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POLITICO New York Health Care, presented by Professional Women in Advocacy Conference: Human trafficking conference; Ignagni makes first moves

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written by Dan Goldberg

HUMAN TRAFFICKING CONFERENCE — Kanani Titchen was in medical school when she saw the patient she has yet to forget. She was in the operating room, readying for a fibroidectomy. When the drape was lowered, the assembled doctors and students saw that the young woman had a number of tattoos on and around her groin, including a "$.” At the time, the doctors raised their eyebrows but then shrugged their shoulders, assuming this woman's lifestyle was her own choice. "It never even occurred to us that someone else would put this on another human being," Titchen said. "It wasn't until I read about sex trafficking that I realized she didn't put those marks on herself." Titchen will speak Monday morning at a human trafficking conference in Washington, D.C., part of a growing effort to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of sex trafficking and labor trafficking among health care providers. The conference is being planned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and American Medical Women's Association.

...Among those attending is Susie Rush, a member of state Assemblywoman Amy Paulin’s staff. Paulin, during the 2015 legislative session, sponsored a bill that toughens penalties against those who buy and sell young women, men and children. The bill passed both houses in March with overwhelming support but has not yet been signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Paulin, a Democrat from Westchester, is working on a new piece of legislation, which she plans to introduce this coming session, that would require hospitals to train their staff to recognize victims of sex trafficking, similar to the trainings for recognizing the symptoms of domestic violence.

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INSURANCE REPORT — EmblemHealth will announce this morning that it has made two senior hires, the first major moves since Karen Ignagni became president and CEO earlier this month. Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, who served as New York's secretary of state under governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, and most recently worked for AARP, will be EmblemHealth's new senior vice president of corporate relations and government affairs. Robin Chappelle Golston, a former political consultant and vice president at JP Morgan, joins EmblemHealth as vice president for community and government affairs. Ignagni, who led America's Health Insurance Plans, the nation's top health insurance lobby before resigning in May, said her growth strategy relies on explaining to potential customers the value Emblem brings, so it is not too surprising that her first moves focus on messaging. [PRO]

NOW WE KNOW Ivan Oransky pointed me to this study, which found cats don’t really need us. “These results are consistent with the view that adult cats are typically quite autonomous, even in their social relationships, and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety. It is concluded that alternative methods need to be developed to characterise the normal psychological features of the cat-owner bond.”

**A message from Professional Women in Advocacy Conference: Register today using code POLNY and receive $25 off the Professional Women in Advocacy Conference, November 16-17 in Washington DC. The theme for 2015 is The Modern Advocate. Join 400 women advocates to learn techy tips to improve your advocacy effectiveness. Register Here **

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CONCERNING TREND — The number of New York City residents starting treatment with buprenophine, also known as Suboxone, which is used to treat opioid addiction, fell 17 percent between fiscal years 2014 and 2015, according to the Mayor's Management Report. The numbers alarmed city health officials, who are working to reverse the trend. The city report came the same week as federal officials announced their intent to expand access to medications such as buprenorphine by revising prescribing regulations. Federal health and human services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced her department will scrap the regulation that limits prescribers.

...The number of New York City children between 6 months and 6 years old, who have been newly identified with high blood lead levels increased 6.1 percent last year, according to the Mayor's Management Report. It is the first time in the last several years the numbers have ticked up, and follows a steep decline. In Fiscal Year 2015, there were 823 new cases, up from 776 the year before, but down from 1,319 five years ago. The health department was unable to provide any specific reason for the increase.

GOING AFTER SCOOBY SNAX — U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer wants the Drug Enforcement Agency to set up a special unit to go after synthetic marijuana. The senior senator wants the DEA to focus on websites that make online transactions possible.

RATINGS — Six commercial Medicaid and Medicare plans by CDPHP, one of upstate New York’s largest insurers, received top ratings in the National Committee for Quality Assurance 2015-2016 Health Insurance Plan Ratings released on Thursday. Here’s the full NCQA ratings:

BRINGING BACK THE HOUSE CALL — The Syracuse Post-Standard looks at Upstate University Hospital’s plan to bring back the house call, part of an effort to reduce hospitalizations.

GRANT LAND — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded New York health centers $28.4 million in Affordable Care Act funding. The funds are part of a total $350 million disbursed nationally to more than 1,800 facilities. See the recipients here:

PHARMA REPORT — Why did the FDA approve filbanserin, the so-called pink viagra? Was there good science behind the drug that promises to improve the female libido, or was the FDA overwhelmed by a lobbying effort that benefited manufacturers? says it was the latter: “The pink Viagra case shows how sober scientific decisions about new medicines can now be gamed by savvy advocates, turned into emotive spectacles.”

-HOW MANY NEEDLESSLY DIED? — That’s the question The Atlantic asks as it examines the new Paxil data, which found the original study showing the drug to be safe and effective underplayed suicide attempts by labeling them as less harmful behaviors. “Perhaps the most essential read, aside from the study itself, is the BMJ’s feature examining the study’s history. The article is deeply reported, sad, riveting and damning. It condemns not just the company and the original study but an entire ecosystem of researchers, journals and universities that have resisted the sort of correction the BMJ paper seems to offer. The most chilling part is that even though GlaxoSmithKline has been found to have acted questionably again and again in its promotion of Paxil, many of the institutions and researchers involved in the study and subsequent promotion of the product have remained unapologetic and are silent or unresponsive to efforts to have the original paper retracted or the record otherwise corrected.”

-PROTEST Infectious disease specialists are protesting the price spike of Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug that is the standard medication for a life-threatening parasitic infection, according to The New York Times. The drug was acquired in August by Turing Pharmaceuticals, which raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50. Martin Shkreli, founder and chief executive of Turing, told the Times: “This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business. It really doesn’t make sense to get any criticism for this.”

...Where do I know that name from? Loyal readers will remember that Shkreli started Retrophin which, according to The Times, also acquired old neglected drugs and sharply raised their prices. Retrophin’s board fired Shkreli a year ago, and is now accusing him in federal court of using the company “as a personal piggybank to pay back angry investors in his failed hedge fund.”


-PAID FOR BY — Robert Califf, President Obama’s nominee to head the FDA, received more than $200,000 in consulting fees from pharmaceutical companies between 2009 and early 2015, according to The Wall Street Journal. The fees were donated to nonprofit groups, a government spokesman said.

-MIXED RESULTS — The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a report that found the HITECH Act spurred Electronic Health Records adoption but failed to anticipate challenges posed by information exchange. Read the report:

TODAY'S TIP — Comes by way of a Mount Sinai physician quoted in an article. Vodka, tequila and other hard liquors can work as a deodorant when you apply them topically. "Sweat itself is odorless, but when it's broken down by bacteria on the skin, an unpleasant odor is released," says Joshua Zeichner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. "The alcohol content in vodka and other alcoholic beverages helps kill bacteria on the skin, including bacteria under the arms responsible for body odor.”


-WORKING TOGETHER — The New York Stem Cell Foundation and Q-State Biosciences are studying nervous system disorders through precision medicine. NYSCF brings its global stem cell array, which enables the quick development of stem cell lines. Q-State brings its all-optical electrophysiology platform, which can use these stem cell lines for precision medicine research. This will be the first time induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines will be made from patient blood samples in a robotic, massively parallel capacity. Read my story on NYSCF’s robotic technique here: [PRO]

**A message from Professional Women in Advocacy Conference: Register today for the 2015 Professional Women in Advocacy Conference and join 400 women advocates to learn techy tips to up your advocacy game. Hear from industry experts on using technology to get organized and get your message out. Plus - using social media to promote your cause, pitch the media and communicate with policy makers. This conference is perfect for women working in government relations, public affairs, advocacy, political engagement, community relations or law. PWIA is proud to announce Ted Talk sensation Susan Colantuono will give the keynote address: “The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get.” Other speakers include authors, members of Congress and industry experts. Register now using discount code POLNY to get $25 off **

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 918, 9/17, 9/16, 9/15, 9/14

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