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About Medical Society of New Jersey

MSNJ advocates for the rights of patients and physicians alike, for the delivery of the highest quality medical care.

Medical Society of New Jersey Headquarter Location

2 Princess Road

Lawrenceville, New Jersey, 08648,

United States

Latest Medical Society of New Jersey News

As NJ voters say yes on recreational marijuana, health experts remain cautious

Nov 5, 2020

Even though New Jersey physicians voiced their concerns about legalizing recreational marijuana in the lead-up to Election Day, the state's voters ultimately approved doing so. Now medical professionals have turned their attention to the potential impact on public health, including in New York and the other nearby states that may follow suit. The Medical Society of New Jersey and physicians in general opposes the sale of marijuana to the public, said Larry Downs, CEO of the group. The organization developed a public health framework in 2018 that detailed its opposition to legalization but also put forth recommendations for policymakers in the event that it occurred. Some of the guidelines include earmarking tax revenues from cannabis sales for research and public health education and enforcing laws so that people do not drive while intoxicated by marijuana, Downs said. "Particularly, psychiatrists and pediatricians in our society had urged … that if you're going to legalize marijuana, it should be for people 25 and older." Downs said the medical society has shared its framework with state policymakers and plans to continue to do so now that there is a constitutional amendment for legalizing recreational marijuana and there will need to be legislation to implement doing so. In New York, the governor's office previously announced that the legalization of recreational marijuana would be part of the state's 2021 budget proposal. It had been included in this year's budget proposal, but attention turned away once the Covid-19 crisis struck. The vote in neighboring New Jersey could add fuel to the effort, especially with the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues at a time when New York faces a multibillion-dollar budget deficit as a result of the pandemic. "The more states within our region that legalize recreational marijuana, likely the more pressure there will be on New York to legalize marijuana, and the more that will make its way into New York," said Dr. Bonnie Litvack, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York. "Our concerns are that the public health effects of cannabis will likely outweigh any revenues the state secures by legalizing recreational marijuana." Litvack said there needs to be more research and more controls rather than legalization. There are even more concerns during the current public health crisis. "In the middle of a pandemic, this is really not something we want to be encouraging," she said. Smoking and vaping put people at higher risk of severe outcomes if they contract Covid-19, she said, and the threat of addiction is a greater consideration during a crisis that has added new stresses. Litvack and Downs aren't alone in their trepidation. Their respective medical societies joined with those of Delaware, Ohio and Pennsylvania in issuing a joint statement Oct. 30 to express ongoing concerns about state governments' efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use. "We are very concerned that the long-term public health costs associated with hospitalizations and treatment for psychiatric and addictive disorders could significantly outweigh any revenues that these states anticipate would be received from the legalization of cannabis," the medical societies said at the time. The societies said that better steps for states would include removing criminal sanctions for possession of small amounts of marijuana and ensuring the availability of treatment for addiction. Magdalena Cerdá, associate professor and director of the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health, said the main question should be how to legalize recreational marijuana to achieve the best outcomes. "We've learned with tobacco, for example, that stricter regulations helped in terms of bringing down rates of use and addiction," Cerdá said. "My concern is that we're not really seeing that same discussion with marijuana." There needs to be an investment in research and data, including on the health effects associated with high potency products, she said. There also should be investment in treatment for cannabis-use disorder and the prevention of initiation of use, particularly among kids. The New Jersey Department of Health declined to provide comment. The New York State Department of Health did not immediately return a request for comment. New York has held that legalizing marijuana for recreational use would yield hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues, and the benefits of doing so outweigh any potential negative effects. "Right now our priority is Covid-19 and getting through the pandemic, but anything that adds to the effects of the stress on the public and on our public health system is something that we need to pay attention to," Litvack said. —Jennifer Henderson   Fewer physicians receiving drug industry payments: Mount Sinai study The number of physicians accepting payments from the drug and medical device industry decreased after the federal reporting program Open Payments was established in 2013, according to a Mount Sinai study of the years 2014 through 2018 that was published in JAMA Tuesday. It was not clear if Open Payments caused the drop in numbers, said Dr. Deborah Marshall, radiation oncology resident at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and one of the paper's authors. In 2014, 458,269 physicians, or 52.5% of the cohort, received at least one payment. That number declined to 394,991, or 45%, in 2018. The total amount paid, however, remained largely unchanged, the study noted. The value of payments in 2018 was $1.8 billion, compared to $1.9 billion in 2014, although the difference was not considered statistically significant. What was significant was the decrease in lower-value payments. "There has been greater awareness of the impression of physicians accepting payments for food or entertainment from the industry, and institutions have been conscious about limiting those types of payments," Marshall said. The lowest tier of payments, defined as less than $10,000 per physician, represented 90% of all payments made from 2014 to 2018. Recent data from Open Payments Crain's used in an analysis the city's hospitals showed similar decreases. From 2014 to 2019, Mount Sinai's accepted payments for food and beverages fell to $287 from $1,620. For NYU Langone, it fell to $508 from $1,485, and for Montefiore Medical Center, it dropped to $448 from $1,430. Those receiving more than $50,000 accounted for only 3.4% of physicians receiving payments, but 82% of the total value, Mount Sinai's study found. "That group of physicians actually saw their payments remain stable or grow over the years," Marshall said. However, it's not clear why the higher-paid group received similar or more amounts over time, she added. A possible reason could be that the higher funds tend to be linked to royalties and licenses, which have higher values. As collaboration between academic institutions and industry grow, that could push up the value of higher-end payments, she noted. —Shuan Sim   Cuomo executive order eases time constraint for reporting test results Gov. Andrew Cuomo's latest executive order, issued Tuesday, eases the time constraint placed on providers for reporting virus test results. Clinical laboratories and licensed professionals authorized by the state to administer a test for Covid-19 or influenza were previously required to report the results to the Department of Health within three hours. However, the new order now modifies the directive to permit those entities to report results within 24 hours. Dr. Bonnie Litvack, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, said Wednesday that physicians across the state appreciate the additional flexibility for reporting positive and negative Covid-19 and influenza tests. "The three-hour window was very difficult for many providers to meet," Litvack said. The concern was that an unintended consequence of the previous time requirement was that physicians would stop ordering and performing tests, she said. The new directive allows physician offices to get the data to the Department of Health early enough for contact tracing to occur, Litvack said, but also provides offices the ability to manage their daily operations and not have to see fewer patients. The new order says the Department of Health may require more frequent reporting if deemed necessary. —J.H. White Plains firm launches practice management subsidiary InnovaCare Health, a White Plains–based company providing health plans and solutions for providers, on Monday announced the creation of a new subsidiary, InnovaCare Partners. The spin-off, a wholly-owned company, is a management services organization that will provide operational and financial management, technology and analytics assistance to physician practices. InnovaCare Partners also will be based in White Plains, but it will hold offices in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Altamonte, Fla., the regions it will serve at launch, said Dr. Rodman St. Clair, acting president of InnovaCare Partners. The subsidiary will oversee approximately 8,000 providers delivering care to more than 600,000 patients in Puerto Rico and Florida. It will have about 2,000 employees, said Dr. Richard Shinto, president and CEO of InnovaCare Health. The parent company provided management services in California, Illinois and Kansas before selling off that business in 2012. It subsequently focused on providing health care plans and services in Puerto Rico before deciding to establish a presence in Florida in 2019. "Creating a standalone company will allow us to focus on supporting our provider networks, especially as the company plans to grow on the mainland," St. Clair said. Shinto declined to name the other regions planned for expansion, noting that the company is looking at states that have maturing managed-care networks. InnovaCare Health was founded in 1998 and has an average annual revenue of about $4 billion, Shinto said. —S.S. AT A GLANCE BOND AMENDMENT: Hospital for Special Surgery on Wednesday filed a notice to bondholders seeking consent to make amendments to its Series 2018 bonds, amounting to $179 million. The hospital sought to modify, on a temporary basis, that failing to meet its minimum debt-service ratio in fiscal 2021 due to unforeseeable circumstances would not count as a default, unless that failure continued until the end of fiscal 2023. NURSING HOME CASES: The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living released a report this week that shows new Covid-19 cases are increasing in nursing homes across the country as a result of community spread among the general population. CRAIN'S WEBCAST: On Nov. 10, join Crain's Health Pulse for a free webcast discussion with local health care leaders about what Covid-19 has taught us about working with underserved communities. Register here . RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

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