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POLITICO New York Health Care: Health policy in the budget extenders -- Bassett on 'skinny plans' --Woodhull physician profiled

By Dan Goldberg | 04/04/2017 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.

BUDGET EXTENDER — As the Assembly approved a pair of budget extender bills that had passed the Senate earlier on Monday, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin encapsulated the mood of numerous legislators who reluctantly voted yes. "It's troublesome that the extender is for two months — too long," Paulin said. "It's troublesome that the expiration date falls on a Jewish holiday, an important one. It's troublesome that our school districts will not have the opportunity to plan for their vote ... in May, that they will not have those numbers. It's troublesome that all those things that we've been working on for weeks, like Raise the Age, school aid, will not happen for weeks or not at all." Paulin was referring to the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which falls on May 31. Read more here.

— The $2.5 billion for water infrastructure projects is included in the extenders.

PHARMACEUTICAL SPENDING — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's quest to rein in pharmaceutical spending appears to have hit a snag for the second consecutive year, as the policy proposals in the budget extender the governor offered on Monday are significantly watered down from the ambitious proposals he laid out earlier this year during his State of the State address . Most significantly, Cuomo's proposal that pharmacy benefit managers be required to register immediately with the state and be subject to new regulations requiring disclosure of financial incentives or benefits for promoting the use of certain drugs is not mentioned in the latest legislation . That was probably the proposal that would have faced the most legal scrutiny, as it is almost certain pharmacy benefit managers would have challenged the law in court, arguing that under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, known as ERISA, Cuomo is prohibited from regulating interstate businesses. Sen. Kemp Hannon, head of the chamber's health committee, said the policy proposal included in the extender legislation is "constitutional." "[Cuomo's] proposal would last about two minutes in court," Hannon said. Read more here.

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FUNDING FOR DIRECT CARE — The state budget extender introduced this morning includes language to raise the wages of direct care workers. The workers, who care for the disabled and elderly, and their employers have complained that the recent increase in the minimum wage has made it harder to recruit and retain employees when they can earn just as much working in retail or in a fast food restaurant. Read more here.

PANEL DISCUSSION — City health commissioner Mary Bassett defended social safety net spending, explained her opposition to Medicaid block grants and explained why she believes essential benefits are an important part of health insurance during a panel discussion Monday night at the CUNY Graduate Center.

... On block grants: "The experience of block grants ... is it is almost always a way for shrinking the budget and it almost always reduces accountability for how that budget is spent," Bassett said.

... On essential benefits: Michael Strain, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argued that the Affordable Care Act failed in its goal of providing near-universal coverage in part because plans are too expensive. Strain argued that the goal should be "universal coverage" but not universal coverage for ear infections. He wants universal coverage for serious illnesses. Bassett said that sounded like a trap.

... Line of the night: Speaking about the demise of the American Health Care Act and its possible return in some other form, Bassett said, "We dodged a bullet but the gun is still loaded." Strain replied: "The gun may still be loaded but [Republicans] don't know how to fire it."

NOW WE KNOW — A Johns Hopkins University scientist is working to correct a grave injustice. Pluto should be a planet, Kirby Runyon argues in this paper.

UNIQUE NEW YORK — The Daily News profiles an "off beat" physician who works at Woodhull. "The first sign that Dr. Arabia Mollette is a physician like no other is the absence of the traditional white coat. Depending on the day and her mood, other signs might include neon pink nails and a nose ring." Read the rest here.

FINANCES — The Hospital for Special Surgery reported $51.5 million in operating income in 2016, a roughly 40 percent drop from 2015. Read the report here.

BULL Politifact reports: "A blog post widely shared on social media claims 'a New York man has allegedly infected 240 people with the HIV virus by sleeping with men and women.' ... The post quotes the New York City Health Department urging anyone who may be affected to seek help. We reached out to the department about the story. The department said both the quote and the story are fake." Read it here.

JOBS REPORT — The state Department of Health released a report titled "Performing Provider Systems (PPS) Job Title Vacancy Rate Snapshots, Demonstration Year 1 (DY1)," which gives an overview of job title vacancy rates as reported in the PPS Compensation and Benefits Survey Reports for the 22 job titles considered to be most involved in health care transformation.

GRANT LAND — The National Institute of Mental Health awarded researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of California-San Francisco and Carnegie Mellon University a $2.5 million grant to extend the work of the Autism Sequencing Consortium. Read more here.

POMCO ACQUIRED — The Syracuse Post-Standard reports: "United Healthcare Group has completed its acquisition of Pomco, an insurance administrator that employs approximately 400 people in Syracuse's Eastwood section." Read more here.

DONE DEAL — WellCare of New York, Inc., announced Monday an agreement with Catholic Health and Catholic Medical Partners, an independent practice association that provides in-network coverage to WellCare's Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and Child Health Plus members. Read the press release here.

MAKING ROUNDS — Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, is the new medical director of Post-Acute Services at Northwell Health.

ALSO MAKING ROUNDS — Dr. John Krolewski is the new Chair of the Department of Cancer Genetics and Genomics and Co-Leader of the Cancer Center Support Grant Genetics and Genomics Program at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

PHARMA REPORT — OPIOID MAKER SETTLES GOVT INVESTIGATION — Washington Post investigates.

SANOFI PAYS $19.8 MILLION TO RESOLVE CLAIMS IT OVERCHARGED VA FOR DRUGS — Sanofi-Pasteur will pay $19.8 million to resolve claims it incorrectly calculated drug prices, overcharging the Department of Veterans Affairs for drugs under contracts between 2002 and 2011, the Justice Department announced Monday.

WHAT WE'RE READING:

OBAMACARE LATEST — It looks as though President Donald Trump and the House Freedom Caucus are closing in on a deal to repeal and replace Obamacare. Read the story here.

... One note of caution: Optimism is cheap before there is language.

OBAMACARE TROUBLE IN IOWA — The Des Moines Register reports: "Iowa's dominant health-insurance company has decided to quit selling individual policies because of tumult in the market stemming from the Affordable Care Act and Republicans' failed effort to replace it." Read the rest here.

MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PAYMENTS — Medicare Advantage plans will receive a .45 percent increase in funding for 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Monday.

DOES BIRTH CONTROL CAUSE DEPRESSION? NOT SO FAST — Aaron Carroll examines the claim that the pill triggers depression, and takes apart the study that found a link. Read more here.

FAILURE TO OVERRIDE — The Kansas City Star reports: "The Kansas House failed by a narrow margin Monday to override Gov. Sam Brownback's veto of a bill that would expand Medicaid to thousands of low-income Kansans." Read more here.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT — Thalidomide is now being used in Canada to treat multiple myeloma.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from Dr. Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at New York-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center, who offers families tips for coping with a child's diagnosis. Read more here.

STUDY THIS:

PDMPs SEEM TO WORK — States that required doctors to register with a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program cut opioid prescribing for Medicaid patients by about 10 percent and saved the programs about $60 per 100 patients from 2011 to 2014, according to research published in Health Affairs. Read the study here.

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here.

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