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POLITICO New York Health Care: City pushes back on AIDS report; Breastfeeding disparities

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written by Dan Goldberg

PUSHING BACK — New York City health officials pushed back Friday against a report from ACT UP that accuses the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of cutting prevention services needed to end the AIDS epidemic. Yes, testing at city-funded clinics has declined during the past five years, said Demetre Daskalakis, assistant health commissioner for the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, but that doesn't necessarily mean testing is down throughout the city.

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BREASTFEEDING DISPARITIES — Women of color and women from high-poverty neighborhoods in New York City remain less likely to breastfeed exclusively during the first five days after giving birth, according to new data from the city's health department. The department found that in 2013 babies born to mothers who live in higher-income areas were 1.6 times more likely to be exclusively breastfed within the first five days of birth compared with babies from lower income neighborhoods.

NOW WE KNOW — Cocaine makes you feel great, according to research presented at the ECNP conference in Amsterdam. More specifically, it lowers perceptions of sadness and anger. Researchers tested this stunning hypothesis by giving students either cocaine or a placebo. Cocaine, the study showed, increased the heart rate and the stress hormone cortisol. The lead author opined this might be why cocaine users have such a great time when they mix the drug with alcohol.

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FINANCES — North Shore-LIJ Health System reported an operating income of $52.7 million for the six months ending June 30, an improvement over the $38.1 million it reported for the same period in 2014. Year-over-year operating revenue grew by $603.6 million to $4.2 billion, a 2.5 percent jump from 2014. Management attributed the growth to increased volume, payment rates, ambulatory and physician network expansion, the acquisitions of Phelps and Northern Westchester hospitals and increased health insurance revenue from CareConnect. North Shore-LIJ, the only private health system to offer an insurance plan on the state's exchange, is also seeing growth in its insurance business, according to the financial report. Year-over-year premium revenues increased by $64.1 million or 205.3 percent. CareConnect now has 26,000 members, compared to approximately 10,000 members as of June 30, 2014. Read the full report here:

MORE FINANCES — New York Presbyterian Hospital reported operating income of $107 million for the first six months of the year, a 7 percent increase over the same period in 2014.

Patient revenue increased to $2.25 billion, according to the hospital's latest financial report. Management attributed the increase to higher negotiated payment rates, a more favorable payor mix and a higher case mix and increased in outpatient activity.

...Worth noting that two of New York’s largest and most lucrative health systems cited increased payment rates — the money they collect from insurers — as reasons for their strong balance sheets.

MAKING ROUNDS — Brian Griffin, the president and chief executive of Empire BlueCross BlueShield, has been promoted to a position with Anthem Inc., according to Crain’s.


-TO AVOID THE TAX — Yevgeniy Feyman, deputy director of the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute, argues the MTA should reach a deal with its unions to avoid the Cadillac Tax by charging workers for their health insurance and paying them back in salary. “Employers can push their health-care costs below the Cadillac Tax threshold by moving to plans that require more from workers in the form of deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance and shifting the savings into cash wages.”

-ANOTHER WIN IN INDIA — India has virtually eliminated tetanus as a killer of newborns and their mothers, according to a New York Times article. The news comes a year after the country defeated polio. Here’s a measure of progress for the world: 15 years ago, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 800,000 newborns died of tetanus each year. Now, fewer than 50,000 do. “Tetanus, caused by a bacterium common in soil and animal dung, usually infects newborns when the umbilical cord is cut with a dirty blade. Mothers often receive the infection by giving birth on dirty surfaces or being aided by midwives with unwashed hands.”

-OBITUARY — The New York Times: “Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and acclaimed author who explored some of the brain’s strangest pathways in best-selling case histories like ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,’ using his patients’ disorders as starting points for eloquent meditations on consciousness and the human condition, died Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 82.” Shortly before his death, he penned thoughts on the Sabbath for the Times and concluded: “And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.”

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TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the Cleveland Clinic: “Guys, you should examine your own testicles THIS often for abnormalities.


-ALSO AVOIDING THE TAX — New York City tobacco retailers are selling a substantial number of cigarette packs carrying either counterfeit or out-of-state tax stamps, according to NYU public health researchers, who published their results in the BMJ journal Tobacco Control.

“Our research found that illegal cigarettes are regularly available over the counter in New York City,” study author Diana Silver, associate professor of public health at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and College of Global Public Health, said in a press release from the school. “Taxes on packs sold with counterfeit or out-of-state tax stamps are not being recouped by the city and the state. … Consumers may be unaware they are purchasing illegal cigarettes, since, at least in our study, clerks sold our investigators these cigarettes at full price.”

-IN THE GARBAGE — A study in Public Health Reports finds that kids are throwing their fruits and veggies right into the garbage. The study explains that after new school nutrition rules took effect in 2012, students put more fruits and vegetables on their trays, as required, but consumed fewer of them and increased waste by approximately 56 percent. The researchers offer suggestion including cutting up vegetables and serving them with dip or mixing them in with other parts of the meal.

-STUDYING THE STUDIES — The New York Times reports on the effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals. More than half could not be reproduced. “Their conclusions, reported Thursday in the journal Science, have confirmed the worst fears of scientists who have long worried that the field needed a strong correction.”

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