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POLITICO New York Health Care: Liberians learn from Sinai residents -- Cuomo says DSH cuts forcing extraordinary measures -- Online organ donation

By Dan Goldberg and Nick Niedzwiadek | 10/04/2017 09:58 AM EDT

HELLO, LIBERIA — The voice came through loud and surprisingly clear given how unreliable the internet connection in Liberia can be. Kebbeh Subah was in her home staring down at the screen, four hours ahead and 4,600 miles away on the West African coast. Issa Bagayogo, a fourth-year psychiatry resident at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, was sitting in a borrowed office on the second floor of Beth Israel Medical Center on the lower east side of Manhattan talking into his iPhone 7-plus. "Did you have any interesting cases this week?" Bagayogo asked. It was a typical question for Bagayogo, who was holding his fourth video-conferencing session with Subah, a 30-year old Liberian nurse, whose dream is to become a mental health professional in a country that has only three psychiatrists for its 4.6 million people. Only one of those is a native Liberian. Read my story about Mount Sinai's program here.

DSH CUTS SPARK LATEST CUOMO-DE BLASIO SPAT — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing billions of dollars in federal cuts to two health programs, said that public hospitals across the state, including New York City Health + Hospitals, will have to make due with less money than their executives anticipated. "We know today we don't have enough money to pay every public hospital 100 percent," Cuomo said. "What percent can we pay? We're not sure." Speaking Tuesday in his New York City office, Cuomo said the cuts to the Disproportionate Share Hospital program and Washington's failure to renew the Children's Health Insurance Program will cost the state more than $2 billion over the next 18 months, money that he will not be able to backfill with state tax dollars.

... The cuts, Cuomo said, trigger newly granted executive authority allowing budget director Robert Mujica to propose a plan that may include changing state laws. The plan would then be submitted to the Legislature, which has 90 days to come up with a counter-proposal. If lawmakers do not, Cuomo's plan takes effect. Cuomo retained KPMG to advise the state on how to allocate less money. KPMG is also the auditor for NYC Health + Hospitals. (Does anyone else find that awkward?) Read more here here.

... Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier Tuesday that there is "no excuse" for Cuomo's actions, which he says will undermine health care in New York City. Health + Hospitals already is facing a $1.8 billion budget deficit by the end of the decade. It can't afford to wait for money or receive less than it was allocated, the mayor said. "We need the resources to keep our public hospitals going, now," de Blasio said. "We all know they've gone through tough tough fiscal times. I don't think the governor is saying he wants to undermine health care in New York city but this action could do that." Read more here.

... The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded Minnesota $3.6M for children's health to keep its CHIP program running.

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ONLINE ORGAN DONATION NEARS FRUITION — New York has lagged behind other states in organ and tissue donation rates for years, but advocates are hopeful that the long-awaited launch of an online registry will increase participation and save lives. The online portal is undergoing final testing before being unveiled to the public, according to Aisha Tator, executive director of the New York Alliance for Donation, who has overseen its development. Read more from Nick here.

NOW WE KNOW — Researchers discovered a new species of fly in Central Park and named it Themira lohmanusis after City College of New York entomologist, and Professor of Biology, David Lohman. Read more here.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT — The United Hospital Fund held its annual gala, honoring Jim Tallon, Dr. James Simons, Priscilla Almodovar and Dr. Robert Gore. The dinner raised more than $1.7 million.

NEW PARTNERSHIP — Northwell Health announced Tuesday it acquired a 20 percent stake in Surgical Specialty Center of Westchester, a freestanding outpatient surgery center in Harrison. More here.

HEALTH SUPPLIES HEADED TO PUERTO RICO — Newsday reports: "Medical and humanitarian aid for Puerto Rico is being organized on Long Island by major health centers and a statewide group of physicians, with scores of doctors and nurses volunteering to go to the storm-devastated U.S. territory."

SITE CHOSEN — The Buffalo News reports: "Brooks Memorial Hospital will build a $67 million, 29-bed hospital in the Town of Pomfret to replace its aging 65-bed Dunkirk facility."

ECMC ON LEGIONNAIRES' ALERT — The Buffalo News reports: "Legionnaires' disease diagnosed in a patient at Erie County Medical Center prompted testing that found slightly elevated levels of Legionella bacteria in the hospital's water system."

ELLIS HOSPITAL OPENS PHARMACY — The Times-Union reports: "Ellis Hospital opened a new retail pharmacy Tuesday, to sell medications to patients who are being discharged as well as community members with prescriptions to fill. The hospital's pharmacy previously operated only to supply medicine to inpatients."

LIFETIME CLOSES HEALTH CENTERS — Lifetime Health Medical Group will close its three health centers in Western New York at the end of the year and lay off 202 people, a move that affects 43,000 patients. A deal to transfer ownership of its six health centers in Rochester area is awaiting state approval. Read more here.

DOCTOR RADIO — The Washington Post profiled Dennis Cardone and Joe Bosco, the hosts of "Sports Medicine" on SiriusXM's Doctor Radio.

ON THE MOVE — The New York State School Boards Association hired Caroline Bobick as a governmental relations representative.

MAKING ROUNDS — Dr. Roshni Rao, whose expertise is in the treatment of breast cancer that has spread to the areas surrounding the breast and metastatic breast cancer, has been appointed chief of the Breast Surgery Program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. Read more here.

ALSO MAKING ROUNDS — Laurel Pickering, the CEO of the Northeast Business Group on Health, is leaving after nearly 25 years to become chief revenue officer at WellDoc. Candice Sherman, COO of the NEBGH, has been named interim CEO.

ACROSS THE RIVER — Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified Tuesday that two things stuck out to her about an August 2012 meeting she had with Sen. Bob Menendez and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. One was that she couldn't recall Reid ever arranging a meeting with her and a member of Congress. The other was that she had never been called on to discuss an issue she said lower-ranking staff members would normally handle. The issue, as Sebelius understood it via briefings from her own staff, was Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen's overbilling of Medicare by nearly $9 million — money Melgen, now Menendez's co-defendant, was fighting to not have to pay beck. Read more from my New Jersey colleagues here.


THE MAGIC INGREDIENT — My mother says she cooks with it all the time. But according to the Food and Drug Administration, love is not an ingredient. Bloomberg has the story.

CHEAPER HEP C DRUGS — Kaiser Health News reports that a new, cheaper hepatitis C cure will make it easier for Medicaid and prisons to expand treatment.

SHIRE SUES ALLERGEN — The Wall Street Journal reports: "Shire PLC filed an antitrust suit against Allergan PLC, alleging Allergan's contracts with Medicare Part D drug plans for its Restasis eye drops effectively blocked access to Shire's rival drug."

AMID SHORTAGE CONCERNS, FDA IDENTIFIED 13 DRUGS PRODUCED ONLY IN PUERTO RICO Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the House E&C health subcommittee Tuesday that his agency is "very concerned" about 40 drugs made by companies on the hurricane-stricken island — including 13 that are only made on the island, POLITICO's Sarah Karlin-Smith reports.

— Drugs at risk for shortage: They include drugs for HIV and cancer. Some medicines also are very hard to manufacture, like injectable medicines and biologics.

— One big problem: Lack of electricity. Gottlieb, who saw the scale of the destruction when he traveled to Puerto Rico last week, warned that drug plants will be forced to rely on generators "that were not meant to operate for months and months on end." About 95 percent of the island's power grid is currently down.


RYAN WANTED TO KEEP PRICE — Speaker Paul Ryan last week urged the White House to reconsider ousting HHS Secretary Tom Price, his longtime friend who had come under fire for often using a taxpayer-funded private jet for travel, according to two people with knowledge of the call. Read more from my D.C. colleagues here.

PLIGHT OF RURAL HOSPITALS — POLITICO Magazine examines the problems rural hospitals are facing in light of Obamacare uncertainty, states that did not expand Medicaid and those patients who remain uninsured.

WHERE WAS THE RED CROSS? — "The Red Cross' anemic response to Hurricane Harvey left officials in several Texas counties seething, emails obtained by ProPublica show. In some cases, the Red Cross simply failed to show up as it promised it would."

HOUSE APPROVES ABORTION BAN — The House of Representatives approved a bill, H.R. 36 (115), banning most abortions after 20 weeks, a largely symbolic effort that's failed to gain traction in previous sessions of Congress.

TEXAS HOSPITALS FEELING THE STRAIN — Smart story from STAT: "More than a month after Harvey made landfall, administrators at the roughly two dozen hospitals that evacuated in the eastern part of the state have now reopened their doors to patients. But some may feel the financial burdens of the storm for months to come — both caring for more patients who can't afford treatment, while also seeing patients postpone the more lucrative elective surgeries that are many hospitals' moneymakers."

THANKS FOR YOUR DOLLAR — The Wall Street Journal reports: "Broadcast television networks and metro newspapers are about to get a boost from an unexpected but familiar source: Big Tobacco. ... Starting as soon as next month, Altria Group Inc. and British American Tobacco PLC will begin running court-mandated ads to put to rest a lawsuit brought nearly two decades ago by the U.S. Department of Justice over misleading statements the industry had made about cigarettes and their health effects."

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the state Department of Health: "If you love a fall fire in the fire pit, ignite it with newspaper or tinder versus gasoline or lighter fluid. Have a water source close by."


WORK TO BE DONE — Reuters reports: "Less than one in three U.S. hospitals can find, send, and receive electronic medical records for patients who receive care somewhere else, a new study suggests."

BENDING THE CURVE? — STAT reports: "A new analysis finds that from 2008 to 2014, hospital discharges for heroin poisoning jumped more than 31 percent each year, while discharges for prescription opioid poisonings fell about 5 percent annually."

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