PROGRAMMING NOTE: We’ll be off for Thanksgiving this Thursday and Friday but back to our normal schedule on Monday, Nov. 27.
‘A BELLWETHER’ — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is proposing to make her state the first in the nation to require hospitals to adopt minimum cybersecurity standards — and plans $500 million to back her plan.
The Democrat’s administration wants hospitals to establish a cyberdefense program, take up defensive infrastructure, craft plans for potential attacks and test their plans. Hospitals could take advantage of the $500 million to boost their defenses.
“If it goes through, it would act as a bellwether for other states,” Carter Groome, CEO of health care risk management consulting firm First Health Advisory, told Pulse. “I’d watch California and Massachusetts to make similar moves.”
Cyberattacks threaten patients’ data and put lives at risk when care is disrupted. Hochul’s effort comes after a cyberattack at two hospitals in the state last month that forced them to divert patients to other facilities.
Since the beginning of 2022, millions of New Yorkers have had their health data breached, according to a POLITICO analysis of HHS data. Across the country, health data breaches have exploded this year, on pace to double last year’s total, as health care undergoes a digital transformation.
The reaction: Cyber groups see Hochul’s proposal as a significant step, but are calling for changes in her plan.
Mari Savickis, vice president for public policy at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, told Pulse the proposal’s grant opportunities are crucial. But she said requiring hospitals to report incidents within two hours, as called for in Hochul’s plan, isn’t feasible and would put patients at risk. Savickis would like to see the state expand the regulations to other providers, including long-term post-acute care facilities.
Dr. Tina Shah, AI firm Abridge’s chief clinical officer and former adviser to the U.S. surgeon general, said the plan needs to be implemented in a way that doesn’t cause undue burden on clinicians.
Proposals for the proposal: Savickis fears that a patchwork of state laws could make compliance more difficult.
And Lee Kim, senior principal of cybersecurity and privacy at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, said the proposal could do more to address cybersecurity training for cyber professionals.
What’s next: The state is taking comments on the plan through Feb. 5. Separately, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is crafting federal legislation that could set minimum national cyber standards.
TODAY ON OUR PULSE CHECK PODCAST, host Kelly Hooper talks with POLITICO health care reporter Chelsea Cirruzzo about the CDC’s plan to distribute to providers additional doses of a shot protecting infants from severe RSV amid shortages.
FIRST LADY, MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE DIES — Former first lady Rosalynn Carter died on Sunday, the Carter Center announced.
Her family said last week that Carter, 96, had entered hospice care. Her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, has been in hospice care since February.
Rosalynn Carter was credited with expanding the role of the first lady, becoming a trusted adviser, POLITICO’s David Cohen reports. She was a strong advocate of mental health care when the issue was more stigmatized than it is today, serving as an honorary member of the President’s Commission on Mental Health and lobbying for the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980.
“She leaves a legacy,” said historian E. Stanly Godbold, author of “Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: A Biography,” “of improved care for the mentally ill, help for the vulnerable in American society … and the advancement of human rights around the globe.”
WORRIED ABOUT RESPIRATORY VIRUSES — More than a third of Americans are worried that they or a family member will get the flu, Covid-19 or respiratory syncytial virus in the next three months, according to a survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, Chelsea reports.
Why it matters: The CDC forecasts a moderate Covid-19 wave, causing as many hospitalizations as last winter’s peak, and a flu and RSV season in line with normal seasonal patterns before the pandemic.
While shots are available for all three viruses, the RSV shot for infants has faced shortages and most Americans, particularly white adults, aren’t interested in the updated Covid shot. As of Nov. 4, about 35 percent of adults have gotten their flu shots, according to the CDC.
According to the Annenberg survey of 1,500 adults, 35 percent of Americans worry about RSV, 35 percent worry about Covid and 39 percent worry about the flu.
The survey found no consensus among respondents as to which virus is more likely to cause severe disease. It also found that Americans are generally more knowledgeable about RSV this year than last, coming after officials approved shots for babies, pregnant people, and adults 60 and older to prevent severe disease.
A FENTANYL DEAL — President Joe Biden’s administration is lifting sanctions on a Chinese government institute that the Commerce Department said three years ago was “complicit in human rights violations” against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups, POLITICO’s Carmen Paun reports.
In exchange, the Chinese government has warned companies to stop making chemicals used in illicit fentanyl, which is killing tens of thousands of Americans a year. Government officials and experts say China’s cooperation is key to stopping the flow of the drug into the U.S.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that a similar Chinese government notice in 2019 resulted in a “drastic reduction” in seized fentanyl headed to the U.S.
The sanctions relief means U.S. companies may again sell technology to the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science.
When the Commerce Department imposed the sanctions in May 2020, it said the institute had contributed to “abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression … against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”
ANOTHER FTC MERGER BLOCK ATTEMPT — The Federal Trade Commission is again trying to stop a hospital merger, this time in California, saying it would stifle competition and raise patients’ costs.
The FTC on Friday sued to block San Francisco Bay Area hospital group John Muir Health’s proposed $142.5 million purchase of nearby San Ramon Regional Medical Center. The agency said it would allow John Muir to “demand higher rates … for inpatient general acute care services.”
Under chair Lina Khan, the FTC has taken an aggressive posture against hospital mergers, which has drawn pushback from groups including the American Hospital Association. The agency has successfully blocked several mergers.
John Muir said in a release that it is weighing its options. AHA and other hospital groups successfully challenged an FTC attempt to block a Louisiana deal, getting a favorable federal court ruling in September.
BIDEN’S SDOH PLAN — The White House released a “playbook” to take on social determinants of health, focusing on expanding data collection, making funding more flexible and supporting “backbone” community organizations.
In a report Friday, the White House said it sees “a future where one’s social circumstances do not predetermine one’s health outcomes.”
It called for Congress to standardize data collection and boost Medicare coverage of nutrition counseling, among other requests.
The push to address the determinants has growing bipartisan backing on the Hill, though it has more Democratic support.
POLITICO’s Lauren Gardner reports that independent advisers to the FDA voted overwhelmingly that a proposed chronic cough drug doesn’t substantially improve the condition.
Modern Healthcare reports on OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s ouster. Altman has supported ChatGPT in medicine.
STAT reports on CRISPR’s pioneers reflecting on the U.K.’s approval of the first CRISPR treatment.