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POLITICO New York Health Care: Legionnaires' sniping continues; going after synthetic marijuana

Dear readers: POLITICO New York Pro subscribers receive this email at 5:30 a.m. each weekday. If you'd like to receive it at that time, 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

LEGIONNAIRES’ UPDATE Three new sites have tested positive for legionella. These sites are inside the "impact zone" in the south Bronx, city and state officials said. With Wednesday's announcement, 14 buildings have now tested positive for the bacteria inside the impact zone. Six additional buildings outside the perimeter of the outbreak area have tested positive, but they are not considered related to the current outbreak. In all, 12 people have died and 119 cases have been diagnosed in the current outbreak. There have been no new cases since Aug. 3.

STATE LAW Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie left open the possibility of a legislative approach to Legionnaires’ disease at an appearance in Buffalo Wednesday morning.

THE SNIPING CONTINUES — On Wednesday, Comptroller Scott Stringer, an off-and-on critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio, told the John Gambling radio show the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had “received a wake-up call,” after failing to adequately prepare for the outbreak. “We can’t have this laid-back attitude,” Stringer said. “Don’t just tell me what you’re doing after an outbreak, tell me what you’re doing so we don’t have this.” De Blasio fired back. “I think that is absolutely inaccurate," he said. "This is the finest health department in the nation. It’s well known as such. If you want an understanding of how New York City performed, ask the Centers for Disease Control. ... They are the experts and they have praised our efforts.”

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SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA PENALTIES — State Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj will introduce legislation that strengthens penalties for those who possess or distribute synthetic marijuana. The drug, which goes by a variety of street names such as K-2, Skunk and Spice, is ubiquitous in parts of the state and is blamed for thousands of emergency room visits, seizures, and violent and erratic behavior. But there is currently no criminal law prohibiting possession or distribution. It is a violation of both state and city health code but because it is not part of the penal code, it is hard for the police to prioritize, and difficult for district attorneys to prosecute. As a result, synthetic marijuana is easy to obtain. The legislation, proposed by the two Bronx Democrats, would treat “synthetic cannabinoids” similar to marijuana under New York State’s penal law. There would be five degrees of criminal sale ranging from a class B misdemeanor to a class C felony, depending on the quantity of synthetic cannabinoid sold.

NOW WE KNOW — Sarcasm increases creativity, according to research from Harvard and Columbia because it forces us to figure out what a person really means. That’s the smartest study I’ve ever read.

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RESOLUTE FOR PUERTO RICO To stem the the flood of doctors leaving Puerto Rico, and to improve health care outcomes there, two members of the New York City Council want Congress to treat the territory more like a state when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid. The resolution calls on Congress to pass a Puerto Rico-backed bill that would eliminate health care funding caps for the territory. Read the resolution here:

TASK FORCE — City Councilwoman Inez Dickens introduced a bill that would create a temporary task force to evaluate the epidemic of diabetes in the city of New York, and recommend a comprehensive, citywide strategy to reduce it.

VALUE BASED — North Shore-LIJ and Empire BlueCross BlueShield announced an Accountable Care arrangement that will cover more than 33,000 commercial and Medicare Advantage recipients.

GRANT LAND The Designated AIDS Center at Upstate University Hospital will receive a $1.5 million state grant that will expand treatment programs.


-HOW ABOUT THAT? Donald Trump defended Planned Parenthood, saying abortions, which he opposes, are only a small part of the services they provide to women.

-TWO-MIDNIGHTS UPDATE The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is extending an enforcement moratorium for part of the controversial "two midnights" rule it is in the process of updating, according to POLITICO.

-CADILLAC TAX POLITICO reports: “Nearly half of large employers expect that at least one health plan offered to workers will trigger Obamacare’s “Cadillac tax” when it’s implemented in 2018, according to a survey by the National Business Group on Health. By 2020, that increases to nearly three quarters of large businesses who expect at least one of their plans will hit the threshold for the 40 percent excise tax on expensive coverage.”

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from Montefiore Health System, which reminds us to “make sunscreen part of your daily routine-even if you’re spending the day indoors. Here’s why.”


-MIND THE GAP African American seniors are more likely to stop taking medication because of the Medicare Part D coverage gap, according to Louanne Bakk, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo. “We’ve known that people in poor health or those with low incomes are more likely to stop taking their medication when they go into the gap, but as we look at this demographically, although there wasn’t a significant difference between males and females, we did find that older blacks are having a much harder time affording their meds than whites, and this difference is largely driven by the coverage gap,” Bakk said in a press release accompanying the article.

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 8/12, 8/11, 8/10, 8/7, 8/6

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