DO THAT — A nursing home in South Dakota is being sued because one of its employees pleaded guilty to posting nude photos of a resident on social media.

-OPIOID ADDICTION STEMS FROM FAULTY SYSTEM — POLITICO reports that, according to President Obama, the opioid addiction problem plaguing the nation partly stems from patients’ lack of access to health care. Obama made the comments during an event marking the anniversary of the push to use biomedical and information technology to improve medicine. "[The Precision Medicine Initiative] is not a replacement for making sure people have basic health care," Obama said. "We don't yet know the genetic basis for addiction in ways we may discover 10 years from now. But in the short term, the opioid problem has more to do with the fact that a lot of people don't have basic health care. They put off getting help for pain management. Easy way to do it initially is get some pills. The pills run out and it turns out heroin is a cheaper way to refill your prescription and people are getting hooked. It's a different category of problem, but it does speak to, the more we know about how to treat a particular problem the more effectively we treat it, over time the more efficient and cost-effective the health care system will be."

...Related: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing forward with a bipartisan bill to bolster programs to treat and prevent opioid abuse, setting up a potential confrontation next week with Democrats who want the legislation to include emergency funding to combat the epidemic. McConnell filed cloture Thursday afternoon on a motion to proceed to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524 ), setting up a procedural vote for Monday evening unless an agreement is reached before then.

-FIRST UTERUS TRANSPLANT — The Cleveland Clinic blasted a press release on Thursday saying it had performed the first uterus transplant in the nation.

TODAY'S TIP — “To get a good night’s sleep, many people should set their thermostat a few degrees lower.”


-RIDE THE WAVE — Fetuses exposed to lots of alcohol show fragmented slow wave sleep — the deeper sleep during which the brain turns each day’s events into permanent memories — in adulthood, according to an article in Neuroscience from researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center.

-COOL IT, BUSTER — Researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center, writing in Neuron, said a cooling technique can both protect the brain's speech centers during surgery and pinpoint the areas separately responsible for word formation and speech timing.

-ANXIETY LINKED OVERDOSES — A study in The American Journal of Public Health found that anti-anxiety medications are playing a large role in overdose deaths. The number of Americans who filled anti-anxiety prescriptions like Valium and Xanax increased 67 percent between 1996 and 2013. But the study found that deaths involving those drugs increased fourfold.

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 2/25, 2/24, 2/23, 2/22, 2/19

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