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POLITICO New York Health Care: Hoosick Falls in limbo; the consolidation conversion

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

HOOSICK’S HELL — In the latest issue of POLITICO magazine, Scott Waldman dives deep into the town of Hoosick Falls to examine what it means when the water is no longer safe to drink. This must-read piece explains how the news that the wells contain PFOA, a cancer-causing substance produced by factories that made Teflon, came at a time when the town seemed poised to join the revival that has taken place in other upstate communities in and around the Hudson Valley.

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

THE CONSOLIDATION CONVERSATION — POLITICO New Jersey’s Katie Jennings: The nationwide uptick in hospital mergers will likely result in increased costs in many markets, but there is continued debate — which played out among industry executives and health academics on Wednesday — as to whether the price of consolidation will deliver value back to consumers. … Since 2012, New York State has seen over a dozen mergers as hospitals respond to changes in payment models, spurred by federal policies such as the Affordable Care Act and state policies such as Medicaid reform, which seek to reward quality rather than total volume of services.

The assumption is that “large coordinating bodies are going to have an incentive to deliver care more effectively,” Paul Howard, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute said Wednesday at a panel discussion in midtown. But, he says, that idea is not supported by empirical evidence. The panel, moderated by POLITICO New York’s Dan Goldberg, coincided with the release of a report co-authored by Howard and Yevgeniy Feyman, which found that prices in consolidated markets go up but consumers don’t necessarily see a corresponding increase in quality of care.

SHOW ME THE MONEY — Lawmakers who impanel a budget subcommittee charged with allocating funds for health care projects were disappointed to find out they’d only be receiving a $25 million increase. State Sen. Kemp Hannon — along with Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, his counterpart in the Democrat-dominated lower house — had proposed restoring $65 million for health care projects, “so obviously, this falls short,” he said. POLITICO New York’s Josefa Velasquez has more:

NOW WE KNOW — Why do men die earlier than women? Rutgers scientists wanted to find out and what they discovered is that it’s because men want to seem macho so they don’t go to the doctor and when they do they don’t admit what problems they have. “That’s because they don’t want to show weakness or dependence to another man, including a male doctor,” Diana Sanchez, associate professor of psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences, said in a press release accompanying the article.

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INNOVATION — A 12-month intervention program that enrolled nearly 8,000 people with pre-diabetes nationwide, including 500 New Yorkers, lowered overall Medicare costs by $2,650 per enrollee, the federal government announced Wednesday.

LETTER HOME — Amid the growing water contamination crises in Michigan, the upstate village of Hoosick Falls and now Newark, Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration is seeking to reassure parents about the quality of the water in the city's public schools. The Department of Education is sending home letters with all public school students with new information about lead poisoning, including the fact lead poisoning among children has fallen by 80 percent since 2002.

...A New Jersey lawmaker said he will introduce legislation allowing municipalities to reduce their affordable housing obligations if they contribute to a lead abatement fund.

ADVOCATING — A group advocating paid family leave organized a press conference with some small business owners at the Capitol to ask that the Legislature not exempt businesses like theirs from paid leave legislation.

MORE ADVOCATING — About 200 advocates from across New York came to the Capitol on Wednesday to raise awareness and show support for the services provided to those suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

ENDORSEMENT — The New York State Nurses Association has endorsed Bernie Sanders.

...The American Nurses Association has endorsed Hillary Clinton.

MAKING ROUNDS Bruce Schwartz, deputy chair and clinical director of the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has been elected treasurer of the American Psychiatric Association's board of directors, according to a press release from Montefiore.

PHARMA REPORT: The Wall Street Journal reports: “AstraZeneca PLC said its prescription blood thinner Brilinta was no more effective than aspirin at preventing major heart problems in stroke patients, denting the company’s growth ambitions for one of its key drugs.”


-SCOTUS SAYS — The Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared evenly divided over what the government may do to require employers to provide free insurance coverage for contraception to female workers, according to The New York Times. “A 4-to-4 tie appeared to be a real possibility, which would automatically affirm the four appeals court decisions under review. All four ruled that religious groups seeking to opt out of the requirement that they pay for the coverage must sign forms and provide information that would shift the cost to insurance companies and the government. A tie vote in the Supreme Court would not set a national precedent, and religious groups in different parts of the country would have conflicting obligations if they object to covering contraception.”

-IN DEFENSE OF (MODERATE) DRINKING — Perhaps you’ve seen some recent headlines suggesting alcohol is bad for your health. Rubbish, says Aaron Carroll. A couple of drinks per night won’t hurt, and it may even help. Cheers.

-FOLLOW THE MONEY — Physicians for years had a common enemy — the "doc fix." Now, according to a POLITICO report, the united front is crumbling amid concerns about the looming rollout of a new physician payment system. It's every specialty for itself. "It's almost like the Hunger Games," said Shawn Martin, senior vice president of advocacy at the American Academy of Family Physicians. "There are going to be some winners and some losers, and there's going to be a whole lot of people who get nothing. That's creating some anxiety in the physician community."

-ZIKA FUNDING — CDC Director Tom Frieden told the House appropriations health subcommittee that a robust response to the Zika virus outbreak "will take emergency funding,” according to POLITICO. “He added that his agency is scraping together money now, but it's not enough. The Obama administration has requested $1.8 billion to fight Zika. Congress has not yet taken it up and some Republicans have said they would rather switch some of the Ebola-fighting funds to Zika. Frieden and others in the administration have stressed that all Ebola funds are already committed — and still needed.”

-VACATION TIME — Congress left town on Wednesday for its spring recess without voting on Zika funding.

-FROM FLORIDA — Gov. Rick Scott signed nine bills into law on Wednesday, including one that would allow the University of Miami to run a five-year pilot program in Miami Dade County aimed at eradicating the spread of HIV and AIDS, as well as other blood borne illnesses, through a single needle exchange program. POLITICO Florida’s Christine Sexton has more:

-HACKED — Hackers are demanding ransom from two more hospitals in Southern California, Kaiser Health News reports.

-IN CASE YOU MISSED — The Associated Press reports: “Big companies are pushing back against proposed federal rules they say would require their medical plans to cover gender transition and other services under the nondiscrimination mandate of President Barack Obama's health care law.”

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the state’s health department: “Almost one in three women in N.Y. have arthritis. Don’t let it keep you from doing what you love. Better health is possible.”


-PIPE PROBLEMS — Hookah smokers were found to have multiple abnormalities in their lungs, according to researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine who published their results in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

-LIVER Mount Sinai Hospital became the first in the nation to offer a liver cancer treatment made of luminescent chemotherapy-filled beads injected into tumors through the wrist.

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 3/23, 3/22, 3/21, 3/18, 3/17

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