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POLITICO New York Health Care, presented by PhRMA: Schneiderman inks deal with DOL; DiNapoli's diabetes report

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

SCHNEIDERMAN INKS DEAL WITH DOL — Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday will announce he has signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Labor which will allow the state office to investigate employer-sponsored health insurance plans suspected of shortchanging beneficiaries. Schneiderman, who has announced a string of high-profile settlements with health insurance companies during the past five years, does not have the legal authority to investigate employee-sponsored health plans, which cover about half of all New Yorkers. However, state agencies can be granted authority to investigate violations under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

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DIABETES REPORT New York State’s Medicaid program spent $1.2 billion on 460,000 diabetes patients during the 2013-2014 fiscal year, a report from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found. The poorest New Yorkers, those earning less than $15,000 a year, and those whose education levels do not exceed high school have the highest prevalence of the disease, the report found. Regionally, rates of hospitalization for diabetics who are Medicaid recipients was the highest in Seneca, Bronx, Niagara, New York and Chemung counties, the report found. Meanwhile, the lowest hospitalization rates were in Tioga, Schuyler, Washington, Delaware and Yates counties. Franklin County had the state’s highest average annual diabetes death rate, 32.2 per 100,000 residents, for the three years ending in 2013. Hamilton County had the lowest, with 9.2 deaths per 100,00 residents. Read the report:

NOW WE KNOW — A study in the Journal of Communication found we’re more egocentric when we tweet from our phones than when we tweet from a desktop. For six weeks, researchers collected 235 million tweets.

WE'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU: This roundup is for you, so please tell us how we can make it even better. Send tips, news, ideas, calendar items, releases, promotions, job postings, birthdays, congratulations, criticisms and corrections to

** A message from PhRMA: In 2013 alone, the biopharmaceutical industry invested more than $553 million dollars in clinical trials in New York. Learn more about the economic impact of clinical trials in our communities at **

CONNECTING WITH CARECONNECT — CareConnect, the health insurance plan offered by North Shore-LIJ (now known as Northwell Health), will expand its network to include the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation. It's not clear what effect the move will have on enrollment for MetroPlus, HHC's insurance offering, which competes with CareConnect on the state's health insurance exchange. But the deal could prove fortuitous for HHC if CareConnect customers turn to public hospitals, increasing patient volume. While it is true MetroPlus is an important part of HHC's strategy, its private insurance enrollment numbers are nowhere near as critical to the corporation's bottom line as patient rolls. The two large health systems could find ways to complement one another, particularly in central Brooklyn and lower Manhattan where Northwell operates urgent care centers that can refer patients to HHC hospitals such as Kings County or Bellevue. [PRO}

GRANT LAND The National Institutes of Health awarded researchers at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine $3.3 million to study how cognitive training programs might improve the flexibility and agility of older patients. The researchers are studying whether a computerized cognitive remediation program can improve mobility.

DSRIP UPDATE — Jason Helgerson, the state’s Medicaid director, offers a DSRIP update explaining how the state is moving from planning to implementation. Helgerson said the state will reopen the networks to allow additional providers to join the 25 Performing Provider Systems. Helgerson also said he has requested that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allow New York to begin the midpoint assessment earlier than planned. The start-date, if approved, would be July 1, 2016.

JOBS DAY — Forbes’ Dan Diamond tells us that of the 142,000 jobs created in September, 34,400 were in health care.

THE GOING CONCERN — Dr. Farzad Montashari, former assistant commissioner at the city’s health department and former head of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, provides the most concise explanation yet of what might go wrong with the shift toward value-based payments. Here, he is specifically referring to Accountable Care Organizations, but his arguments could be made for any value-based arrangement.

DON’T DO THAT — Alfred Ramirez, a psychiatrist, has been charged with selling more than 10,000 oxycodone prescriptions, which resulted in at least one death, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. On numerous occasions over a four-year period, Ramirez allegedly charged hundreds of dollars in cash for patient visits that involved little, if any, actual examination and resulted in the issuance of multiple prescriptions for large quantities of 30-milligram oxycodone tablets, sometimes for patients who were not even present.

CHECK IT OUT — The New York State Health Foundation is hosting a conference on the consequences of consolidation. The keynote speak will be Martha Coakley, former Massachusetts Attorney General. The event is November 4. Sign up here:

CONGRATS — Sylvia Pirani has received the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials’ (ASTHO) 2015 State Excellence in Public Health Award, according to the state health department. The award recognizes outstanding service on behalf of the public health community at the state level. The 20-year vet of DOH leads the state’s prevention agenda. Read more here:

PHARMA REPORT: Bloomberg News looked at the nation’s biggest drug makers and found that most of them raise prices on their most popular drugs, but by small enough amounts that they don’t become blockbuster news stories. The company’s say the price doesn’t much matter because insurance companies rarely pay the full cost. But if you want to understand why drug pricing is — and will continue to be — the top health issue during the 2016 campaign, read this: “Pfizer Inc., the nation’s biggest drugmaker, has raised prices on 133 of its brand-name products in the U.S. this year, according to research from UBS, more than three-quarters of which added up to hikes of 10 percent or more. It’s not alone. Rival Merck & Co. raised the price of 38 drugs, about a quarter of which resulted in increases of 10 percent or more. Pfizer sells more than 600 drugs globally while Merck has more than 200 worldwide, including almost 100 in the U.S.”


-FALLOUT — The New York Times: “Doctors Without Borders said Sunday that it was withdrawing from Kunduz, a day after its hospital there was hit by what appeared to be an American airstrike, leaving the remaining residents in the embattled northern Afghan city even more vulnerable. The aid organization also raised the death toll in Saturday’s airstrike on the hospital, saying that three more patients had died, raising the total fatalities to 22 — 10 patients and 12 staff members. The charity has said that at least three of the dead patients were children, and that 37 people were wounded in the attack. … The Pentagon said the strike was targeting insurgents who were firing on American service members advising and assisting Afghan security forces in Kunduz. It acknowledged that the strike was conducted “in the vicinity” of the hospital.”

-BEARD TRANSPLANT — Men are paying $7,000 to have beards transplanted to their face and The New York Times is on it. “Dr. [Jeffrey] Epstein, who has offices in Miami and Manhattan, performed four or five facial hair transplants annually a decade ago. Now, he said, the average is three a week.”

-SMART STORY — POLITICO examines the other side of the Planned Parenthood struggle: The researchers at universities who use fetal tissue for research. Brett Norman explains they are now being targeted by anti-abortion groups in ways they’ve never before seen. “Lawmakers in Wisconsin and Ohio try to ban such research and other states limit access to the tissue. More than three dozen of the universities, including Harvard, Yale and Johns Hopkins, have been drawn into the fight despite their traditional deep aversion to an issue that can divide faculties and donors and draw the ire of anti-abortion advocates nationwide.”

-THE DECLINE OF BIG SODA — Margot Sanger-Katz writes that the recent public health campaigns against soda, which have largely failed to enact taxes or dictate portion control, have had an effect. They’ve reminded Americans that soda isn’t healthy. “Over the last 20 years, sales of full-calorie soda in the United States have plummeted by more than 25 percent. Soda consumption, which rocketed from the 1960s through 1990s, is now experiencing a serious and sustained decline. Sales are stagnating as a growing number of Americans say they are actively trying to avoid the drinks that have been a mainstay of American culture. Sales of bottled water have shot up, and bottled water is now on track to overtake soda as the largest beverage category in two years, according to at least one industry projection.”

-IS THIS WORKING? — Kaiser Health News reports: “Medicare’s quality incentive program for hospitals, which provides bonuses and penalties based on performance, has not led to demonstrated improvements in its first three years, according to a federal report released Thursday. The Government Accountability Office examined the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program, one of the federal health law’s initiatives to tie payment to quality of care. Earlier this year Medicare gave bonuses to 1,700 hospitals and reduced payments to 1,360 hospitals based on their mortality rates, patient reviews, degree of improvement and other measurements.”

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the state health department, which reminds us to “stock up on emergency supplies to last for more than 72 hours. Build an emergency supply kit.”


-CANCER DRUG FOR MS Researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center, writing in Nature, say a drug, which was originally intended to treat certain types of brain cancer, improved MS in mice. The drug,GANT61, blocks a protein, Gli1, “which is involved in so-called sonic hedgehog signaling, a biological pathway closely tied to neural stem cell development and the growth of some cancers, and whose signaling is raised in tissue samples taken from brain lesions in patients with MS,” according to a press release from Langone. The drug appears to help preserve myelin. The researchers also found the mice on the drug had an eightfold increase in the number of neural stem cells that migrated to myelin-damaged areas of the brain and eventually developed into myelin-producing oligodendrocytes.

-STANDING ROOM — Standing desks may make you feel good but there isn’t enough
science to know whether they’re really making you healthier over the long term, according to a 2014 systemic review cited by The Incidental Economist. “Overall, current evidence suggests that both standing and treadmill desks may be effective in improving overall health considering both physiological and mental health components. However, at present there still exist substantial gaps in the research to fully comprehend the utility of each type of desk to promote health.”

-JUST TALKING ABOUT IT IS ENOUGH The Incidental Economist pointed to a study that found just talking about drug price controls has an effect on drug prices as pharmaceutical companies look to avoid bad PR.

** A message from PhRMA: Every day in New York, countless people fight life-threatening diseases. Their bravery inspires countless researchers and scientists across the country in their quest to develop medicines that help patients live longer, healthier lives. Here in New York, the biopharmaceutical industry has invested more than $553 million during the 2,476 clinical trials that took place in 2013 alone. Each step brings us closer to a cure. To learn more, please visit **

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up here: 10/2, 10/1, 9/30, 9/29, 9/28

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