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POLITICO New York Health Care: Raju out; what to watch for in this election

11/08/2016 10:00 AM EDT

Good morning! You are reading a complimentary synopsis of the POLITICO New York Pro Health Care newsletter. Pro subscribers receive a premium version of this newsletter, which includes an enhanced look-ahead and robust analysis of the health care news driving the day, weekdays at 5:45 a.m. Contact us here to learn more.

written by Dan Goldberg

HOUSEKEEPING - I will be in Albany from Nov. 15 through Nov. 17 and, as always, would love to meet readers and discuss what stories we should focus on in 2017. On Thursday, I will be moderating a panel sponsored by the New York Health Plan Association. Please stop by, and email me at if you are interested in meeting up.

RAJU OUT AT HEALTH + HOSPITALS - Dr. Ram Raju, who for three years spoke of grand plans to reshape the city's public hospital system, told staff on Monday that he is resigning as CEO, effective at the end of the month. He is leaving midway through his own five-year plan to turn around the system. Stanley Brezenoff, who ran New York City Health + Hospitals under Ed Koch, will take over until Mayor Bill de Blasio appoints a successor.

...On Monday night de Blasio said Raju did "great work to start fixing" the city's public hospital system, but that New York City Health + Hospitals still "needs a lot of work."

... Brezenoff is currently chairman of the Board of Corrections, which has oversight and rule-making authority over both Health + Hospitals as well as the Department of Correction inside city jails. The news came as a surprise to a number of board members reached by phone after Brezenoff's departure became public midday on Monday.

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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

WHAT I'M WATCHING FOR IN THE ELECTION - No need to dwell on the obvious but we will choose the 45th President of the United States today. Remember, you don't get to complain later if you don't vote.

-The New York State Senate: Kemp Hannon, chair of the health committee, is in a tight race with Democrat Ryan Cronin for the Senate's 6th district. Anyone who cares about health politics in New York should follow this race. The Greater New York Hospital Association and 1199 SEIU have endorsed Hannon.

-Control of the Senate: Right now, the Republicans control the state Senate, thanks to a breakaway group of Democrats known as the IDC, which is caucusing with Republicans. That group is led by Sen. Jeff Klein, a Democrat from the Bronx who won't say which party he will align himself with in January. That means we likely won't know which party governs the state Senate for a few weeks. You can read more about the local elections here:

-Single payer: Colorado will decide whether to have a single-payer health system in the state. The measure doesn't have a lot of support and isn't likely to pass. The taxes appear to be too onerous for most voters. Here is how the Denver Post editorial summed it up: "Should Amendment 69 find itself embedded in the Colorado Constitution, and fail even half as dramatically as it could - and we cannot imagine how it could succeed - it would take navigating circles of hell in a wooden dingy to correct the damage."

-Soda wars: Residents in San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif., are voting on a referendum that would impose a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks from Coca-Cola to Gatorade in what has become the most expensive city-level ballot fight ever waged in the United States. Boulder, Colorado, also has a tax on the ballot. Polls show a very tight race. Read more from my colleague Helena Bottemiller Evich.

-Drug wars: Californians are also voting on whether to prohibit the state from paying any more for a drug than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does. The pharmaceutical industry has spent $100 million fighting this measure. That's eight times what proponents are spending. Read more here:

-Aid in dying: Colorado voters will decide whether to approve a measure that would allow physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients who request aid in dying.

-Marijuana: California is likely to relax its restrictions on pot for recreational use, according to the latest polls. And similar measures in Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada also have slight leads.

-Medical marijuana: Arkansas will decide whether to legalize medical marijuana for 17 conditions. More than $5 million has been spent pushing a Florida ballot measure legalizing marijuana for patients with specific debilitating diseases. In Montana, voters will decide whether to repeal a provision limiting state registered marijuana providers to just three medical marijuana users. It would also eliminate required state reviews of doctors who give 25 or more patients a year written permission to use medical marijuana. North Dakota has a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana if patients obtain state-issued identification cards.

-Tobacco: Colorado, California, Missouri and North Dakota are considering increasing taxes on a pack of cigarettes. What's weird here is that Missouri's tax increase - 60 cents per pack - is so low that the tobacco companies are supporting the measure. Go figure.

NOW WE KNOW - Good news for beer drinkers. The New York Post writes about an anthropology professor at Yale University who says that larger men have lower levels of testosterone, which makes them less likely to engage in risky, life-threatening behaviors.

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

LICH LATEST - Without naming names, Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized "everyone who was involved" in the Long Island College Hospital deal, acknowledging the outcome was a disappointment for his administration. POLITICO New York's Sally Goldenberg has more:

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS - The Hospital for Special Surgery is offering services to medical facilities around the world, as the specialty orthopedic center joins the expanding ranks of U.S. medical groups setting their sights on opportunities outside the country, according to Modern Healthcare.


-SAFETY FIRST? - STAT reports: "In a dramatic squeaker, a regulatory panel of experts last Friday narrowly recommended that an antibiotic from Cempra, an upstart developer, should be approved for use. But the 7-to-6 vote suggested an acknowledgement of what one Wall Street analyst calls a "screaming unmet" need for new treatments that outweigh the sort of safety concerns surrounding the product."


-FEDS BEGIN TESTING EXPERIMENTAL ZIKA VACCINE - Scientists have begun the first of five early stage clinical trials to test the effectiveness of an investigational Zika vaccine in humans, according to the National Institutes of Health. The experimental vaccine is based on the same technology the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research used in 2009 to successfully develop a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, POLITICO reported. The Zika vaccine contains whole virus particles that have been inactivated so the virus cannot cause disease in humans.

...Here is what New York City is doing to fight Zika.

...And here is 60 Minutes' take on Zika:

-DO WE REALLY HAVE A PHYSICIAN SHORTAGE? - Aaron Carroll, writing in The New York Times, says no. "The system isn't undermanned ... It's inefficient. We rely too heavily on physicians and not enough on midlevel practitioners, like physician assistants and nurse practitioners, especially because evidence supports they are just as effective in primary care settings. We don't account for advances in technology, like telehealth and new drugs and devices that lessen the burden on physician visits to maintain health."

-EXCHANGE PROBLEM - The Wall Street Journal says, the federal exchange that sells Obamacare plans, is once again straining under the weight of customer demand. " has been straining to handle this year's would-be enrollees, who are frequently being placed in holding areas on the site to avoid crashing the sign-up system, enrollment workers around the country say."

-COURT HALTS CMS NURSING HOME ARBITRATION BAN - A new prohibition on nursing homes' use of mandatory arbitration agreements is on hold, after a federal judge questioned whether the Obama administration has the authority to implement such a sweeping ban, according to POLITICO. NPR has more:

TODAY'S TIP - Comes from the state's Department of Health: "Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher to protect the skin you're in - even during months with less intense sunlight."

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