Healthcare

Health care sector in New York seeks greater Medicaid boost

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have faced financial headwinds and severe staffing shortages in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to hike the Medicaid reimbursement rate for those facilities by 5%. But the need, lawmakers and health care sector officials argue, may be even greater.

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5 New York counties to receive substance abuse grants

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Six substance abuse use and prevention coalitions will be created in five counties in New York state under a $5.25 million plan announced Tuesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The money will be directed toward tackling addiction in New York and focus on "priority" populations, including people of color, veterans, older people and people with disabilities as well as those who have a history of incarceration.

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Hochul: Exempt medical malpractice in wrongful death expansion

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A proposed compromise by Gov. Kathy Hochul to exempt medical malpractice claims in a measure that is meant to expand New York's wrongful death statute was rejected by state lawmakers hours after it was floated.

Hochul made the 11th hour proposal to what has been a hotly contested measure that would allow someone to bring a wrongful death claim based on emotional suffering and anguish, which is a broader standard than the current requirement to show financial losses due to a loved one's death.

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New York nursing homes, unions seek Medicaid hike

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

An increase in funding from the state's health care program for low-income New Yorkers is needed in order to alleviate a severe staffing shortage, a consortium of non-profit facilities and labor unions on Monday urged.

The groups, including the powerful health care workers union 1199SEIU and Leading Age New York, which represents non-profit nursing homes, in a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul called for a 20% hike in Medicaid rates for nursing homes in the coming state budget.

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The 'New York Medical Aid in Dying Act' is back; so are its critics

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

It’s one of the toughest ethical questions any of us will have to answer. If a loved one faces a terminal diagnosis, should they have the option to take their own life?

For the eighth year in a row, the New York Medical Aid in Dying Act has been introduced in Albany, this time sponsored by the new Assembly Health Committee Chair Amy Paulin and Senate Judiciary Chair Brad Hoylman-Sigal.

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New York health officials move to expand wastewater monitoring

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Public health officials in New York are planning an expansion of infectious disease monitoring in wastewater in order to detect more illnesses that may be otherwise quietly spreading through a community.

The state Department of Health on Monday announced its plan through $21.6 million in funding, including a $6.6 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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New York starts spending opioid settle funds to expand addiction treatment

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York state is starting to dip into the more than $2 billion in money from nationwide settlements from opioid manufacturers and distributors to expand addiction treatment programs, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office on Friday announced.

The first grants will amount to $7.5 million in funding for providers and addiction treatment programs to create low-threshold buprenorphine services. The drug is an FDA-approved medication to treat addiction.

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Skyrocketing prescription drug costs lead New York lawmakers to weigh solutions

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New Yorkers pay some of the highest health care and prescription drug costs in the country. Annual health insurance premiums are far higher than the rest of the country, and the difference is getting bigger.

"It's a wider gap than it's ever been and it's getting wider," said Bill Hammond, a health policy researcher at the Empire Center.

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New York attorney general hosts mental health forum in Buffalo

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The signs were there.

Brendan Orr testified Wednesday he and his family were well aware of his sister Jennifer's mental health struggles, including her diagnosis as bipolar, texts and statements about her desire to take her own life, and an incident with a knife in September that required medical attention.

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AARP New York wants more funding for nursing homes, lower drug costs

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's federally required nursing home oversight program should receive a $15 million boost in funding and efforts to lower prescription drug costs for older people should be expanded, AARP New York on Wednesday urged in a report released by the group.

The group released its 2023 agenda that includes proposals to make it easier for people to access benefit programs and increase transparency for large drug makers. And the group wants higher wages for homes care workers while also boosting funding for in-home services for elderly people who are living in their own homes.

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Aid-in-dying supporters in New York have hope for measure

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Stacey Gibson's husband Sid died in 2014 after a long struggle with a rare and painful neurological disorder.

"He wanted very much to end his life, not because he wanted to die," she said. "This was a man who wanted to live, but his body betrayed him."

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Overdose deaths in New York continued to rise in 2021

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Deaths from opioid overdoses in New York continued to rise in 2021, growing by 14% compared to the prior year, according to data released Tuesday by the state Department of Health.

The new data, which also showed a corresponding rise in emergnecy room visits due to overdoses, is another sign of how widespread the problem of opioid addiction and the toll taken on communities.

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Doctors' group urges New York officials to address 'physician burnout'

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York officials are being urged by a top doctors' organization to address burnout among physicians amid broader health care shortages across the state.

The push from the Medical Society of the State of New York comes as hospitals and health care networks have been strained by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as the additional challenges this winter of a rise in flu and RSV cases around the state.

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New York's plan for aiding older people takes step forward

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A 28-member committee will provide input for policies meant to improve the lives of older people as they age in New York as a "master plan" takes shape, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday announced.

The policies to be developed by the panel are meant to draw in a variety of concerns from financial issues to health care needs for aging people.

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New York weighs opening the door to for-profit hospice

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

New York state Attorney General Tish James has filed lawsuits against several for-profit nursing homes, alleging that the owners neglected patients in order increase their personal profits, resulting in the inhumane treatment of residents.

For-profit hospices are now on the cusp of making in-roads in New York state.

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Hochul says more aid for hospitals is possible in state budget

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

As hospitals across New York are facing ongoing financial problems in the more than two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday said more aid is possible for them in the state budget due at the end of March.

But she added the networks may have to open their books.

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New York opioid settlement funds still unsettled when it comes to harm reduction

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

The New York Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board met in Albany on Wednesday in the wake of learning last week that OASAS, the Office of Addiction Services and Supports, rejected two of the board’s recommendations to fund harm reduction efforts under the Department of Health.

OASAS, under Commissioner Chinazo Cunningham, recently launched its own harm reduction unit.

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New York advocates: Long-term fixes needed to aid people with mental illness

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

It's a plan from New York City Mayor Eric Adams he says is meant to keep the streets safer and provide help for people who are struggling: Involuntary confinement and treatment of people with a mental illness.

But mental health advocates are pushing back on the involuntary confinement of people with mental illnesses, arguing that alternatives exist.

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Mental health advocates in New York want alternatives to commitment

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Mental health advocates are calling for alternatives to the involuntary confinement of people who are in a mental health crisis amid a broader legal challenge to the policy announced this month by New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

The Mental Health Association of New York State in a letter on Tuesday to Gov. Kathy Hochul and Adams called for community support for resources, better pay for caregivers and the opening of more general hospital beds.

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Hochul approves notification law for New York nursing homes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Residential care facilities in New York will be required to notify residents and their families when an infection is confirmed in the facility under legislation approved Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The new law will also require nursing homes in the state to have a plan to aid exposed or infected residents.

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New York health officials urge caution with 'tridemic'

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Public health officials in New York are urging people to take precautions this winter amid a "tridemic" of illnesses: COVID-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV.

Those precautions include many of the suggestions that have been issued even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of every flu season: Wash your hands, sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm and stay home if you are sick.

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Next New York health commissioner will face familiar challenges

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Dr. Mary Bassett is stepping down as New York's health commissioner after a year leading a complex, sprawling public health bureaucracy and as the most prominent member of Gov. Kathy Hochul's cabinet.

Who the governor nominates to succeed Bassett in the role makes for one of the key decisions facing her as she prepares to begin a four-year term on Jan. 1.

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Schumer calls on DHS to assist hospitals overwhelmed with RSV

BY Ryan Whalen Warsaw

WARSAW, N.Y. -- Respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, is not typically dangerous for adults but can be much more serious for young children.

"The good news is RSV is very treatable. If you get the right treatment, the odds of returning to safe, healthy childhood with no permanent damage is extremely high, but you've got to get people the materials they need," U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday.

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New York Health Commissioner Mary Bassett to resign

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett will resign on Jan. 1, marking a departure of the highest-profile member of Gov. Kathy Hochul's cabinet before she starts her new four-year term.

In a statement, Bassett said she plans to return to the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

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New York lawmakers weigh how to strengthen mental health services on college campuses

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The upheaval of the last two and a half years have added to the anxieties of college students — already facing a stressful time as they leave home and take their first steps into adulthood.

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a light on the long-term effects of isolation and uncertainty. And it's made access to on-campus services at colleges vital for mental health.

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Why advocates want more oversight at New York nursing homes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Advocates for older and vulnerable New Yorkers say more funding is needed for an oversight program at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

More than half of the nursing homes and long-term care facilities in New York have not received a visit from a member of the state's ombudsman program so far this year. It's a problem the needs to be addressed, said Bill Ferris, the legislative representative for AARP New York.

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New York officials warn public of respiratory illnesses

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Public health officials in New York have launched a new campaign this week to warn the public the cold and flu season may be an especially difficult one this winter amid the spread of COVID-19 and the circulation of the respiratory syncytial virus.

The awareness campaign features New York Health Commissioner Mary Bassett discussing all three viruses and the need to receive a seasonal flu shot as well as a COVID-bivalent booster for those eligible. The viruses pose a challenge, in part, due to having similar symptoms and the potential to cause serious illness.

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Hochul gets flu shot, urges New Yorkers to guard against viruses

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul received her seasonal flu shot on Wednesday and urged New Yorkers to prepare for the colder weather months by guarding against respiratory virus infections.

The push from Hochul for both seasonal flu and COVID-19 vaccine booster shots comes as the pandemic has continued on into the fall and many guidelines put in place meant to limit the spread of the virus have been scaled back.

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Proposal would waive license fees for nurses in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill announced Wednesday by Democratic state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara would waive fees to obtain or renew a nurses licenses in New York for the next two years.

The measure is meant to address a staffing shortage in the health care sector, which has been especially acute in upstate communities.

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Hochul: $30M going to 400 child care programs

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York is awarding $30 million in aid to 400 state-licensed child care programs located in areas that are considered under served in the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office on Friday announced.

The money is part of a broader plan by the governor to expand child care offerings in New York, a move that has been meant to fill holes in child care safety nets as well as encourage people to be able to go back to work.

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NY Health officials launch video contest for raising monkeypox awareness

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York health officials are holding a contest for people ages 18 to 26 to make their own social media videos in order to raise awareness of monkeypox and how to prevent its spread.

The video contest is meant to be aimed at raising awareness among college-age New Yorkers and comes as public health officials have sought to curtail the virus in recent months.

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Overdose deaths continue to rise in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Overdose deaths in New York state rose 14% in 2021 compared to the previous year, a report released Monday by the state Department of Health found.

The data released as part of a quarterly update from public health officials on opioid usage and deaths in the state comes as New York has continued to grapple with a sharp rise in overdose fatalities in recent years. The increase has coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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New York AG to police: Uphold state's abortion laws and protections

BY Kate Lisa New York State

New York state Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter to all levels of law enforcement Friday about the state's abortion laws — some of the most robust in protecting access to abortion in the nation.

James sent the letter to district attorneys, county sheriffs, local police departments and other police across the state to reiterate abortion rights will remain protected in New York, and guidance about how to enforce those statutes. New York also serves people from other states seeking abortions or related procedures, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization this summer, which overturned the Roe v. Wade ruling that protected abortion rights nationwide.

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New law aimed at supporting breast cancer recovery

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A new law signed Friday by Gov. Kathy Hochul is meant to aid breast cancer survivors who choose reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy or partial mastectomy.

The measure is meant to ensure these cancer survivors have proper insurance, and comes as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is being observed.

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NY health officials say 'repeated' samples of polio found in wastewater

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Ongoing monitoring of wastewater in the New York City metropolitan area has found repeated evidence of poliovirus in sewage, the state Department of Health on Tuesday announced.

The most recent wastewater test results drew samples from Brooklyn and Queens and found polio genetically linked to a case previously found in Rockland County.

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Hundreds sign petition urging Hochul to sign Dyslexia Task Force Act

BY Kate Lisa New York State

More than 700 people have signed an online petition pushing Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign legislation to evaluate the state's dyslexia screening and intervention standards, and help improve New York literacy rates.

The Dyslexia Task Force Act would establish a 10-person expert panel to recommend the best practices to diagnose and help students with learning disorders like dyslexia and dysgraphia.

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Health officials fret COVID-19 and flu could complicate winter

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Public health officials and experts are closely watching flu and COVID-19 cases this season as the cold-weather months set in.

At the same time, they're encouraging eligible New Yorkers to get their flu shots and COVID-19 boosters to limit the chances of both illnesses overwhelming brittle hospital systems that have bended during the pandemic.

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New York Medicaid program recovered and saved $3.2B

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

More than $3 billion was either saved or recovered through efforts to curtail waste and fraud in the state's Medicaid program last year, Acting Medicaid Inspector General Frank Walsh on Monday said.

Provider audits and investigations found $714 million in savings, Walsh said. Efforts to avoid unnecessary costs such as inappropriate billings resulted in more than $2.4 billion in savings. All told, the last four years have found a combined $11.8 billion in cost-saving efforts and recoveries of funds.

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Advocates urge New York to reverse prescription drug move

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A coalition of health care advocacy organizations this week is making a renewed push to reverse a prescription drug change they worry will be harmful to low-income New Yorkers who rely on the Medicaid program.

At issue has been the years-long battle over a pharmacy benefit "carveout" under the program meant to save money under the costly health care program.

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New York lawmakers urge Congress to extend health care subsidies

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Twenty members of the state Senate in a letter to New York's congressional delegation pushed for an extension of health care subsidies under the federal COVID relief package set to expire at the end of the year.

If the subsidies lapse, New York officials fear tens of thousands of people in New York would either lose health care coverage or face steep increases in cost.

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Alzheimer’s disease: Did your loved ones show signs during the holidays?

BY Lupe Zapata Dallas

DALLAS — The 2021 holiday season presented an important opportunity for many families to gather for the first time since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. It also allowed many to witness the early signs of Alzheimer’s from their elderly loved ones for the first time.

In a typical year, the holidays are the only time many families get the chance to gather together. With 2020 being anything but normal, it’s estimated that 1 in 9 Americans spent the December holidays by themselves, self-isolating, and just about half of Americans, 48 percent, spent the December holidays with only members of their household.

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Gillibrand calls for funding to combat postpartum depression

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The federal government should increase funding for a maternal mental health hotline that is meant to address postpartum depression in new mothers, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday.

Gillibrand is seeking a $2 million increase in funding for the program, part of the Health Resrouces and Service Administration. The hotline was first put in place earlier this yar to provide 24-hour emergency contact for mothers and families who are struggling.

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Union says more mental health treatment options needed

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's largest public workers union on Monday called for expanded treatment options for mental health services as public health advocates worry anxiety and depression are on the rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Civil Service Employees Association is making the push as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, but also weeks after lawmakers approved a $212 billion state budget that reduced the number of state-operated treatment beds in New York, a move the union opposed.

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Lawmakers want parity for mental and physical health in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers want mental health placed on equal footing with physical health in New York — and are seeking a constitutional amendment to do so.

Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, Sen John Mannion and Assemblywoman Didi Barrett on Wednesday proposed a constitutional amendment that would seek to raise the profile of mental health needs in New York.

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Single-payer health care measure advances

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that would pave the way for a single-payer health care system in New York cleared the Assembly Health Comittee on Monday as its supporters argue the measure is needed following the COVID-19 pandemic exposing deep flaws in the current system.

Opponents, however, continued to argue on Monday the bill would be ruinous for the state's finances as well as for employment in the health care sector.

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Why a Lawmaker Wants More Oversight for Nursing Homes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The state comptroller's office should be empowered to conduct a thorough audit of New York's nursing home policies and regulations in order to give a full accounting of the problems the facilities faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Sen. Sue Serino on Wednesday proposed.

The proposal comes as state lawmakers are considering a variety of nursing home-related measures this week and as the Legislature moved to fully repeal immunity provisions first put in place last year for the facilities that shielded them from lawsuits

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Health and Community Groups Back Cigarette Tax Hike for New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A coalition of dozens of health and community organizations in New York backed a push for a $1-per-pack increase in the state's cigarette tax.

The groups this month released a letter to top state lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled state Senate and Assembly calling for the tax increase as a public health benefit, as well as a way of raising revenue.

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Rochester Advocates Push for the New York Health Act

BY Lowell Rose Rochester
UPDATED 10:31 PM ET Mar. 05, 2021

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — After years of trying to get the New York Health Act passed in the state legislature, advocates are pushing again.

“Insurance should not be an issue between life or death, between having a limb or not having a limb, we have to fix this,” Rev. Myra Brown, pastor of Spiritus Christi Church.

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Bill Would Address "Deserts" in Health Care Coverage

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Two state lawmakers in New York want to address health care "deserts" -- gaps in coverage that can make it harder for people to get the care they need.

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Sen. Michelle Hinchey on Thursday announced the bill to address the issue, requiring the state Department of Health to compile a list of policy-based exclusions from each general hospital and have it published.

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New York Moves to Restore Some Funding for Disability Service Providers

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Last year the state moved to cut spending amid a $1.2 billion decline in revenue, leading to steep reductions in aid for programs that provide services to people with developmental disabilities.

But on Wednesday, the state moved to restore what had amounted to a 20% withholding of funds first imposed last year amid the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities announced in a memo. But permanent cuts of 5% are still on the horizon for providers and much of their budgets will be shaped by what New York receives in federal aid over the next several weeks.

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What to Watch for in Today's Health Committee Hearing

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

In any other year, the joint legislative budget hearing on healthcare scheduled for Thursday would have been a typical event, featuring a line-up of experts and stakeholders discussing an alphabet soup of acronyms and Medicaid numbers.

Instead, with the state’s Health Department at the nexus of the Cuomo administration’s nursing home scandal, the hearing is expected to focus more on Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and his role in delaying nursing home data requested by lawmakers.

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Church Groups Oppose Prescription Drug Change

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Dozens of community churches from around New York this week in a letter raised concerns with a proposal to change how prescription drugs are purchased in the Medicaid program which advocates fear could drive up the cost of medications used to treatment ailments like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

Known as a prescription drug carve out, the move is meant to save $87 million and help streamline the Medicaid program, taking in part recommendations of a panel meant to reduce the cost of one of most expensive safety net programs in the program.

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Health Department Releases More Nursing Home Data

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

On Wednesday night, the New York State Health Department fulfilled in part the terms of a lawsuit won by the Empire Center, a conservative-leaning think tank, and released more detailed information on COVID-19 related nursing home resident deaths.

State Health Department officials confirm that 15,049 residents died while either in nursing homes, adult care facilities, and assisted living facilities across the state or outside of them during the pandemic.

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Key Health Care Union Launches Ad Campaign in Hopes of Spurring Changes at Nursing Homes

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

The largest health care union in the country announced it will be launching a multi-million dollar campaign to push for changes in New York’s nursing home industry.

Citing the New York Attorney General’s report that showed facilities with fewer staff had a higher rate of COVID-19 deaths, 1199SEIU officials say they are supporting legislation that will remove liability protections for nursing home owners and increase staffing levels at facilties.

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More than 40 Lawmakers Oppose Medicaid Prescription Drug Change

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Opposition in the state Legislature is growing to changes to how prescription drugs are paid for in the state's Medicaid program, with more than 40 lawmakers backing a letter to reverse the policy.

At issue is the state's plan to "carve out" Medicaid prescription drugs that advocates and lawmakers worry will hurt safety net providers that participate in what's known as the 340B program.

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New York Extends Open Enrollment for Health Care Marketplace

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The open enrollment period for applying for coverage in the state's health marketplace has been extended to March 31, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said.

The governor's office said this was in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has been resurgent this winter.

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Failure to Thrive: Experts Say Social Isolation Likely Contributing to Elderly Deaths

BY Cait McVey Florida

The elderly, particularly those in long-term care, have proven extremely vulnerable throughout the pandemic. But experts say well-intentioned measures to keep them safe are also taking a toll.

John Thombleson was an Army vet and an FSU graduate who spent more than 30 years as a principal in the Duval County School District. But, most importantly, his daughter tells Spectrum News he was a wonderful father.

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Brindisi Calls on DOJ to End Support of Lawsuit That Could "Gut" Affordable Care Act

BY Spectrum News Staff Central NY

U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi expressed concern Wednesday about a pending Supreme Court case that he says could end health protections for many people. The case, California v. Texas, addresses the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in light of provisions included in the 2017 tax cut bill signed into law by President Trump.

Brindisi wants the Department of Justice to end its support for the lawsuit as he says it could “gut” the Affordable Care Act.

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New York Launches Pandemic Pregnancy Task Force

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration on Monday launched a task force to examine best practices for pregnant women during this pandemic.

Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top aide, and the New York Sate Council on Women and Girls created a COVID-19 maternity task force that will look at authorizing and certifying birthing centers as an alternative to going to a hospital.

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Will a Ban Actually End Virginity Testing?

BY Spectrum News NY1 New York City

State Senator Roxanne Persaud is sponsoring the bill to ban Virginity Testing in the Senate. She, too, was outraged by the T.I. incident, and has been working alongside Assembly Member Solages to have the practice outlawed. She’ll talk about why she believes it is so important in the age of #MeToo to protect women from having to take these tests, and she’ll talk about working to get other legislators to sign on to the bill, an effort that’s been very successful, she says, so far. She’ll also speak to why she agrees doctors need to be the focus of the bill, and how the medical community should be responsible for its front-line enforcement. And she’ll say why she believes, even though young women may be forced to find other means of having the testing done, step one needs to be stopping the medical community from performing virginity tests.

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The Bill to Ban Virginity Testing

BY Spectrum News NY1 New York City

Assembly Member Michaelle Solages was so incensed by the T.I. story, she immediately began working on legislation to make Virginity Testing illegal in New York State. Her bill would impose harsh penalties on any doctor in the state who performs virginity tests, including losing their licenses and possible prison time. It would also make tests done by people who are not medical professionals illegal, and those people would face charges of sexual abuse. The legislation, which actually amends existing public health law, would not allow virginity testing, even at the patient’s request. She’ll tell us why she believes putting doctors at the sharp end of this is the best way to halt the practice, and she’ll share the stories she’s heard from women who have been forced to go through virginity tests and lived with the humiliation for the rest of their lives.

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Outrage Over Virginity Testing

BY Spectrum News NY1 New York City

For reasons no one can fathom, the rapper T.I. announced on a podcast last November that he brings his daughter to the doctor every year for a virginity test. Then, he gleefully shared the results of her latest test. That series of statements sparked outrage among women’s rights advocates and pretty much women in general. Part of that outrage stemmed from the fact that not a lot of people knew Virginity Testing was a thing. Those who did thought it was something that happened in far-off lands and in “other cultures." In truth, it happens right here, a lot. A 2016 report showed that one in 10 gynecologists had been asked to perform virginity tests on patients. The tests have been described as “intrusive” and “barbaric,” and organizations like the World Health Organization, the United Nations and U.N.Women have demanded they be stopped. But how do you change cultural rituals that have been around for, in some cases, thousands of years. Lori Sokol and Nayaba Arinde have been fighting for women’s rights for a very long time. They join In Focus to talk about why this is wrong on so many levels. Dr. Deborah Ottenheimer is a woman’s health professional who has been asked by her patients to do virginity tests. She’ll explain why, even though she knows they are meaningless and even though she knows the practice is wrong, she will do them when asked by the patient, though not the more intrusive tests.

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Lawmakers, Advocates Want 3-Digit Suicide Hotline

BY Morgan McKay New York State

A bill that would create a three digit suicide hotline number was introduced in both the Senate and Assembly.

By changing the number to three digits, similar to 911, it could change how people view thoughts of suicide and treat it as an emergency, said Sen. David Carlucci, one of the sponsors of the measure.

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Drug Costs Remain An Issue For Older New Yorkers

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Nearly one in four New Yorkers over the age of 50 skipped taking their prescription medications in the last two years. The main reason? Cost.

More than 80 percent of those polled by AARP, including Republicans, Democrats and Independents, said that the government is not doing enough to combat high prescription drug prices.

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Health Officials Extend Vaping Products Ban Amid Legal Challenge

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A panel at the state Department of Health on Thursday moved to extend the state’s ban on flavored vaping products as it faces a legal challenge from an industry group.

The ban, first approved in September, was set to expire this weekend after a 90 day clock wound down. Enforcement of the ban itself has been delayed by a court order amid the lawsuit from the Vaping Association.

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