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POLITICO New York Health Care: Bassett hits the exit -- Cuomo work group to draw up marijuana bill -- Both sides leveraging single-payer study

By Nick Niedzwiadek and Amanda Eisenberg | 08/03/2018 10:04 AM EDT

BASSETT LEAVING — Mary Bassett, who as New York City's top doctor has navigated epidemics and outbreaks, tried to narrow health inequities and, most recently, fielded questions over the city's handling of lead exposure in children, announced Thursday she is leaving the de Blasio administration at the end of the month for a job at Harvard. First Deputy Commissioner Oxiris Barbot will serve as acting commissioner. Bassett's announcement comes at a tumultuous time for the health department, which has been engulfed in a slow-moving scandal over the city's failure to comply with federal rules regarding lead paint hazards in public housing. On Friday, The New York Times reported that the Department of Investigation opened an inquiry into how the department communicated information about blood lead levels in children. Bassett, 65, said she had been planning to leave for some time and her departure has nothing to do with the ongoing investigation into lead or the health department's response.

— "Dr. Bassett brought equity to the forefront of public health in New York City," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "She led the push to bring health centers to underserved neighborhoods and helped ensure New Yorkers struggling with opioid addiction received the care they needed. Her approach to public health is helping make New York City a better, fairer and more just city." Read more here.

WEED WATCH — Gov. Andrew Cuomo impaneled a work group on Thursday to draft legislation legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults in New York. Cuomo's action is New York's latest step toward fully embracing legalization. Last month the Department of Health released a 74-page study that concluded that legalized marijuana's benefits outweighed its drawbacks. The 20-person work group is stocked with Cuomo insiders, including Budget Director Robert Mujica, economic development czar Howard Zemsky and Counsel Alphonso David, who will lead the group.

— Democrats already have introduced legislation, NY A 3506 (17R), that addresses similar points. It is unclear how different the group's model legislation will be from the existing legislation, but Cuomo said it will consult with the bill's sponsors and leaders of both the Senate and Assembly throughout the process. Nick has more here.

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MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW Nick @NickNiedz, Amanda @aeis17 and Dan @DanCGoldberg on Twitter. And for all New Jersey health news, check out @samjsutton.

NOW WE KNOW — All it takes is a few weeks of sudden inactivity, say a prolonged vacation, for a previously active person's metabolism to get out of wack and start changing in ways that are not easy to reverse, especially as we age. The lesson: just keep moving. Read more here.

ELECTION SEASON — Both sides of the health care debate in New York have found election-year arguments to exploit in a much-anticipated analysis of a proposed single-payer health care system. For proponents of the New York Health Act, NY A4738 (17R), which would authorize single-payer in the state, a RAND Corp. study released Wednesday confirms that it is possible to offer universal coverage while also slowing the growth of health care costs overall. And it offers liberals an opportunity to differentiate themselves from establishment Democrats, even as some have begun warming to the idea. That said, the study provides plenty of material for critics of the single-payer bill, namely, the price tag. Read more here.

WE LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU: This roundup is for you, so please tell us how we can make it even better. Send tips, news, ideas, calendar items, releases, promotions, job postings, birthdays, congratulations, criticisms and corrections to nniedzwiadek@politico.com and aeisenberg@politico.com.

PHHPC — The Public Health and Health Planning Council formally disapproved a Utica surgical center's plan to expand into a multi-specialty center. Nick has more here.

PFOA — The Times Union reports: "The scope of PFOA ground contamination from three manufacturing plants in Rensselaer County and southern Vermont is more 'extensive' than initially anticipated, according to a new study."

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER — SUNY Purchase officials quickly made an about-face and said they would accommodate a 19-year-old student with cerebral palsy and his caregiver just days after it was reported officials denied his request. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday released a statement urging the school to reconsider its actions. Read more here.

SPECIAL PROSECUTOR — The Buffalo News reports: "Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. says his office cannot investigate the death of Holding Center inmate India Cummings but thinks the state Attorney General's Office or a special prosecutor should."

VA PROGRAM CLOSING — The VA Western New York Health Care System announced it will be closing its off-site adult day care program, and that all patients will be transferred elsewhere by Oct. 1. Read more here.

DIALYSIS — Buffalo Business First reports: "Multiple factors have led a national dialysis company to withdraw its plans to build a dialysis center in Gowanda."

BAD BEHAVIOR — A Buffalo day care provider was shut down after allegedly pouring water on a child as corporal punishment. A Rochester certified nurse aide was arrested and charged with allegedly punching a 64-year-old patient with disabilities.

MAKING ROUNDS — Robert Ross was appointed as executive vice president for the northern region and will serve Westchester Medical Center Network's hospitals in Dutchess, Ulster and Delaware counties.

REST IN PEACE — Robert Newman died at the age of 80 from injuries stemming from being struck by a car in June. Newman was a former assistant health commissioner in New York City in the 1970s, the former head of Beth Israel Medical Center and the founding director Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute at Beth Israel until his retirement in 2013.

PHARMA REPORT:

RISKY INVESTMENT — Allergan is suing Pfizer in an effort to force the larger drugmaker to cover any damages Allergan must pay as a result of hundreds of lawsuits claiming it deceptively marketed an opioid acquired from Pfizer, Reuters reports.

BET ON IT — Hundreds of people are suing the makers of the antipsychotic drug Abilify alleging that the drug caused compulsive gambling and other behavioral side effects. Read more here.

WHAT WE'RE READING:

FAMILY SEPARATION — From USA Today: "The Trump administration believes that the responsibility for finding parents who were deported after they were separated from their children should rest with immigration advocacy groups, not with the federal government, according to a court document filed Thursday." Read more here.

DON'T DO THAT — Since 2011 Tokyo Medical University falsified female applicants' test scores to purposefully admit fewer women in the belief that they would be unable to fulfill ER shifts because of family considerations. Reportedly no more than 30 percent of successful candidates were to be women. Read more here.

SHORT-TERM PLANS — The Upshot has an FAQ about what short-term health plans are, what they cover, more importantly what they do not, and various quirks buried in them. Read more here.

WELLNESS INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX — Wellness has become the catch-all buzzword for various treatments and products that range dramatically in their level of health validity, often fall under pseudoscience gobbledygook. A California OB/GYN takes this growing industry to task for the way these products are marketed, and the negative consequences they can have. The New York Times has more here.

SILICON VALLEY — Private equity and venture capitalists invested almost $2 billion in health services startups through the first six months of 2018, setting a pace record levels of investment. But investors who put money into a company usually want to see a return on their capital at some point, and that's taking much longer than usual. Read more about it in The Wall Street Journal.

ANTI-VAXX — Anti-vaccine activists sued a California state senator for blocking them on Twitter, arguing that it is a violation of free speech. Other courts have ruled against the blocker, so remember that the mute button is A-OK and works all the same. Read more here.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the Mayo Clinic: "Playing multiple sports can lead to fewer serious injuries, fewer regrets, and less burnout."

STUDY THIS:

FAMILY CAREGIVERS — More than nine out of 10 people who care for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's, according to research from the University at Buffalo School of Nursing. Of the 43 people analyzed, the vast majority experienced poor sleep, getting less than six hours of shut eye and waking up as much as four times an hour. The work was published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care.

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