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POLITICO New York Health Care: CVS-Aetna deal draws heat -- ACA rates soar -- NYU Langone provides sneak peek

By Amanda Eisenberg and Nick Niedzwiadek | 06/05/2018 10:00 AM EDT

GETTING GRILLED — Representatives of CVS Health and Aetna were grilled for more than two hours Monday by Assembly Democrats skeptical of their proposed $69 billion deal, which, if approved, would blur the lines between the health insurance and pharmacy businesses. In addition to the 563 drugstores CVS operates in New York, the company also controls roughly 40 percent of the state's pharmacy benefit management business. Lawmakers, independent pharmacists and consumer advocates have expressed concern that these megadeals will reduce patient choice and give the resulting companies a dominant share of the market — thereby exacerbating the costs of health care. More from Nick here.

— On notice: Assembly Insurance Chairman Kevin Cahill was visibly frustrated that DOH, DFS and the AG's office — which are reviewing the deal — would not participate in the hearing and between witnesses he made a point of asking if any representatives of the three had wandered in. "Their absence and their continued lack of proactivity in this regard has been noted," he said.

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MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW Nick @NickNiedz and Amanda @aeis17 on Twitter.

RATE REQUESTS — New York State health insurers are seeking an average 24 percent premium increase for 2019, among the steepest proposed rate hikes seen so far. The increase in New York, which accounts for plans that sell both on and off the Obamacare exchange, is double what it would have been had Congress not repealed the individual mandate, according to the state Department of Financial Services, which is responsible for approving or changing insurers' requests.

— Fidelis Care, the not-for-profit that was recently acquired by Centene Corp., is asking for 38.6 percent hike in its average premium, the largest request of any insurer in the state. Fidelis has captured 41 percent of the state's individual market. Read more from Dan Goldberg here.

— The New York Health Plan Association, which represents insurers, also attributed the spike to rising pharmaceutical costs and provider consolidation. HPA also urged lawmakers to "avoid imposing new mandated benefits or restricting the use of health plan tools designed to contain health care costs and instead consider measures that will help to stabilize the market to provide relief to consumers," the organization said in a statement.

NOW WE KNOW — Your partner may be deleting unread emails while you sleep, at least if you're with someone who hates those red notifications on your phone, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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 aeisenberg@politico.com or nniedzwiadek@politico.com.

ACROSS THE RIVER — Lawmakers on Monday began discussing legislation that would expunge the criminal records of people convicted of possessing marijuana, an issue that's likely to play a major role in the debate over whether to legalize recreational pot. POLITICO's Katherine Landergan has more here.

— Here in New York, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie recently voiced similar concerns.

OPENING CEREMONY — NYU Langone gave us a sneak peek into its Kimmel Pavilion and Hassenfeld Children's Hospital. See the new space and check out some of Amanda's highlights on Twitter here.

NY HEALTH ACT — A poll commissioned on behalf of the Business Council of New York State found that 54 percent of those surveyed opposed a single-payer health care system, compared to 33 percent in favor. However, the same poll found broad support for expanding access to Medicaid and Medicare managed care plans and increasing financial subsidies to purchase private insurance. The polling firm released a research memo but not the underlying data or questions.

X MARKS THE SPOT — The Associated Press reports: "People born in New York City who do not identify their gender as either male or female would have the option of choosing a third category for their birth certificates under a new proposal."

NYSNA — The nurses union is launching a $1 million ad campaign pushing for the Legislature to pass its "safe-staffing" bill before the June 20 end of session. Read more here.

SIFS — The New York Daily News reports: "Actress Cynthia Nixon, who is running for governor in the Democratic primary against Gov. Cuomo, came out Monday in support of a pilot program to allow supervised drug injection sites for addicts."

SUNY UPSTATE — Danielle Laraque-Arena, Upstate Medical University's president, chalked up the school's recent string of embarrassing scandals to "growing pains" and said the changes she's made since assuming the position two years ago will pay off. Read more here.

STOP SMOKING — The New York City health department unveiled an anti-tobacco media campaign targeting Chinese men. Nearly one in four Asian men in the city use tobacco, considerably higher than the rates for other racial and ethnic groups. The campaign will include both Mandarin and Cantonese materials.

BRAND NEW — Weill Cornell Medicine has expanded its Division of Emergency Medicine into a comprehensive department, which opens July 1.

MAKING ROUNDS — Dr. Jordan Orange, who will serve as pediatrician-in-chief at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital at NewYork-Presbyterian, has joined Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons as Reuben S. Carpentier Professor and Chair of Department of Pediatrics.

PHARMA REPORT:

FDA MADNESS — The FDA is taking steps to streamline the approval process for cancer drugs, along with the review of manufacturing processes for gene therapies and cell-based products, according to Reuters. Read more here.

... The FDA wants to make it easier for pre-teens and teens, ages 12 to 17, to join adult oncology trials in specific instances, according to Bloomberg Law. Read more here.

... It also approved Mylan GmbH-made Fulphila, the first biosimilar to Neulasta, a bone marrow stimulant. Read the release here.

NEGATIVE CORRELATION — POLITICO's David Pittman reports: Spending in Medicare's prescription drug benefit increased 77 percent between 2011 and 2015 despite a drop in the number of prescriptions, a new government watchdog report found. Costs for almost half of brand-name drugs in Part D increased more than 50 percent, and they doubled for 1 in 8 drugs during that time, according to the HHS inspector general report.

WHAT WE'RE READING:

NEW TOY FOR COPS — A bipartisan bill in Ohio will fund police officers with $35,000 devices to detect whether a substance is fentanyl or another illegal drug, according to ABC 6. The bill would allocate roughly $20 million to pay for the TV remote-sized devices Read more here.

DON'T DO THAT — A former Army reservist did not receive medical attention in time and died because the medical staff at Tuscaloosa County Jail believed he was faking, according to NBC News. Read more here.

AN APP FOR THAT — Apple released its Health Records API for developers and researchers to create a suite of health care apps. Read more here.

GREEN AND CLEAN — Beauty retailer Sephora developed its own seal, Clean at Sephora, to help customers identify products free of certain chemicals, according to Allure. Read more here.

TODAY'S TIP — Comes from the #HandsOnlyCPR campaign, which reminds New Yorkers to perform CPR at a rate of 100/120 beats per minute. Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia, Justin Timberlake's Rock Your Body, and Robyn's Hang With Me all fit the bill.

STUDY THIS:

HOOKED ON MORE THAN HEROIN — High schoolers using heroin 10 to 39 times in the past month were most likely to use about five other drugs, according to a new study from NYU Meyers College of Nursing.

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