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POLITICO New York Health Care, presented by Professional Women in Advocacy Conference: Ignagni takes over at EmblemHealth; City Council considers synthetic marijuana bills

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written by Dan Goldberg

IGNAGNI AT EMBLEM — POLITICO’s Paul Demko and I profile Karen Ignagni as she takes the helm of EmblemHealth. We asked why the K-Street mega-lobbyist, who led the health insurance industry through the Obamacare wars, wanted to run a New York health plan with a downgraded credit rating.

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BLAME GAME — A couple members of the New York City Council said legalizing recreational marijuana was one way to curb the use of synthetic marijuana, which can be far more dangerous. Members representing several committees heard from the de Blasio administration, law enforcement officials and drug advocacy organizations on three bills intended to curb synthetic marijuana sales in the city. The bills would take away the licenses of cigarette dealers if they sell synthetic marijuana, known as “K2 or “spice," consider the sale of synthetic marijuana or imitation synthetic marijuana a nuisance as defined in the administrative code, and would impose penalties on the manufacture, distribution or sale of synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic phenethylamines and synthetic cathinones, colloquially known as bath salts. [PRO]

...One question:
Would legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana really curb K2 use given that recreational marijuana is likely to be far more expensive?

NOW WE KNOW USA Today reported on this important survey from grocery-delivery service Peapod: It found companies that provide free food have happier employees compared with those who don't get to chow down on their employer's dime.”

**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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MUST READ — Stop what you’re doing and read Aaron Carroll’s piece on how the health system is failing him. Most of us do not interact with the health system often enough to understand just how absurd it can be but Carroll’s example highlights the problems beautifully.

UNDERSTANDING THE LAST 48 HOURS IN DRUG PRICES — On Sunday, The New York Times reported the price of Daraprim had risen from $13.50 a pill to $750, sparking outrage among infectious disease specialists. On Monday, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that kind of price gouging “is outrageous,” and said she will lay out a plan on Tuesday to “take it on.” The stocks of biotech companies subsequently tanked. On Monday night, the makers of cycloserine, a TB drug that had been called out in the first Times article, announced they were reversing a price hike. “The rights to cycloserine had been acquired last month by Rodelis Therapeutics, which promptly raised the price for 30 capsules to $10,800, from $500, giving rise to concern among doctors who treat tuberculosis. But Rodelis has now returned the drug to its previous owner, a nonprofit manufacturing organization affiliated with Purdue University.”

SUPPLY AND DEMAND — In another example of how precious public space is becoming in New York City, street vendors plan to rally Tuesday in favor of eliminating a city-regulated cap on the number of licenses they can receive to operate. Vendors are expected to converge outside City Hall at 11:30 a.m. to call on the City Council to lift the cap on permits and licenses so more mobile carts that peddle everything from food to tourist merchandise can legally operate in the five boroughs.

LAWSUIT The Office of Medicaid Inspector General is being accused of employee discrimination. A lawsuit claims an OMIG supervisor was promoting young white men or Italians, according to the Albany Times Union.

HAPPENING TODAY — POLITICO reports a pair of blockbuster health insurance mergers will put the industry under the political spotlight today when top executives face a congressional committee for the first time since the deals were announced this summer. [PRO]

PUSHING POT — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spoke Monday at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s fall business summit in Manhattan, pressing the case for her legislation that would change federal marijuana laws. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect State Act would amend the federal controlled substance law to allow states to set their own policy and reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, meaning the federal government would acknowledge it has a medical use.

PHARMA REPORT — The Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that it will provide a New York-based drug company up to $38 million over the next 23 months to support development and manufacturing of an experimental monoclonal antibody drug for treating Ebola, according to POLITICO. “The drug maker, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, also has an option under its contract to manufacture more of the therapeutic drug for future development studies. Work through the program, under HHS' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, will support the filing of an investigational new drug application with the FDA, and BARDA could provide another $11.3 million to manufacture alternative monoclonal antibodies, HHS said.”

-SETTLED — Modern Healthcare reports: “Adventist Health System will pay the government $118.7 million to settle allegations it offered doctors excessive compensation for referrals — a settlement amount that nearly doubles a record set just last week.”


-HOW EBOLA RESPONSE WAS MISHANDLED — Good story (and a great lede) from the Associated Press, which chronicles how the Ebola response was mishandled by health officials who failed basic tests. “Questionable chlorine was just one of a toxic mix of avoidable problems faced by Ebola responders in Kenema last summer as the outbreak was spiking. Weak leadership, shoddy supplies and infighting exacerbated a chaotic situation at a critical front in the battle against the virus, an Associated Press investigation has found. More than 40 health workers died in Kenema — a devastating loss in the fight to control an epidemic that has claimed more than 11,000 lives.”

-ACROSS THE RIVER — A fourth medical marijuana dispensary is set to open in New Jersey, according to New Jersey Advanced Media. “Compassionate Science Alternative Treatment Center, located in Bellmawr, is the second dispensary to open in South Jersey, and the last in that region unless state health officials agree more are needed to meet the demand.” It’s been almost five years since New Jersey’s health department selected nonprofits to open dispensaries, but almost all have struggled to open because of NIMBY and stringent regulations. Could that happen in New York?

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the Community Healthcare Network, which reminds us “September is National Whole Grains Month! Whole grains are full of fiber, B Vitamins and minerals, and fall is the perfect time to try new grains and include them in every meal.”


-BAD FOR THE KIDS — The New York Times reports children exposed to indoor pesticides have an increased likelihood of certain cancers, according a study in Pediatrics. “Exposure to indoor, but not outdoor, residential insecticides was associated with a 47 percent increased risk for childhood leukemia and a 43 percent increased risk for childhood lymphomas. Outdoor pesticides used as weed killers were associated with a 26 percent increased risk for brain tumors. The authors acknowledge that the small number of studies included in the review is a major weakness of the analysis, and emphasize that these are increases in the relative risks for diseases that are not common to begin with.”

**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: 9/20, 918, 9/17, 9/16, 9/15

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