State fares poorly on Covid safety in nationwide Wallethub study

Crain’s New York Business – Health Pulse


  • Oscar launches IPO that could be worth $1.1B
  • AdvantageCare opens Flushing gastroenterology office
  • BioReference, New York Forward partner to offer more rapid tests

In assessing Covid-19 vaccination, testing, hospitalization, death and transmission rates, New York came in 49th out of all the states and Washington, D.C., according to a recently released study from WalletHub.

The Washington, D.C.–based personal finance resource site pulled data from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other tracking initiatives to put together a report on how each state fared. The report collected data until Feb. 17, and assigned a rating based on the five aforementioned measures.

New York has the highest hospitalization rate in the country at the moment, and its low vaccination rate led to overall poor safety ratings, said Jill Gonzalez, analyst at WalletHub. All metrics account for population, she added.

Ohio came in last in overall safety ratings, followed by South Carolina, New York, Rhode Island and Georgia. Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, North Dakota and Wyoming were in the top five.

Broken down by how states voted during the 2020 election, the study found that red states fared slightly worse than blue states. The average rank for blue states was 24.4 out of 51, whereas it was 27.7 for red states.

By individual measures, New York was 45th for vaccination rate, 50th for positive testing rate, 51st for hospitalization rate, 29th for death rate and 48th for transmission rate.

The study will be updated every two weeks to reflect how states do over time, Gonzalez said.

Although New York did poorly, its safety rating is expected to improve as its vaccinations efforts continue, she said. “As New York is able to vaccinate more of its residents, the positive testing rate and the hospitalization rate should also decrease,” she said.

Gonzalez added that many states have experienced slow vaccination starts, and small portions of the population have been eligible at this point, accounting for poorer results for some states.

States’ safety levels are crucial to restarting the economy, and poor safety ratings could see businesses remaining stunted, Gonzalez said. —Shuan Sim

Oscar launches IPO that could be worth $1.1B

One of the state’s youngest health insurance companies is about to go public this week, and investors could see big money on the horizon.

Oscar Health Insurance announced on Monday the launch of its initial public offering, with 31 million shares of stock expected to generate between $992 million and nearly $1.1 billion in value.

The shares of Oscar’s class-A common stock will be offered at an IPO price projected to be between $32 and $34 per share.

Since coming onto the market in 2012 following the launch of the Affordable Care Act, the New York City–based insurer has become a Wall Street darling, having raised more than $1 billion from investors.

The company claims 529,000 Americans as members of its health insurance network, one that prides itself on merging technology with member services to provide affordable, easy-to-use health care services.

The company offers 24/7 virtual care, personalized care teams and small-business and Medicare Advantage services.

Oscar claims it is now the third-largest for-profit national insurer in the individual market in the U.S. The company has a footprint in 291 counties across 18 states.

The upcoming IPO will bring in some of the biggest names on Wall Street to monitor the rollout.

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Allen & Co. are acting as the main managing book runners for the proposed IPO, with Wells Fargo Securities, Credit Suisse and Bank of America Securities also acting in that role. Cowen, LionTree, Ramirez & Co. and Siebert Williams Shank are acting as co-managers for the offering. —Brian Pascus

AdvantageCare opens Flushing gastroenterology office

AdvantageCare Physicians on Monday announced the opening of its Flushing annex medical office, which houses a gastroenterology practice.

The 5,300-square-foot space contains four examination rooms, two procedure rooms and a seven-bed recovery room and cost about $800,000 to outfit. Construction took place over one and a half years.

This is ACPNY’s largest of seven gastrointestinal units, and it is likely one of the largest in the region as well, said Dr. Leon Kurtz, senior vice president of specialty services, gastroenterology, at ACPNY, based in the Financial District.

The new practice is expected to perform about 6,000 procedures annually, more than double the 2,500 the previous facility could deliver, Kurtz said. It will offer general gastroenterology consultations, regular and small-bowel capsule endoscopy, in partnership with North America Partners in Anesthesia, a Melville-based anesthesia management company.

The office launches with three physicians, three nurses and six care team associates. The team is expected to grow as the demand for services increases, Kurtz added.

Adjacent are also two new constructions that have partnered to provide synergistic care, Kurtz said. They are EmblemHealth Neighborhood Care, for community health needs, and Lenox Hill Radiology. EmblemHealth, also based in the Financial District, is ACPNY’s parent organization. —S.S.

BioReference, New York Forward partner to offer more rapid tests

BioReference Laboratories is partnering with New York Forward to ensure Covid-19 rapid testing is more readily available for those who want it.

The plan builds on the work done before with the Buffalo Bills NFL team’s Jan. 9 and Jan. 16 home playoff games, at which 7,000 fans were rapidly tested prior to entering Bills Stadium for each.

“This is about providing affordable rapid testing so people can safely go to bars, restaurants, the opera or see a movie,” said Jon Cohen, executive chairman of BioReference. “This gives people the opportunity to do things they want to do in a safe manner.”

New York Forward is a state testing program run in collaboration with the Empire State Development Corp., the Real Estate Board of New York and CVS Pharmacy. By partnering with BioReference Labs—the largest full-service specialty laboratory in the country—New York Forward’s testing plan will be able to produce inexpensive Covid-19 test results in 30 minutes or less, on a greater scale than its present capabilities.

The partnership made its official launch last Friday. Through it, individuals can sign up on their phone and prepay online for a test. Results will be generated as a barcode or as a text message within half an hour, and the state will have access to the results within eight hours, though that system could achieve real-time reporting later this year.

“We want to support any and all efforts to help businesses reopen in a safe and efficient manner,” Cohen said.

There are currently eight New York Forward rapid-test locations across four boroughs, including five stations at CVS locations. But Cohen expects the number of sites to expand greatly in the coming months, with hundreds available statewide within the next four weeks.

The state played an important role in obtaining and negotiating the supply of affordable tests, Cohen said, and the partnerships with REBNY and CVS will be used to increase the number of sites where the tests will be conducted going forward.

A rapid Covid-19 antigen test will costs about $30. —B.P.


ETHICAL COMPANY: Northwell Health announced today that it has been recognized as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies in 2021 by the Ethisphere Institute, a Scottsdale, Ariz.–based for-profit company that measures corporate ethical standards. It is one of nine health systems nationwide to make the list and the only one from New York. This is its sixth appearance on the list.

EXPANDED VISITATION: The state has expanded its nursing home visitation guidance, set to take effect on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his Monday briefing. Counties with seven-day average positivity rates of between 5% and 10% require visitor testing within 72 hours. Counties with positivity rates below 5% do not require testing, although it is encouraged. Visitation is not permitted in counties with rates over 10%. Compassionate care visits are always permitted. Vaccinated visitors do not require testing, provided they meet certain requirements.

HEMP PROGRAM: The state Department of Health is now accepting applications from businesses seeking to operate as cannabinoid hemp processors, Gov. Cuomo announced Monday. These licenses cover cannabidiol products including tinctures, vaporizations, oils, topicals, pills, capsules and foods or beverages. The program sets quality-control standards on manufacturing, packaging, labeling and laboratory testing.

FEMA SITES: The state has partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to expand access to a vaccine site in Brooklyn and Queens, Gov. Cuomo said Monday. The MTA will launch a pilot program to enhance bus service to connect New Yorkers to Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and York College in Queens. The state is also partnering with faith leaders in those boroughs to launch a vaccination phone banking drive with their congregants to sign up individuals for appointments.

BMC UPDATE: Hudson Regional Hospital has responded to BMC Hospital LLC through its attorneys that it will not be retracting its statements made regarding the claims to ownership of Bayonne Medical Center, spokesman Ron Simoncini said Monday in a statement. The hospital stands by its statements regarding CarePoint’s audited financials, BMC Hospital’s application and management agreements between them, Simoncini said. He iterated Hudson Regional will not back down from litigation.

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