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POLITICO New York Health Care: Medical marijuana ups and downs; Zadroga push

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

FIDA EXTENSION — New York State's Medicaid director is asking the federal government to extend the Fully Integrated Dual Advantage demonstration project for an additional two years, even as enrollment during the program's first seven months has been underwhelming, and one insurer announced its withdrawal. FIDA, a demonstration project that is enrolling New Yorkers who receive both Medicaid and Medicare into a single managed care plan, is off to a slow start. As of Aug. 1, it had enrolled about 7,700 people, while 54,287 others have opted out. State Department of Health officials say the goal is to enroll 100,000 people in the downstate region. Read my story here:

MARIJUANA COMPANY GETS GREEN LIGHT— The planning board of Hamptonburgh, a small rural town in northern Orange County, unanimously approved a medical marijuana company’s plan to create a marijuana manufacturing plan. PharmaCann, one of five companies awarded a license to grow and distribute the drug, received the approval late Thursday evening, setting off a series of events so the company can meet the January deadline issued by the state. Among the top concerns for residents of the small town, which does not have its own police department, was safety, citing the neighboring city of Newburgh’s proclivity for crime.

MARIJUANA PROBLEMS — Columbia Care NY will consider alternative sites for Suffolk County's first dispensary of the drug after Riverhead Town officials moved to block a proposed location on Route 58, according to Newsday.

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CHANGE ON HHC BOARD — Helen Arteaga, the founder of Plaza del Sol Health Center in Corona, is expected to be nominated by the City Council to serve on the board of directors for the Health and Hospitals Corporation. Arteaga would replace Anna Kril, founder of Astoria/Queens SHAREing & CAREing, a cancer support group.

NOW WE KNOW — Sorry insomniacs: people who sleep less than five or six hours a night are four times more susceptible to catching a cold than those who get more than seven hours of sleep, according to a study published in the journal Sleep.

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LOCAL CONGRESSMEN CALL FOR REAUTHORIZATION OF ZADROGA — Members of the congressional delegations from New York and New Jersey stood outside the World Trade Center on Thursday and called on Congress to reauthorize the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the federal legislation that provides benefits to 9/11 victims and first responders. The bill was passed in 2011 after lengthy debate during which Republican members of Congress raised concerns about creating a new federal entitlement, and argued that caring for 9/11 victims should be a state matter, not a federal concern. The bill ultimately passed after a significant push from New York politicians, including Rep. King, who was one of only 17 Republicans to vote for the bill. The bill is set to expire next year, meaning first responders would lose access to health care benefits, and the Victims Compensation Fund would cease. King said there is far more bipartisan support this time around. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he supports a reauthorization.

KELLY STEPS DOWN — “The president of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Robert Kelly, quietly stepped down Thursday from his post.” Crain’s has the story.

COLD ON COLE — The New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services is upset with a billboard from Kenneth Cole — brother-in-law to Governor Andrew Cuomo — that says: “OVER 40M AMERICANS SUFFER FROM MENTAL ILLNESS SOME CAN ACCESS CARE...ALL CAN ACCESS GUNS.” The group is upset with the insinuation that mentally ill people are prone to violence. “Our community and supporters must speak out TODAY and very forcefully decry a message that, regardless of intent, plays into the damning discrimination and completely unfounded connections with violence that we face each day,” says an email from NYAPR. “And if getting more access to care is the goal here, vilifications of this sort will only make people less likely to do so.”

...POLITICO reports that mental health advocates see an opening this summer for reform. ”After a summer rocked by deadly mass shootings, lawmakers and mental health advocates say they have more momentum than at any time in recent history to push through an overhaul of the nation's broken mental health system. The opening they see involves timing, bill tweaking and sheer perseverance - a House lawmaker obsessed with the issue for many years teaming up with a powerful chairman, Fred Upton, of the House Energy and Commerce committee. In the Senate, meanwhile, a bipartisan bill drew strong interest over recess from lawmakers facing pressure from people back home to do something. Both proposals would create more psychiatric beds, and allow families to get more information about a loved one's treatment - with the House bill tweaked to soften language that had earlier linked state mental health funding to mandated treatment for some people. More importantly, both bills avoid the poison pill of gun control while still addressing some holes in the mental health system that have allowed mentally ill shooters to get their hands on guns.” [PRO]

K2 ON EBAY — State Senator Jeff Klein and City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito are sending letters to online retailers eBay, Craigslist and Backpage asking them to remove listings for synthetic marijuana, according to the New York Observer. Read more at:
...And if you haven’t yet read The New York Times piece on what synthetic marijuana is doing to a block in East Harlem, read it now. “A joint of K2 goes for a dollar or two, far cheaper than food. Many bodegas on 125th Street sell it. A marijuana joint, by comparison, costs about $5. Crowds of up to 80 or 100 homeless people come in on buses from a nearby shelter on Randalls Island, drawn by heroin recovery clinics nearby, and spend the day there under the influence of this cheaper narcotic. The block between Park and Lexington Avenues appears at times to be a street of zombies.”

MAKING ROUNDS — Kirk Adams, the longtime health care chief for SEIU Healthcare, is joining the Healthcare Education Project, a program jointly run by the health care union and the Greater New York Hospital Association. According to a release from the GNYHA, Adams will work in Washington, D.C., on funding issues important to both management and labor, including Medicare, Medicaid and graduate medical education funding.

OSCAR, OSCAR — Bloomberg looks at Oscar health insurance and surmises that it’s nice to have funding, but it’s better to have customers.

PHARMA REPORT: San Francisco’s largest private health insurer announced Wednesday that not one of its 657 clients receiving Truvada had become infected over a period of more than two years.


-CRITICIZING THE SCORECARD — Lisa Rosenbaum, in The New England Journal of Medicine, criticized ProPublica’s surgeon scorecard, arguing that it fails to meet scientific standards. There were two problems, she said. “One is that insurance claims data are notoriously inaccurate, particularly when it comes to assessing surgical complications.” The second is poor reliability. There were too few surgeries for any given surgeon to generate statistically meaningful results. “The irony in hailing the scorecard as a victory for transparency is that its purported objectivity obscures its methodologic limitations and the complexity of quality itself. No amount of transparency can overcome the fact that, when it comes to what we value, we don't all see eye to eye. The real promise of transparency, then, lies in finding better ways to let our patients see what we see.”

-BANNING DISCRIMINATION — POLITICO reports: “The Obama administration on Thursday issued a long-awaited proposed rule explaining how it will enforce a wide-ranging ban on health care discrimination. With that release, HHS is seeking to cement one of Obamacare's key promises - equal access to health care regardless of a person's race, color, nationality or disability. The rule would also ban health care discrimination on the basis of sex for the first time.”

“...But the rule, more than two years in the making, leaves some unresolved questions. In particular, the administration is still weighing how to offer protections for sexual orientation and address complaints that some insurers are designing drug benefit plans that discriminate against individuals with chronic conditions.” [PRO]

-WATCHDOG NEEDS MORE BITE — reports: “White House budget director Shaun Donovan called for a “more aggressive strategy” to thwart improper government payments to doctors, hospitals and insurance companies in a previously undisclosed letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell earlier this year.”

-NUMBER OF THE DAY— Nearly a million military veterans have pending applications to access health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Roughly a third of those are thought to be dead. The larger concern, according to a report released by the department’s inspector general, is that it’s hard to discern from the data how many vets still need care. The Associated Press has more.

TODAY'S TIP Comes from the Cleveland Clinic’s twitter feed. The best way to avoid “dadbod” is to cut down on sweetened drinks, whole milk, packaged lunch meats, hot dogs and anything fried.


-DOCTOR-OWNED HOSPITALS— A study published by the British Medical Journal said that physician-owned hospitals aren’t cherry-picking patients or limiting themselves to lucrative procedures or operations. While some of these physician-owned hospitals specialize in certain procedures, they only treat 20 percent of patients who go to physician-owned hospitals, the study found. Read more from Kaiser Health News.

What are you advocating for? Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Share your message with our influential readers to increase awareness and drive action. Find out how:

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 9/3, 9/2, 9/1, 8/31, 8/28

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