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POLITICO New York Health Care: Slot machines; the limits of the law

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written by Dan Goldberg

SLOT MACHINES — In the latest issue of POLITICO New York’s magazine, I took a loot at the competition for clinical rotation spots in New York hospitals. Foreign medical schools are paying for spots, which is making local deans anxious. The foreign deans, however, say they aren’t pushing anyone out. In fact, they are helping to support teaching hospitals. New York State’s Department of Education, which oversees medical education, is currently engaged in a review of all international medical schools that have been approved or are seeking approval to send students to New York State to complete long-term clinical clerkships. The review began in 2014, Reichgott said. There is no timetable set for its completion, and its findings have not been made public. That’s left both the New York medical schools and the international schools in limbo. Read my magazine story here:

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NEWEST CLUSTER SHOWS LIMITS OF LATEST LAW — The city's health department on Monday reported a new cluster of Legionnaires' disease, highlighting both the ubiquity of the bacteria and the challenge public health officials face when trying to respond. The seven new cases of Legionnaires' were reported in the east Bronx and come five weeks after Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a first-in-the-nation law that required both the registration and cleaning of all cooling towers in the city. But that law can only do so much, health officials acknowledged. Dr. Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control, said the problem is that most people think cleaning a cooling tower is like cleaning the kitchen counter: scrub hard and it's good. It is far more complicated, he said. "I use the example of cleaning my teenage son's room," Varma said. "The more you look, the more you'll find and you have to be incredibly aggressive." The problem with legionella is that it is everywhere. It has been found in puddles of rainwater and at the Playboy Mansion. Many people inhale the bacteria without ever noticing but the elderly or those with underlying health conditions can develop life-threatening pneumonia. Read my full story here:

NOW WE KNOW — Larger size portions lead people to eat more, according to an article in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

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MAKING ROUNDS — EmblemHealth will announce today that Dr. Scott Breidbart will be the insurer's Chief Clinical Officer, a new position that reports directly to CEO Karen Ignagni. Ignagni, who took over on September 1 after running America's Health Insurance Plans, the nation's top insurance trade group, is looking to expand upon EmblemHealth's value-based contracts as a way to improve the financially struggling insurance company's bottom line.

Breidbart was Chief Medical Officer at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield where he worked on payment structure reforms. He has also worked at Oxford Health Plans, New York Medical College, Montefiore Medical Center, Westchester Medical Center and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

NEW PARTNERS — New York-based urgent care provider CityMD is partnering with Hackensack University Health Network to open its first New Jersey location in Paramus on October 5, according to a release. A second location in Clifton is scheduled to open in mid-November. This marks the start of Hackensack University Health Network’s expansion plans to open as many as 10 urgent care centers with CityMD in northern New Jersey in the next few years, according to CityMD currently operates more than 40 practice locations in New York. Hacksensack University Health Network, which is one of the state’s largest health systems, also has a partnership with CVS MinuteClinic, in which its physicians serve as medical directors for several walk-in clinics in northern New Jersey.

MENENDEZ UPDATE POLITICO New Jersey’s Matt Friedman: A federal judge on Monday tossed out four bribery counts against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. But U.S. District Court Judge William Walls did not dismiss 18 other counts against the two men. Menendez and Melgen are accused of a bribery scheme in which Menendez did a myriad of political favors for Melgen in exchange for campaign contributions, private jet flights and lavish vacations. Much of Menendez’s attempt to throw out his indictment has focused on the constitution’s “speech or debate clause,” which protects legislative acts from executive branch interference. But Walls ruled that Menendez’s alleged actions to benefit Melgen — meeting with Health and Human Services officials over Melgen’s multi-million dollar Medicare billing dispute and pressuring officials to honor a Dominican port security contract in which Melgen had a stake — were not legislative.

GRANT LAND — Dr. Zev Williams, director of the Montefiore/Einstein Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss, received $3.8 million from the National Institutes of Health to study the placenta, part of a $46 million research program that will fund 19 projects across the country. The awards will fund technology development and testing to assess placental function throughout pregnancy, according to a press release from the NIH. The placenta produces hormones to help sustain the pregnancy and regulate the immune system so that mother and fetus can coexist. It is also the cause of many prenatal problems such as preeclampsia, preterm birth and stillbirth.

OPINION — The acting commission of the Food and Drug Administration wrote a letter to The New York Times explaining, in part, the reasons for allowing children as young as 11-years old to take OxyContin.

PHARMA REPORT: Reuters reports: “A unit of Johnson & Johnson that makes artificial hips has accused a surgical funding company of seeking excessive profits from financing surgery for patients suing over the devices. The claim by DePuy Orthopaedics marks the first time that a device maker in the multibillion-dollar litigation over faulty hip replacements has publicly raised concerns about the controversial business of surgical funding, which has increasingly become a part of mass litigation over medical devices.”


COKE’S INFLUENCE — The New York Times reports that Coca-Cola has given nearly $3 million to the American Academy of Pediatrics during the past six years, making it the only “gold” sponsor of the website. “Even though the pediatric academy has said publicly that sugary drinks contribute to the obesity epidemic, the group praises Coke on its website. … The extent of the financial ties between Coke and the Academy of Pediatrics was revealed last week when the company released a detailed list of nearly $120 million in grants, large and small, given to medical, health and community organizations since 2010. Not only has Coke’s philanthropy earned it praise from influential medical groups, the soda grants appear to have, in some cases, won the company allies in anti-soda initiatives, wielded influence over health recommendations about soft drinks, and shifted scientific focus away from soda as a factor in the causes of obesity.”

YOU’RE INVITED — HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell will hold a roundtable on delivery system reform with lawmakers on Tuesday, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by POLITICO. Burwell is set to give opening and closing remarks at the hour-long roundtable scheduled to start at 9 a.m. It's being held a day after CMS circulated a new request for information on the new Medicare physician payment system, known as "MIPS," and how the agency should define alternative payment models. See the invitation. [PRO]

SURVEY SAYS — The New York Times reports: “In an unprecedented survey of more than 400 oncologists at 40 leading cancer centers, nearly half said they had been taught to identify wealthy patients who might be prospective donors.”

WHO ARE THE UNINSURED? — has a cool infographic on the 33 million Americans who remain uninsured. Who are they?

TAVENNER PENS MISSIVE ON SMALL GROUP MARKET BILL - In her first-ever letter to Capitol Hill as AHIP CEO Marilyn Tavenner, the former head at CMS, writes to support the House's efforts to stop the looming definition change for the small group market under Obamacare, according to POLITICO. "By restoring the traditional definition of a small employer and giving states flexibility in this area, this legislation takes an important step toward promoting market stability and avoiding coverage disruptions for businesses and families," she writes. The House floor vote on the bill is expected later this evening. The letter: [PRO]

CRITICISM — criticized The New York Times coverage of a recent Alzheimer’s study, saying it left “readers with an overly optimistic view of the findings.”

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the Community Healthcare Network Catherine M. Abate Wellness Program: “Now that fall has arrived, it is the perfect time to step back and breathe a little easier with some mindful relaxation tips. They can improve sleep and lower anxiety and depression.”


-CHEMO DURING PREGNANCY — The New York Times reports on a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which looked at 100 children who were exposed to cancer treatment during the last two trimesters of their mother’s pregnancy and found they had normal cognitive and cardiac function.

-OF PRIMARY IMPORTANCE — Health Affairs published a study that found people who lived in counties with better primary care tended to be healthier.

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