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POLITICO New York Health Care: The 'maybe' campaign; Health + Hospitals defense of Epic

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

GENTLE CITY ADVOCACY FOR IUD — Subway ads that once advocated for smaller portion sizes and cutting back on smoking are now advocating for the IUD, carefully. In the latest issue of POLITICO New York’s magazine, Addy Baird looks at how public health officials pushed posters recommending the IUD even as they tried to avoid outright promotion — a delicate balance that led to some awkward phrasing that almost, but doesn’t quite, say the IUD is the best option.

HEALTH + HOSPITALS EPIC DEFENSE — Ram Raju, president and CEO of the city’s Health + Hospitals is scheduled to testify Monday before the City Council on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed budget, and he is sure to be called on to explain his plan to save the nation’s largest public hospital system from financial ruin. Raju will also likely be asked about a series of stories, reported in the New York Post,that claim the transition to Epic Systems, a popular electronic medical records system, has been a disaster that is imperiling the lives of patients at Elmhurst Hospital. Charles Perry, according to the Post, resigned from Health + Hospitals in protest and sent an email to several colleagues comparing the transition to Epic to the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, a disaster that could have been avoided had someone broken through the groupthink. The Post also reported that Raju was worried he’d be fired by de Blasio if the Epic system launch missed its April 1 deadline.

...Raju laughed off the threat of being fired, saying it was a self-imposed deadline that he would not hesitate to push back if he felt Epic was not ready to go, or if there was any question regarding patient safety. “It could be April 7. If I’m not ready, it’s not something we are chasing,” Raju said on Friday inside City Hall where he had come for a meeting with the Mayor's staff. “This deadline is craziness. If we miss the deadline, no one is going to chop my head off. ... Nobody is going to fire me. That’s not a problem.”

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EGG WHIP — Unions and insurers in New York and across the nation are gearing up for a fight with the Obama administration over proposed cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, which some fear could harm retirees.

NOW WE KNOW — Chemists at the Technical University of Munich have figured out why Parmesan cheese tastes so good. has more.

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BUDGET HEARING — The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner testified in front of the City Council Friday, where Health Committee chair Corey Johnson commended the office for lowering turnaround times of DNA cases, but said improvements must continue for the OCME to reach its target turnaround time of 30 days.

MIXED REVIEWS — The Associated Press looks at New York’s e-prescribing mandate, set to begin March 27 and finds some physicians who have concerns. “The requirement is meant to fight painkiller abuse, reduce errors and expand a practice that doctors and patients often find convenient. But physicians say digital scripts can present roadblocks for some patients and doctors shouldn't have to fear punishment over a prescription format.”

FINANCES — The Syracuse Post-Standard reports: “Trinity Health reported a $27.1 million operating loss for the six-month period ended Dec. 31, caused in part by its acquisition of St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse. The big Catholic health system based in Livonia, Michigan, generated a $228 million operating gain during the same period the year before. Trinity bought St. Joe's July 1.”

CARE TO COMMENT? — The state has updated the Value Based Payment Roadmap and is accepting public comments through April 18. Read the roadmap here:

COMING ATTRACTIONS — The City Council’s health committee is expected to pass a bill that bans smokeless tobacco from sports venues. The hearing is at 9:30 a.m. today.

...Ram Raju, president and CEO of Health + Hospitals Corporation, testifies before the City’s Council during a budget hearing at 10 a.m. today.

...HIV/AIDS advocates are scheduled to be on the steps of City Hall at noon today, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to spend $70 million, most of which would go toward housing subsidies for those living with HIV/AIDS.

SKEPTICAL METS — The New York Post found at least one Met skeptical of the city’s efforts to ban smokeless tobacco.

AWARDS — The United Hospital Fund hosted its 23rd annual Hospital Auxilian and Volunteer Achievement Awards ceremony last week at the Waldorf-Astoria, honoring 87 volunteers and auxilians who serve 61 hospitals or hospital divisions throughout the greater New York metropolitan area. “If there is one event a year that best re-affirms the goodness of people, it’s easy to make a case that it’s this one,” Jim Tallon, president of United Hospital Fund, said in a press release. “The volunteers we honor today give more than their time and their skills. They share their spirit of caring for others, and they do so in our hospitals, where people often are at their weakest and most vulnerable. They are a part of the tradition of volunteer service that has long played an important role in the delivery of our region’s health care services, and clearly, the tradition is alive and well.”

ACROSS THE RIVER: Gov. Chris Christie announced Friday a proposed two-year freeze on property tax assessments of local nonprofit hospitals, as well as a study commission to examine the issue. The move comes as a growing number of municipalities have started challenging the tax exempt status of local nonprofit hospitals, following a July, 2015 Tax Court ruling. The ruling found the nonprofit Morristown Medical Center did not qualify for tax-exempt status from 2006 to 2008 because of certain for-profit activities taking place at the hospital. Christie pocket-vetoed a bipartisan bill last session that would have let nonprofit hospitals that conduct some for-profit medical activities maintain a tax-exempt status if they make annual community contributions.

-RESPONSE — Assembly speaker Vincent Prieto said Friday he does not support Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed two-year freeze on property tax assessments of local nonprofit hospitals or a related study commission. “We need to resolve this issue now, not in two years,” Prieto said in an emailed statement. This means Christie doesn’t have the support of either of the Legislature’s Democratic leaders, because Senate president Stephen Sweeney said earlier he would agree to support the plan only if Prieto was also on board.

-NO OPINION — Gov. Chris Christie, speaking at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, said he doesn’t “have a position” on Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s OMNIA tiered health plans, which have ignited a fierce debate in the Legislature over the state’s role in regulating tiered health insurance plans. Trinitas has been designated as a Tier 2 hospital under Horizon’s OMNIA plans. The hospital’s CEO, Gary Horan, has been an outspoken critic of OMNIA, saying the Tier 2 designation could have a negative financial impact on the hospital’s bottom line.


-DOCUMENTING THE UNDOCUMENTED PROBLEM — From STAT: “The first undocumented immigrants to openly apply to medical school are nearing graduation — and on Friday some will learn whether they’ve been accepted into the residency programs that will give them the hands-on training they need to practice medicine. But the moment is laden with trepidation as well as joy. Even students who get into top residencies know that their careers could crumble before they even start, if a judge — or the next president — overturns President Barack Obama’s executive order that protects from deportation young immigrants whose families came to the US illegally when they were children.”

-INFECTED KIDNEYS — In a story that shows just how desperate patients and surgeons are for organs, STAT examines the use of infected kidneys in transplants. “In first-in-the-world clinical trials scheduled to launch later this spring, independent teams from the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University will take kidneys from deceased carriers of the hep C virus, put them into patients with renal failure, and then give them a 12-week course of an antiviral therapy in the hopes that they will emerge infection-free.”

-EBOLA IS BACK — Reuters reports: “Health workers are rushing to the site of a fresh Ebola outbreak in Guinea to bolster efforts to contain the virus and prepare for the likelihood of more cases, aid agencies said on Friday.”

-INTERESTING PROPOSAL — NPR reports: “California's insurance exchange is threatening to cut hospitals from its networks for poor performance or high costs, a novel proposal that is drawing heavy fire from medical providers and insurers.”

-DEMS WANT RECESS DELAY TO ADDRESS HEALTH CRISES — Democrats want House speaker Paul Ryan to postpone an upcoming congressional recess until the chamber takes action to address the Zika virus, opioid addiction and the Flint water crisis, according to POLITICO.

-MOON SHOT — Vice President Joe Biden appointed Greg Simon, a former pharma executive, Clinton administration official and Hill staffer as executive director of the cancer moon shot task force.

-DEPLORABLE CONDITIONS — The Dallas Morning News has an enlightening and disheartening investigation that shows that serious safety problems have plagued dozens of mental-health hospitals owned by one giant chain: Universal Health Services Inc. “In San Angelo, hospital employees created infection risks by leaving an observation room covered in vomit and a kitchen black with grease and dead bugs. And in Austin, male nurses stripped a teenage sex-abuse victim and shut her in solitary confinement, naked.”

-BUCKING THE TREND — Connecticut is moving away from private Medicaid plans and embracing a fee-for-service model, according to The Wall Street Journal, and it’s working. “State officials, physicians and patient advocates have welcomed the move: Average cost per patient, per month, is down from $718 in mid-2012 to $670 last year, according to state data.

-INSURANCE FOR YOUR INSURANCE — The New York Times looks at whether purchasing critical illness insurance, which provides a lump sum payment if a beneficiary comes down with a life threatening condition, is a good deal.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from New York City Health + Hospitals: “One tip to reduce the risk of colon cancer is to maintain a healthy weight.”


-AIR GRIEVANCES — Researchers at Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health found that exposure to air pollutants during pregnancy may predispose children to problems regulating their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. The researchers looked at a common air pollutant known as PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) on self-regulating behaviors and social competency that incorporates multiple assessment points across childhood, according to a study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 3/18, 3/17, 3/16, 3/15, 3/14

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