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POLITICO New York Health Care: State aims to expand medical marijuana; Savino worried about feds

12/14/2016 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 Josefa Velasquez

MARIJUANA EXPANSION - The Cuomo administration has begun interviewing additional medical marijuana growers in hopes of expanding the program in the next six months, Department of Health officials said Tuesday. The agency has reached out to an additional five companies that submitted applications in June 2015 to grow and dispense medical marijuana, Josh Vinciguerra, director of the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement at DOH, told POLITICO New York. The companies - New York Canna Inc., Fiorello Pharmaceuticals, Valley Agriceuticals, Citiva Medical and PalliaTech NY - were contacted so the DOH could "get an update on their financial situation and their business plan," Vinciguerra said. "We would expect that once we've had a chance to review that, registration could take place some time in the first half of next year. But that doesn't necessarily mean that a business would be operational because we are phasing it in," he said.

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SAVINO CONCERNED OVER SESSIONS AS ATTORNEY GENERAL - State Sen. Diane Savino, sponsor of the state's Compassionate Care Act, said Tuesday she is concerned about the new administration's impact on medical marijuana laws.

NOW WE KNOW - Can't wait to bring this up to my mother at the dinner table over the holidays. Older mothers tend to live longer than those who gave birth in their 20s, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found.

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SALT AND SOUR - Local officials in two upstate towns affected by salt contamination are accusing the state of causing the problem and then responding in a way the officials say is uneven and confusing. Residents in Dannemora and Orleans, where the drinking water is contaminated with salt, blame local Department of Transportation storage sheds for the problem. The state has helped secure funding for new water sources for the towns, but has not said that DOT facilities, which store tons of road salt used during the winter, are responsible. POLITICO New York's Marie French has more:

ANALYZING THE DATA - New York's uninsured rate has fallen 40 percent since the Affordable Care Act was enacted roughly six years ago, resulting in 939,000 New Yorkers gaining insurance coverage, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

LIFE SCIENCE INVESTMENT - Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday announced a $500 million investment in life science research, which he expects will bring 16,000 new jobs to New York City, a move that comes just one day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $650 million investment in a life science research cluster.

...STAT News ponders whether New York has the capacity to attract as much biotech buzz as Kendall Square in Massachusetts.

CHANGE IN NEWBURGH - St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital announced Tuesday that it is expanding its non-emergency services and creating a wellness center as it prepares to move emergency services to its Newburgh campus.

DOCTORS SAY NO TO CHRONIC PAIN - The Medical Society of the State of New York wrote the Cuomo administration last week, opposing the addition of chronic pain to the list of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. Read the full letter here:

ANY TAKERS? - Oswego Health is in the process of replacing its president and CEO, Chuck Gijanto, who is leaving for personal reasons. Oswego Health retained the firm Witt Keiffer to conduct a national search and expects to fill the position by the middle of next year.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS - Peconic Pediatrics of Riverhead on Tuesday celebrated the grand opening of its Long Island milk depot. Area residents will now have a place to drop off excess breast milk for ill or premature babies. The milk will then be donated to the New York Milk Bank.

EXTENDED - The state Department of Health on Tuesday announced an extension to enroll in its Fully Integrated Duals Advantage demonstration initiative. The FIDA demonstration was originally approved to run from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec.31, 2017. Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offered states an opportunity to extend their demonstrations through December 2019, which the DOH accepted.

DON'T DO THAT - Olga Novogorodsky and Yefim Morchik of Cropsey Medical Care PLLC were sentenced last week as part of a $13 million kickback and health care fraud scheme, the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General announced Tuesday.

MAKING ROUNDS - Dr. Dean Tang, PhD, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

ALSO MAKING ROUNDS - Dr. Jonathan Alpert has been named professor and university chair of the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.


-WHISTLEBLOWER - A sales rep for Grifols is accusing the Spanish drug maker of illegally marketing an expensive orphan drug and defrauding U.S. health programs, an unsealed whistleblower lawsuit says.

-THERE'S A CATCH - POLITICO reports that Eli Lilly will offer up to 40 percent discounts on its insulin starting next year for patients who are paying full price for the drug. The discounts will be available to patients without insurance or those in the deductible phase of their high-deductible insurance plan. They will be provided through a partnership with Express Scripts and Blink Health. The catch is that patients will be going outside of their health plan to receive the savings, Lilly said, meaning the cost patients pay for the insulin may not be applied to their annual deductible.


-WHY TRUMP? - Vox went to Corbin, Kentucky, to figure out why people would vote for Donald Trump when he's vowed to repeal their health insurance.

...What you need to know: Read Sarah Kliff's first-person account. It helps explain the election. "I kept hearing informed voters, who had watched the election closely, say they did hear the promise of repeal but simply felt Trump couldn't repeal a law that had done so much good for them. In fact, some of the people I talked to hope that one of the more divisive pieces of the law - Medicaid expansion - might become even more robust, offering more of the working poor a chance at the same coverage the very poor receive."

WHITE HOUSE: HEALTH CARE REFORMS HAVE SAVED AT LEAST 150,000 LIVES - That's according to a new 100-page report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers. CEA says Obamacare coverage expansions are preventing 24,000 premature deaths per year. Premiums have risen far slower than pre-Obamacare trends would have predicted. The average 2016 premium for families covered through workplace insurance was nearly $3,600 lower than would have been expected had premium growth remained on the pace before Obamacare was signed into law.

-SIGNED - The Washington Post reports: "President Obama signed legislation Tuesday that aims to increase funding for medical research, speed the development and approval of experimental treatments and overhaul federal policy on mental health care."

-DROPPING - E-cigarette use among teens dropped in 2016, reversing a growing trend. According to the National Institutes of Health's annual Monitoring the Future survey, only 12 percent of high school seniors said they had used e-cigarettes in the past month compared to the 16 percent in 2015.

-FEWER CHUBBY BABIES - The Associated Press reports: "A decline in chubby babies and toddlers is providing a glimmer of good news in the fight against childhood obesity. The trend was found in a study of children up to age 2 enrolled in a U.S. nutrition assistance program for low-income women and children. Half of all U.S. infants up to 12 months old are enrolled in the program."

-SAD STAT - A new study out of Brazil suggests that 42 percent of infants infected with the Zika virus in the womb may have significant birth defects.

-THE LONE STAR - Modern Healthcare reports: "The Texas Hospital Association hopes the Trump administration will renew a waiver that its members have come to rely on to offset uncompensated-care costs."

-ACTION ON ABORTION - Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday vetoed a ban on abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, but signed a law to ban it at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Kasich said the so-called heartbeat bill was "clearly contrary to the Supreme Court's current rulings on abortion." He called the 20-week ban the "best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life."

TODAY'S TIP - Comes from the state Department of Health: "Pacifiers (especially with strings), broken toys and those with ribbons or string all can be choking hazards."


-A PLUS SIDE - Pokemon Go improves physical activity for those who use it, but the effect is moderate and not sustained over time, according to a study published in the BMJ. The study showed that the daily average steps during the first week increased by 995, but was gradually reduced and lost after six weeks of playing.

-BOOST GIVING - Just in time for the holidays, charities and nonprofits can increase their revenue by setting suggested donation levels that are appropriate for their donor list, according to a study by the University at Buffalo School of Management. The study, published in the Journal Marketing Research, found that setting a low default amount increased the number of donations.

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