MSSNY eNews: October 22, 2021 – Impact of COVID-19 on Overdose Crisis

Impact of COVID-19 on Overdose Crisis


One of the many tragic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the progress that was reversed in combatting addictions. Death from opioid poisoning continues to be a national problem that we must confront. New York State was making progress in combatting the opioid epidemic—but overdose-related deaths in 2020 increased over the previous year.

On behalf of MSSNY, I testified on Wednesday before the NYS Senate Joint Task Force on Opioids, Addiction, and Overdose. As I told the members of the task force, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that people are drinking more alcohol and using more drugs.  This is compounded by the fact that patients are not seeing their physicians on a regular basis—especially for the preventive screenings that are so necessary to good health.

I explained to the task force that I have spent the past 32 years practicing adult internal medicine and pediatrics with the Bassett Healthcare Network in Cooperstown and shared how we are responding to the opiate overdose crisis at the local level, including an innovative—and successful—program aimed at making evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders available to people living in rural central New York by offering medication assisted treatments in primary care settings.

Bassett’s other initiatives include adopting standards for analgesic prescribing for specific procedures; getting medications properly disposed of with a network wide medication take back program; building into our EMR co-prescribing Narcan (naloxone) nasal spray with opiate prescriptions; distributing Narcan rescue kits to patients and families and sponsoring community, first responder, and public-school based training programs for recognizing and responding to overdoses; and a program to make test strips that allow folks to test their drugs for contamination with fentanyl.

As a member of the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force, MSSNY is focused on helping to end the nation’s drug-related overdose and death epidemic. MSSNY actively works to increase physician awareness and leadership to combat the opioid and pain crisis and continues to support legislative efforts to enhance insurance coverage for treatment.

Joseph Sellers, MD, FAAP, FACP
MSSNY President

Dr. Sellers at Meeting

MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers testifies before the NYS Senate Joint Task Force on Opioids, Addiction, and Overdose. Click here and fast forward to 5:05:17 to view Dr. Sellers’ testimony.

Not Yet Enrolled in the NYSDOH COVID-19 Vaccination Program? Have Questions About the Process?
Not yet enrolled in the NYSDOH COVID-19 Vaccination Program?  Have questions about the process?  Please attend the New York State Department of Health’s COVID19 Vaccination Program Enrollment Webinar.  The Biden Administration will soon begin immunization of children 5-11 years of age and needs the assistance of pediatricians and family physicians to provide this immunization to children.   There is also the need for more physician practices to provide the booster to those adults who are eligible.   MSSNY is encouraging physicians to become enrolled in this program.  Both physicians and staff can participate in this webinar.

The COVID19 Vaccination Program Enrollment Webinar will be held for health care provider locations outside NYC on Wednesday, 10/27/2021, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm.  Register for the webinar.

Attendees will hear a high-level overview of the enrollment process (for provider locations outside NYC) AND will have an opportunity to ask questions about the enrollment process. In advance of the webinar, please review the enrollment letter (and the linked resources within) here.


MSSNY Legislative Podcast:
The Importance of Being Involved in Legislative & Political Activity

MSSNY Rolls Out Plan to Educate Physicians About NYC Retirees’ Transition from Traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage Plan
Following negotiations this past summer between municipal unions, and the city of New York, an agreement was reached to transition New York City retirees from their current, traditional Medicare plan to Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. Beneficiaries will have the ability to opt-out of the NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Plan and remain enrolled in their current, traditional Medicare plan. The new plan is being administered by Emblem and Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield and coverage for these enrollees is scheduled to begin January 1, 2022.

Many MSSNY members have raised concerns about the potential harm to patients once their new MA coverage becomes effective and a resolution was passed during the 2021 House of Delegates (HOD) asking the AMA to consider taking action at the federal level. Moreover, there is also pending litigation against this coverage change from other health insurers and retiree groups. However, there is a need to let physicians know what to expect should this coverage be implemented, so MSSNY has launched an outreach and educational effort, to provide as much detail as possible over the next two months. MSSNY will also monitor the new plans, should they be implemented in January, for potential harmful outcomes for patients, such as possible new prior authorization requirements.

To view the initial materials provided by Emblem and Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield:
City of New York Offers NYC Medicare Advantage Plus Medicare Advantage Option
City of New York offers Medicare Advantage option in 2022

To access a range of other information shared by the NYC Office of Labor Relations:

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Click on the links below to view some of MSSNY’s recent media hits:

WNBC-TV – 10/19/21
White House Says COVID Vaccine For Children Coming in Weeks
(MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers interviewed) 

Newsday – 09/29/21
Gov. Kathy Hochul names Mary Bassett as state health commissioner
(MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers quoted) 

Crain’s New York – 09/30/21
Bassett gets warm reception as next health commissioner
(MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers quoted)

Albany Times Union – 10/12/21
Judge issues injunction against New York’s vaccine mandate
(MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers quoted)

Medpage Today – 10/14/21
More Physicians are Now Employees Rather Than Owners
(MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers quoted)

Cheddar News – 9/20/21
Dr. Joseph Sellers Answers Your Burning Covid-19 Questions
(MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers interviewed)

Spectrum News 1 – 09/30/21
Public health community backs Hochul’s health commissioner appointment
(MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers quoted) 

WVNY-TV – 09/20/21
Who is the incoming New York DOH Health Commissioner?
(MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers quoted)
Also ran on WTEN

Buffalo Business First – 10/11/21
Walmart, CVS and Walgreens bring competition to world of primary care
(MSSNY President Dr. Joseph Sellers quoted)

The Daily Gazette – 10/13/21
Editorial: Public Health Should Override Religious Views
(MSSNY mentioned)

AMA Advocacy Update– 10/13/21
High court should uphold commonsense N.Y. concealed-carry law
(MSSNY Mentioned)

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Psychosocial and Epidemiological Aspects of Vaccine Hesitancy CME Webinar on November 17: Registration Now Open
Vaccine hesitancy impacts the entire population. Learn more about both the psychosocial and epidemiological impact of vaccine hesitancy by registering for Psychosocial and Epidemiological Aspects of Vaccine Hesitancy on Wednesday November 17, 2021 at 7:30 a.m.  William Valenti, MD, chair of MSSNY Infectious Disease Committee and a member of the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster/Terrorism Response Committee and Craig Katz, MD, vice-chair of the Emergency Preparedness and Disaster/Terrorism Response Committee will serve as faculty for this program. Registration is now open for this webinar here.  Click here to view the program flyer.

Educational objectives are:

  • Recognize the psychological role of vaccine-positive messaging
  • Outline the epidemiological impact of sub-optimal vaccination rates
  • Identify social and psychological explanations of vaccine hesitancy.
  • Illustrate the steps necessary to overcome vaccine hesitancy

Additional information or assistance with registration may be obtained by contacting Melissa Hoffman at

The Medical Society of the State of New York is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Medical Society of the State of New York designates this live activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. 

Concierge Care May Exacerbate Physician Shortages, Experts Say
While concierge medicine has been scrutinized since its inception two decades ago, experts are saying it may be exacerbating physician shortages, according to an Oct. 19 report from Scientific American.

“That reduction in the number of patients — often from nearly 2,000 to 500 to 600 — means that many patients are left without primary care physicians at a time of increasing shortages in primary care clinicians,” said Russell Phillips, MD, director of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Primary Care. “Additionally, concierge medicine creates a two-tier system of care, where patients who can’t afford the cost of concierge care are excluded.”

Concierge physicians still bill private insurance or Medicare for certain services, so patients pay two fees: one for their concierge membership and one for insurance.

While membership fees range, Scientific American cited a Harvard Medical School report that found average monthly fees are $200 with potential maximums of $30,000.

Some experts say the impact of concierge medicine on healthcare depends on perspective, especially in light of the pandemic.

“Pre-pandemic, I would have said, ‘We don’t have enough physicians choosing to practice primary care,'” Erin Sullivan, PhD, research and curriculum director at Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care, told Scientific American. “And if those physicians who do choose primary care elect to practice in models such as concierge and DPC, then you could see how that would exacerbate a shortage. On the other hand, if these models prove [to be] more attractive or sustainable ways for physicians to practice primary care, then can we increase the number of physicians electing to practice primary care? And can we learn from these models to build something better and accessible for all patients?”

–Gleeson, Becker’s Hospital Review, 10/19/21

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CDC Endorses Advisory Panel’s Recommendation For J&J, Moderna, And Mix-And-Match COVID-19 Boosters
The Washington Post (10/21, A1, Sun, Shepherd) reports, “Tens of millions of Americans can sign up to get Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters beginning Friday after” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky “endorsed recommendations from expert advisers that the shots are safe and effective at bolstering protection against the coronavirus.” The approval means “eligible Americans at risk of severe disease can choose any of the three boosters now authorized in the United States regardless of their original shot.” Walensky’s action – following Wednesday’s emergency use authorization by the FDA – “largely fulfills the administration’s August promise to make boosters of all three vaccines available to Americans, albeit a month later than promised and for a smaller group.”

The New York Times (10/21, Mandavilli) reports a CDC advisory panel “on Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for tens of millions of Americans.” The article adds that the recommendation comes as the “pandemic is now retreating in most parts of the country, but about 75,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every day, and about 1,500 die from it.”

The Hill (10/21, Weixel) says the “green light will also allow Americans to choose the brand of booster they receive. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received and others may prefer to get a different booster. CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mixed dosing for booster shots.”

Classified Ads Available for:

Physicians’ search services • allied medical placements • locum tenens • practice valuation • practice brokerage • practice consulting • real estate

For help, information or to place your ad, call Roseann Raia at 516-488-6100 ext. 302 

For the MSSNY 2021 Ad Rate Sheet, please click here.

Looking to Fill a Pediatrician Position?
A Board Certified, NY licensed Pediatrician is immediately available
for a FT/PT or per-diem position.  CV and references are available.Please contact

Office Space for Lease – Great Neck, NY
Large, fully equipped space available for lease up to 7 days per week. Includes onsite parking and is close to mass transit. Call 516-972-2986 for info.

Rheumatology Practice Opportunity – Great Neck, NY
Opportunity available at an established rheumatology practice in Great Neck, NY. Looking for a dedicated physician to join, share or merge practices. Fully equipped office with onsite parking and proximity to mass transit. Contact 516-972-2986 for more info.

AIDS Institute’s Office of the Medical Director for a Public Health Physician II
Health Research, Inc. (HRI) has a job opening within the AIDS Institute’s Office of the Medical Director for a Public Health Physician II. Please distribute this announcement widely through your networks. Interested individuals can apply for this position through the HRI website.