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POLITICO New York Health Care, presented by The Healthcare Education Project: Cuomo's distance from Hoosick Falls crisis; sugar warnings

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

WHERE’S CUOMO? — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his windbreaker hav yet to make an appearance in Hoosick Falls … where about 4,000 people can’t drink their water because it contains a toxic chemical linked to cancer and other serious health problems. It’s one of the most significant environmental crises during his tenure as governor, and the Cuomo administration has been criticized for its slow response — for the better part of a year, the state Department of Health didn’t act on concerns raised by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. POLITICO New York’s Scott Waldman has the full story.

...The town of sburgh will receive a new water filtration system for its municipal water supply after state tests showed elevated levels of PFOA pollution. The system will be paid for by Taconics Plastics, the factory that used PFOA in its manufacturing, the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health announced Tuesday. Planning for the filtration system will begin immediately, though there is no timeline for when it will be operating. sburgh’s water level tested just below the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable level of 100 parts per trillion. The EPA is expected to release a lower long-term exposure number in the coming months.

SUGAR WARNING — Restaurants in New York City could soon be forced to warn consumers about the dangers certain foods pose to diabetics and pre-diabetics. Councilwoman Inez Barron, a Democrat from Brooklyn, will introduce legislation on Wednesday that requires the city’s health department to create a poster detailing the “risks of excessive sugar and other carbohydrate intake for diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals.” Read my full story here.

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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

** A message from The Healthcare Education Project: What’s a Health Insurance Guaranty Fund? It protects you if your health insurance plan goes broke. New York’s the only state without one.

Tell Albany we need a Health Insurance Guaranty Fund to ensure that families keep their coverage and healthcare providers aren’t left with massive unpaid bills. Visit: **

NOW WE KNOW — Researchers have confirmed that being a short man or an overweight woman is associated with lower chances in life in areas such as education, occupation and income.

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

FINANCES — CareConnect, the health insurance company created by Northwell Health — formerly North-Shore LIJ — had nearly six times as many members in 2015 than in the previous year, according to its annual financial statement with the Department of Financial Services. By the end of 2015, the Long Island-based insurer, which also offers coverage in the five boroughs and Westchester, had a little more than 69,000 members, up from the 11,600 members in 2014. CareConnect reported an underwriting loss of nearly $29.92 million in 2015, slightly up from their 2014 loss of $27.25 million.

ASSEMBLY’S HEROIN MONEY — The Democratic-dominated Assembly’s one-house budget proposal will include $30 million in funding to help fight the state’s heroin problem and expand heroin and opiate treatment programs. The Assembly’s proposal, which is due to be released early next week, will include $15 million for treatment and preventative services and an additional $9 million for post-treatment community-based recovery services. The remaining $6 million would be used to fund patient engagement programs.

ZIKA CLINIC — The North Shore University Hospital Center for Maternal Fetal Health has opened a Zika in Pregnancy Clinic for expectant mothers who have recently travelled to areas where the virus is prevalent, according to a press release from Northwell Health. The center has been receiving more than 10 phone calls each day from pregnant women wondering about the health of their fetus, the release said.

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

HAVE NO FEAR — Jared Aldstadt, an associate professor of geography in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences, says Olympic athletes don’t need to worry about Zika when they go to Brazil.

MAKING ROUNDS — Benjamin Chu, former New York City commissioner of health and former president of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, has been chosen to lead Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, Texas.

ACROSS THE RIVER: Committee hearings earlier this week underscored the delicate balance facing the Legislature when it comes to regulating tiered health insurance networks, prompted by the rollout of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s OMNIA plans last fall. The main debate centers around the selection standards and ranking systems that Horizon and other insurance companies use to place providers in certain tiers. POLITICO New Jersey’s Katie Jennings explains it all.

PHARMA REPORT: The federal government confirmed what most already thought — drug spending is on the rise. Drug spending rose 12.6 percent in 2014. It rose about 2 percent a year between 2008 and 2012.

-BRIBERY — STAT reports: “Bristol-Myers Squibb has ended certain business practices in China that reportedly involve making payments to physicians, among other things. The move comes five months after the drug maker agreed to pay more than $14 million to resolve charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by making illegal payments to health care providers in the country.”


-PLAN A FOR PART B — The Obama administration rolled out a controversial proposal Tuesday to change the way it pays for billions of dollars in Medicare drugs, according to POLITICO. “The new project through CMS' Innovation Center would let the government vary what it spends on drugs given in the hospital or doctor's office to test whether the existing payment model is encouraging doctors to use more expensive medicines that aren't necessarily the most effective. It's the latest move by the Obama administration to tamp down drug costs, which spiked 12.6 percent in 2014 and have become a major political issue for Democrats in a presidential election year.”

-HAIL TO THE CHIEF — President Barack Obama’s physical is out. He’s getting even healthier, according to The New York Times. Obama, 54, weighed in at 175 pounds, about five pounds less than from his last assessment in 2014. The 6-foot-1 Obama only drinks alcohol occasionally and in moderation.

-DON’T DO THAT — Jacobus Van Nierop, who is now being called the dentist of horrors, is standing trial in France on charges of aggravated assault and insurance fraud, after scores of patients said he caused them injuries.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker: “Colon cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms in the early stages. Regular screening is so important.”


-NEW TARGET — Researchers at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, writing in Cancer Research, say that targeting both CDK4 and ARK5, two proteins responsible for maintaining energy balance within the cell, was extremely effective in causing cell death in myeloma.

** A message from The Healthcare Education Project: What’s a Health Insurance Guaranty Fund? It protects patients and healthcare providers if a health insurance plan goes broke. 49 states have one. New York is the only state that doesn’t. The recent failure of Health Republic left consumers scrambling for new coverage, and hospitals and doctors statewide are still owed hundreds of millions for care they already provided. We need a Guaranty Fund to protect patients and healthcare providers before it’s too late.

The New York State Legislature should create a Health Insurance Guaranty Fund to ensure that families keep their coverage and healthcare providers aren’t left with massive unpaid bills. To learn more, visit: **

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

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