Weekly Dose of Health News

In this week’s summary, you’ll find info on programs offering free or low-cost prescription drugs, a report that says NY is lacking in providing preventive care, new clinical trials focused on Alzheimer’s, and more!

State Health News

On Monday, Crain’s reported that Dr. Howard Zucker has been named to a new position in the New York State Department of Health.  He will serve as First Deputy Commissioner of Health and will be responsible for natural disaster and emergency preparedness, as well as New York City-related issues, where he will be based.

The Times Union reports on a new report by The Commonwealth Fund that looks at improving health care to low-income populations.  While New Yorkers enjoy better longevity and lower out-of-pocket medical costs when compared to residents in other states, it ranks in the bottom half in providing preventive care, treatment and avoidable hospital admissions.  New York’s system is described as fragmented, particularly downstate and with a high reliance on specialty care.

Affordable Care Act/Health Insurance Exchanges

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $67 million in new funding for health care centers, which includes $19 from Obamacare.  The funds are to support 32 new health center sites to increase access to preventive and primary care.  Some portion of the funds will also be used to improve existing health care centers.

Health Affairs writes that health care spending will continue its current slow pace until the new health care law kicks in and the economy improves.  Health care spending will grow, beginning in 2014, from 4% to 6.2% per year thereafter.  A Reuters story on the study explains that spending growth may be attributable to downward projections on the numbers of people who will obtain coverage under the new law next year.

Free or Low Cost Drug Prescription Programs

Dr. Oz discussed access to free prescription drugs and health screenings during a recent show.  His guests provided advice on seeking free health screenings at county fairs, local pharmacies and big box stores.  Free prescription drug assistance is also available to individuals, often with generous income guidelines.  Drug manufacturers give away approximately $200 million in free prescription drugs each year.  The article provides links to various programs.


The Wall St. Journal reports that the Cuomo Administration is using state Medicaid savings to build housing for Medicaid recipients.  The new housing will be built in Manhattan, Bronx, Monroe, Broome, Erie and Suffolk counties as well as the Finger Lakes region.  The housing is designed to provide safe and stable environments for individuals and families, which is recognized as a key component to improving health status.  $47 million will be spent in the first phase to build 12 new units.  The housing will come with rent subsidies.


A $33 million grant was announced this week to fund clinical trials to discover treatments to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  This is the largest federal grant ever and is designated for drug testing on healthy people at greatest risk of developing the disease.  New science has allowed for the identification of people most at risk.  Drugs in trials thus far have been found ineffective for people who already show signs of dementia.

Kaiser Health News reports that the number of Americans who are uninsured remained virtually the same in 2012 as in 2011, according to recent Census Bureau figures.  In 2011, 15.7% or 48.6 million lacked health insurance coverage.  In 2013, 15.4% or 48 million lacked coverage, which is statistically the same as the year before.  The uninsured rate for children in poverty was higher than for children not living in poverty.  New York’s uninsured rate is at 11.7%, or 2.3 million people.

-Jaime Venditti, 9/20/13