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POLITICO New York Health Care: Albany County votes to raise the age -- More TB funding needed -- Could B become D?

By Dan Goldberg | 05/15/2018 09:59 AM EDT

RAISE THE AGE — The Albany County Legislature voted Monday evening to prohibit pharmacies from selling tobacco products. If signed into law, Albany would join Rockland County and New York City in blocking tobacco or e-cigarette sales in pharmacies. The proposal passed 26-11 with one abstention. More from Nick here.

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MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW me on Twitter @DanCGoldberg and Nick @NickNiedz. And for all New Jersey health news, check out @katiedjennings.

MORE TB FUNDING NEEDED — The New York City Council is calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to add $6.7 million to the budget for tuberculosis prevention. The mayor rejected that request in his executive budget released last month, and now Council members and advocates are hoping to dial up the pressure before a final budget agreement is reached. Speaking on the steps of City Hall on Monday, Council Member Mark Levine, chairman of the Health Committee, noted that this is not the first time the city has cut TB prevention funding only to see the number of cases increase. The rally comes on the heels of a report showing new tuberculosis cases jumped 10 percent in 2017, the largest year-over-year increase since the Dinkins administration. It also comes six weeks after the state Legislature and governor agreed on a budget that cuts tuberculosis funding to the city by $305,000. More from Dan here.

NOW WE KNOW — Millennial men aren't all that bad. At least not according to a study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting, a Vancouver-based market research firm, which found young men are likely to be selfless, socially engaged and health-conscious.

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MARIJUANA STUDY TIME FRAME ACCELERATES — A state study that could pave the way for legalizing recreational marijuana is coming "within days," Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Monday. It's a drastic acceleration that comes as Cynthia Nixon pushes for legalization in her Democratic primary challenge against the governor. The governor last year called marijuana a "gateway drug" and said he opposed its recreational use, but in January he directed the state's Department of Health to look at its effects — a position he reiterated in April after Nixon, an actor best known for her work in "Sex and the City," called marijuana legalization "a key front in the racist war on drugs."

A DOH spokeswoman told POLITICO in April that the department would "gather all relevant information by the fall." On Monday, Cuomo said the study would be done "shortly."

"How do you define shortly? It is supposed to be done, by calendar, it should be done within days," Cuomo said. "I haven't heard from them if they're not going to be on time. But I asked for that report in January — not just yes-no. Look at the reality, look at the facts, look at how and who and where and that's the real level of making policy." Read more here.

Coincidentally the state Democratic Party is drafting a resolution to support marijuana legalization, according to a copy obtained by the New York Post.

FEDS SUBPOENA CRYSTAL RUN — The Albany Times-Union reports: "The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan is investigating Crystal Run Healthcare, a Hudson Valley company that received an extraordinary $25.4 million in state grants following a series of campaign contributions to Gov. Andrew Cuomo."

WOEFULLY BEHIND — Newsday reports: "The corporation that runs Nassau University Medical Center owes the state $62.6 million in health care premiums for its employees and retirees, forcing administrators to find money for the back bills while struggling to fund day-to-day operations."

BILL TRACKER — The state Senate passed 21 bills with no debate during a short session this afternoon while the Assembly passed eight bills. Here are a couple health related items:

NY S2246 (17R): Hannon — Relates to the performance of medical services by physician assistants

NY S3770 (17R): Akshar — Relates to impairments of health, presumption and staph/MRSA

FINANCES — Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reported $100 million in operating income during the first three months of 2018, up from $77 million during the same period in 2017 and more than twice the $42.8 million earned during the same period in 2016. Read the report here.

MAKING ROUNDS — 199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East announced Monday that it has tapped a former campaign staffer for President Barack Obama as its new director of political action. Gabby Seay was political director of Obama's 2012 reelection campaign in Ohio and served on his inaugural committee. She has also worked at the Washington D.C.-based firm 270 Strategies before setting up her own shop.

ALSO MAKING ROUNDS — Weill Cornell Medicine hired Dr. Ruth Gotian to be the assistant dean for mentoring and the executive director of its new Mentoring Academy.

MORE NURSING HOME TROUBLES — The Syracuse Post-Standard reports: "Van Duyn nursing home was supposed to keep Roberta 'Bonnie' Murphy's head elevated and give her oxygen around the clock. But after the 73-year-old lung disease patient was admitted in 2015, Murphy's daughter said she found her lying flat on a bed. She was choking on phlegm and hooked to an empty oxygen tank."

DON'T DO THAT — Gareth John, a researcher who has received millions in funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and runs a lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has confessed to falsifying data in a 2014 paper. The news was first reported by Retraction Watch.

GRANT LAND — The National Institutes of Health awarded Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System $25 million for the Block Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. This is the third, five-year clinical and translational science award that the ICTR has received. More here.

GRANT LAND — Female scientists from Northwell Health's Feinstein Institute for Medical Research received more than $300,000 in awards during the seventh annual Advancing Women in Science and Medicine luncheon. More here.


COULD B BECOME D? — Moving the reimbursement of physician-administered drugs from Part B to Medicare Part D has the best promise of constraining the costs of very high priced medicines, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters at a media briefing. Azar zeroed in on physician administered drugs among the dozens of ideas the administration broached Friday in a blueprint to address the cost of medicines and offered some hints as to how HHS might accomplish this goal. He said multiple times that HHS has the power to conduct demonstration pilots through CMS's innovation program, allowing the administration to make changes without going through Congress, and added it would "not hesitate" to do so.

STARS AND BARS — HHS Secretary Aex Azar said Monday that Medicare's Star Rating program for Part D plans may be causing insurance programs to hold back on tougher drug price negotiations and formulary management for the six protected classes of Part D drugs. His comments to reporters came after a speech in which Azar cited the six protected classes as an area where the government health program is not getting the deals it should be on drug prices. Part D insurance plans are required to cover all drugs in the protected classes, including cancer drugs and antidepressants, but can use formulary management tools like prior authorization or step therapy, an HHS official explained at the briefing. However, the reality is that most plans don't make much use of the tools fearing they could be penalized under the rating system.

HERE IS THE IMPORTANT AZAR SENTIMENT — I've been a drug company executive. I know the tired talking points: the idea that if one penny disappears from pharma profit margins, American innovation will grind to a halt, I'm not interested in hearing those talking points anymore.


THE FEES ARE TOO DAMN HIGH — Some patients encounter provider fees for medical record access so high they decide to cancel their requests, a Government Accountability Office investigation published Monday finds. Though HIPAA laws require providers to give patients access to their data — and to charge at most a "reasonable, cost-based fee" — patients sometimes consider the costs a barrier, according to GAO interviews.

KIDNEY TROUBLE — First lady Melania Trump underwent treatment Monday for a kidney condition and is expected to remain at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for the rest of the week, the White House said in a statement. The White House said she went through an embolization procedure for a "benign" condition and had no complications.

WHITE HOUSE, EPA HEAD OFF PFOA, PFOS STUDY Scott Pruitt's EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a "public relations nightmare," newly disclosed emails reveal. Read more here.

ENDING TRANS FATS — The Wall Street Journal reports: "The World Health Organization is launching an initiative to eliminate trans fats from diets globally, pressing makers of foods and oils, and governments, to accelerate work to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths from heart disease each year." More here.

EBOLA The death toll in the Democratic Republic of Congo's latest Ebola outbreak has climbed to 19 people, according to the World Health Organization.

The WHO director told STAT that Congo has requested to use an experimental Ebola vaccine to help stem the outbreak, though doing so will take military-like planning. Last month, researchers reported that the Merck vaccine appears to provide protection against the virus two years after the injection.

IN CASE YOU MISSED — We don't bring you a lot of news from Australia but this story is truly remarkable. Read about the man with the golden arm, an 81-year old whose donated plasma has saved 2.4 million babies.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from Northwell Health's Dr. Marisa Siebel, who offers five cancer prevention tips.


SCARY STUFF — The Washington Post reports: "In a paper published Monday in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension, researchers reported that children of mothers who were exposed in their third trimester to higher levels of fine particulate pollution — the tiny airborne matter that causes haze in many cities around the world — were at a 61 percent higher risk of elevated blood pressure."

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