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POLITICO New York Health Care: Hoosick Falls probe widening; Long Island Health Network breaking up

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 Dan Goldberg

A GROWING PROBLEM — The state is investigating at least 11 possible illegal dump sites in the Hoosick Falls area, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the probe.

BREAKING UP — Catholic Health Services of Long Island is pulling out of the Long Island Health Network, the clinically integrated network that includes Winthrop University and South Nassau Communities Hospital.

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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

WAIT AND SEE APPROACH — The de Blasio administration still hasn’t had any conversations about the billion dollars in Medicaid efficiencies that Cuomo wants to find. But they aren’t worried about it because the governor promised his efforts wouldn’t cost the city a penny. POLITICO New York’s Laura Nahmias has the City Council’s take:

NOW WE KNOW — Elaine Miller is a pelvic physiotherapist in Edinburgh with a hobby of stand up comedy. Here, she offers some practical tips to avoid discomfort in the restroom, including the best place to put your legs. (Hint: It’s not on the floor.) She also suggests keeping a bowel diary.

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

SCOTUS DEALS BLOW TO STATE HEALTH OFFICIALS — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that self-funded employer health plans are not required to submit information to states that are setting up all payer claims databases, a blow for public health officials across the country who were relying on that data to better manage population health. Vermont lawmakers had hoped that by tracking claims, they would have a better sense of which areas of the state are suffering from specific illnesses, and be able to create a more nuanced public health policy. But Liberty Mutual, a company that self-insures, is regulated under a federal law known as the Employee Retirement Income Securities Act, or ERISA, and argued that federal protection was needed or companies could be forced to comply with requirements from 50 different states. The court, in a 6-2 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, agreed.

...Attorney General Eric Schneiderman,in an amicus brief on behalf of 17 states and the District of Columbia, had argued that companies would face no undue burden. New York, he said, already has spent more than $10 million creating its database in the hopes of implementing better public health policy. Read the decision here:

...POLITICO reports that advocates are now hoping the U.S. Labor Department can find a workaround. “The Labor Department, which has jurisdiction over self-funded plans, may be able to compel them to report some data at the federal level, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy suggested in his opinion for the majority. That could lessen the burden for plans that would otherwise face as many as 50 different reporting regimes, while still spurring valuable transparency efforts.”

HAPPENING TODAY — All eyes turn to the Supreme Court where eight justices will hear oral arguments in the most significant abortion case to appear before the court in nearly 25 years. City health commissioner Mary Bassett penned a letter to the editor explaining why she thinks the Texas law ought to be overturned. Need a primer on this case? Check out’s take:

...Also happening today: The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to take up legislation from Rep. Larry Bucshon that would keep doctors banned from Medicaid and CHIP in one state from getting paid by those programs in other states, in part by requiring states to set up provider databases. The bill was spurred by an HHS OIG report last August that found the feds were still paying millions to terminated providers who'd found a way to work in another state, often through a managed care provider.

AARP ENDORSEMENT — The AARP has signed onto Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to implement an employee-funded paid family leave program. Cuomo’s plan, which was unveiled in his budgetary address in January, calls for 12 weeks of paid leave funded by employee contributions. POLITICO New York’s Josefa Velasquez has more:

LATER ON — The federal family leave law allowing employees to take time off work to care for a relative was a “good step forward,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday evening, but was “only half a step.”

HERE’S THE REAL SALT PROBLEM — The Associated Press interviewed people eating at restaurants with the city’s new salt warnings and diners, according to the article, seemed unswayed.

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

RE-SIGNED — WellCare of New York announced that the New York State Department of Health intends to extend the company's contract to continue serving New York's children through the Child Health Plus program.

BILL TRACKER — Sen. James Seward’s bill to grandfather in re-insurance policies for business with more than 50 but less than 100 employees passed the Senate.

...Assemblyman Joe Lentol’s bill prohibiting the possession of opioid antagonists such as naloxone as evidence in court of possession of controlled substances, or of probable cause passed the Assembly.

FINANCES — Winthrop-University Hospital Association reported a $29.4 million operating gain for 2015, down from $32.4 million in 2014. Read the full report here:

...New York-Presbyterian reported $228.6 million in operating income for 2015, slightly less than than the $228.9 million it reported in 2014. Read the full report here:

...Buffalo Business First reports: “HealthNow New York Inc., the parent of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, is back in the black. The company finished 2015 with $63.8 million in net income on revenue of $2.24 billion. The figure includes an operating gain of $28.9 million for operations that include both BlueCross BlueShield here and the company’s Albany-area division, BlueShield of Northeastern New York. That’s compared to a $53 million loss in 2014 on revenue of $2.44 billion and operating losses of $117 million.”

FISHY — The New York State Department of Health on Tuesday issued a “Don’t Eat” fish consumption advisory for walleye fish taken from Rondout Creek, and the Hudson River (between the Rip Van Winkle Bridge at Catskill and the Tappan Zee Bridge). This advisory is more stringent than the previous advisory for this species, which recommended limiting intake of walleye to one meal per month. The current advisory is based on new data showing elevated levels of PCBs in these fish.

SHUT DOWN — A 6-year-old girl nearly drowned after her hair got stuck in a pool vent in a spa in Queens, according to ABC news. It happened at Spa Castle on 11th Avenue in College Point. The health department subsequently ordered the pools closed.

K2 PROGRESS — New York City saw a significant decline in K2 sales during the previous fiscal year, according to Jacques Jiha, commissioner for the Department of Finance. During the last fiscal year, which ran from July 1, 2014 until June 30, 2015, the city confiscated 38,127 packages of K2, a synthetic marijuana. So far, this year, only 1,993 packages have been seized, Jiha said. Emergency room visits connected to K2 dropped by 73 percent in December of 2015, from a peak of 1,200 K2-related visits in July.

GRANT LAND — The New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research Board is asking for applications from scientists looking to do basic, translational and clinical neurological research. The state has no priorities but projects targeting tissue regeneration, repair or restoration of function through biomedical and bioengineering research are of strong interest. Learn more here:

NUMBERS GAME — The state health department is seeking competitive proposals from financial organizations that can also provide actuarial consultants.

MAKING ROUNDS — James Knickman, who recently announced he’d be stepping down from his leadership role at the New York State Health Foundation, is heading to NYU Langone Medical Center’s Department of Population Health and NYU Wagner. Knickman will lead the Health Analytics and Evaluation Program at NYU to conduct analysis and program evaluation of health service delivery, population health, and health and social policy innovations.

.... Cutler, a former director of communications and special projects for Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. and Empire State Development, has been hired as the Erie County Medical Center’s new vice president of communications and external affairs.

...Niagara Lutheran Health System has hired Chris Koenig as new CEO, effective April 19, according to Buffalo Business First. “Koenig comes to the organization after an 18-month stint at Erie County Medical Center Corp. as vice president of post acute care. That followed eight years at The McGuire Group, where he oversaw all rehabilitation operations at six facilities in New York and one in Michigan. He’s also teaches at the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Related Professions.”

ACROSS THE RIVER: The fight over tiered networks in New Jersey could become an issue in the 2017 gubernatorial race, according to POLITICO New Jersey’s Katie Jennings. Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli said Tuesday that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s OMNIA tiered health plans will improve patient choice and control costs. This position places him at odds with Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick who held a press conference criticizing the plans last month. Both men are considered potential candidates for the gubernatorial race in 2017.


-SODA TAX — A few weeks back, former New York City health commissioner Tom Farley was headed to Philadelphia, and now the city’s new mayor is picking up on one of Farley’s favorite ideas. My old colleague Julia Terruso reports that the mayor is proposing a three cents per ounce soda tax. The bill is expected to face stiff opposition.

-WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS — County health officials have declared a syphilis outbreak in Las Vegas after reported syphilis cases in the Sin City increased 128 percent since 2012.

-CO-OP TROUBLES — POLITICO’s Paul Demko reports: “Losses snowballed in the fourth quarter at four co-op health plans for which full 2015 financial data are available. The nonprofit startups based in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Maine lost about $270 million last year, according to filings posted today. That's more than five times the level of losses those plans recorded in 2014, their first year of operations. In addition, their 2015 losses more than doubled during the last three months of the year.”

-DON’T DO THAT — When the Valdosta Daily Times, a small Georgia daily, pointed out that a local hospital board was violating the state’s open-meetings law, the hospital responded by canceling its advertising and ending a subscription arrangement that provided newspapers to patients. The paper’s owner, Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., says it has the Times’ back, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

-SETTLED — Reuters reports: “A U.S.-based unit of medical equipment distributor Olympus Corp will pay $623.2 million to resolve criminal and civil allegations about kickbacks paid to doctors and hospitals, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Tuesday. The agreement involves the Japanese company's U.S. Olympus Corp of the Americas and Olympus Latin America Inc. unit, the Justice Department said. The misconduct helped the unit obtain more than $600 million in sales and $230 million in gross profits, the Justice Department said.

-TUG — Kaiser Health News explains how robots are zooming around University of California-San Francisco hospital at Mission Bay, performing thankless tasks. “They look a bit like R2D2, dragging a platform around behind them. Instead of drones, think of them more as little flatbed trucks, ferrying carts of stuff around the vast hospital complex — food, linens, medications, medical waste and garbage. And they do it more efficiently than humans.”

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from Montefiore Health System, which reminds us that “for children and medical interventions, honesty is [the] best policy! Use simple language rather than say[ing] nothing at all.”


-THE CASE FOR CASE MANAGEMENT — Amida Care, a New York City nonprofit health plan, and ACRIA, an HIV/AIDS research organization, produced a study in PLOS One that demonstrated how comprehensive case management for people with multiple comorbid conditions, including HIV, can lead to health improvements and long-term cost savings.

-JOINT SUCCESS — Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center say they have performed CT scans for joint fractures using just one-fourteenth the amount of normal CT radiation, lessening concerns over radiation exposure. The researchers were able to reduce the average amount of radiation from 0.43 msV to 0.03 msV, or down to the average dose given in a routine chest x-ray, according to a study to be presented today at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) Annual Meeting. “We have taken a frequently used and necessary imaging test and made it safer,” lead study author Dr. Sanjit R. Konda, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at NYU Langone and director of orthopaedic trauma at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, said in a press release.

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 3/1, 2/29, 2/26, 2/25, 2/24

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