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POLITICO New York Health Care: State releases Legionnaires' regs; marijuana mess

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written by Dan Goldberg

STATE REGS — The state Department of Health on Monday adopted emergency regulations to combat the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. The regulations, approved by the state Public Health and Health Planning Council during a special meeting, require any owner of a building with a cooling tower to register the tower with the state health department in the next 30 days.

...A statement from the governor included a special tip line to respond to questions about the new regulations. When a reporter called the number, 1-888-769-7243, a recording announced there was nobody available to take the call. "If you are calling to report an emergency," the recording stated, "please hang up and dial 911." A spokesman for the governor said the number would be live today.

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MARIJUANA PROBLEMS — Parents are worried medical marijuana won’t be available by January as state officials have promised, according to WGRZ in Buffalo.

MAKING ROUNDS — The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network has named Julie Hart as its director of government relations for New York State. Hart, of Delmar, served as director of government relations for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association in New York for eight years. In her new role, she will “oversee advocacy efforts promoting evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem.”

NOW WE KNOW Researchers at Indiana University found that people are just as embarrassed when they buy sensitive medical products—such as those for home test kits, incontinence and sexual dysfunction—online as when they do it in person. The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, is titled: "Wetting the Bed at Twenty-One: Embarrassment as a Private Emotion.” “You still feel embarrassment because you're judging yourself,” co-author Kelly Herd said in a press release.

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TROUBLE AT HHC — The New York Post reports three officials who worked at the city’s Health and Hospitals Corp. were forced out amid a probe of improper billing for a $764 million revamp of its records system. “Chief Information Officer Bert Robles was forced to resign from his $296,000-a-year job in February while investigators were looking into allegations, including claims that his domestic partner received taxpayer-funded training on the new electronic medical records—even though she doesn’t even work for HHC,” the Post story said.

OPINION — Craig Spencer, the only New Yorker to contract Ebola, writes an op-ed for The New York Times, saying the problem in West Africa is far from over, and the heartening news that new cases have declined obscures the reality that many are still dying. “It’s true that the epidemic reached its peak in late 2014, and has declined significantly since then. Even so, the number of new cases since late March alone—more than 500—would otherwise represent the largest Ebola outbreak in history. We’ve had spells when the number of new cases in both Guinea and Sierra Leone went down steadily—only to be reversed by clusters in new areas, arising from unsafe burials and unknown chains of transmission.”

COLON CANCER GRANT — New York State will receive $8 million in federal grants to promote colorectal screening, according to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The grant, awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will be dispersed over five years and support the expansion of screening efforts by the Department of Health’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Control in the North Country, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester and New York City.

ACROSS THE RIVER — POLITICO New Jersey: “A New Jersey man who was barred from participating in federal health care programs ran an ambulance company that billed Medicare and Medicaid more than $9 million in recent years, a federal grand jury alleges in a 17-count indictment. Imadeldin Awad Khair, also known as Nadr Khair, faces charges of health care fraud, obstruction of a federal audit, tax evasion and money laundering. Khair faces up to 10 years in prison for the health care charge. Obstruction of a federal audit and tax evasion could each lead to five years in prison. Each of the 11 money laundering counts he faces carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. All the counts also carry a fine of $250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the offense.” Read the indictment:

PHARMA REPORT: Retrophin, a biotech company, is suing its founder and former chief executive, claiming he created the company only to take it public and dole out shares to investors to whom he owed money, according to Bloomberg News. The lawsuit says Martin Shkreli, who denies any wrongdoing, owes the company $65 million. "The $65 million Retrophin wants from me would not dent me," Shkreli told Bloomberg. "I feel great. I'm licking my chops over the suits I'm going to file against them."


-CAN YOU KILL THIS, PLEASE — Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern asked if Congress wouldn’t mind meeting her face-to-face regarding her organization’s disaster work instead of starting one of those pesky investigations run by the Government Accountability Office, according to documents obtained by ProPublica and NPR. “I would like to respectfully request that you consider us meeting face-to-face rather than requesting information via letter and end the GAO inquiry that is currently underway,” McGovern wrote in a June 2014 letter to Rep. Bennie Thompson a Democrat from Mississippi.

-GRANT LAND — POLITICO reports: “The White House [Monday] morning announced $13.4 million in grants to help build a law enforcement network of local, state and federal officials targeting the heroin trade and its impact in ‘high-intensity drug trafficking areas.’ About $2.5 million will fund public health partnerships in five such [High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area] regions spanning 15 states—Appalachia, New England, Philadelphia/Camden, New York/New Jersey, and Washington/Baltimore—part of the administration’s Heroin Response Strategy. Almost $4 million will go toward prevention efforts in 18 HIDTAs; another $1.3 million will go to programs along the Southwest border and $500,000 will target the trade in tribal lands. The HIDTA program was created by Congress in 1988 to help coordinate law enforcement efforts where trafficking is most prevalent. About $5 million will go ‘to a broad range of efforts that will reduce the trafficking, distribution, and use of heroin—a drug that has emerged as a serious threat to multiple regions of the United States,’ according to a White House release.”

-IN CASE YOU MISSED — Make sure to read the Wall Street Journal’s coverage on how nursing homes are bilking Medicare. “Patients getting ultrahigh therapy—at least 720 minutes a week—generate some of nursing homes’ biggest payments from the taxpayer-funded program. Medicare’s ultrahigh rate averaged about $560 a day in 2013, a Wall Street Journal analysis of billing records found. The average was $445 a day for “very high” therapy of 500 to 719 minutes and $325 for the “low” category, 45 to 149 minutes. Medicare adopted the payment rules in 1998 and phased them in over the next few years, replacing its system of paying based on costs. Since then, nursing homes have billed for increasing therapy levels, a Journal analysis of their federal financial reports found. In 2002, nursing homes gave ultrahigh therapy to patients on about 7% of days they billed to Medicare; in 2013, they billed 54% as ultrahigh.”

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TODAY'S TIP — Comes from Montefiore Medical Center: “What older adults should do to keep safe during hot weather.”


-WHY THE HIGH — The New York Times has a cool video on what we don’t know about why marijuana makes us high.

-SURVIVOR — CBS News report: “Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a disease that has long been associated with a very high death rate, are much more likely to survive now than they were decades ago, researchers say.”

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 8/17, 8/14, 8/13, 8/12, 8/11

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