New York announces legislation aimed at improving nursing home facilities

As New York emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic with the most Nursing Home deaths of any state, a significant reform bill attempts to address worrisome conditions and quell public concern.

New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo was initially lauded by the media for his willingness to enact restrictions, supposed “high marks for COVID-19 handling” (Ipsos), and even given an International Emmy for leadership in his daily coronavirus briefings (AP). His statewide approval rating reached 87 percent last year IN March (Siena College Research Institute).

However, a series of scandals and executive actions have left his future political career in question. Early on in the pandemic, he required New York nursing homes to accept thousands of residents which had, or were suspected of having, COVID-19. Further, nursing homes were prohibited from testing clients for COVID-19 as long as they were mentally stable. According to a State Health Department report, over six-thousand Covid-positive patients were admitted during this directive, causing an alarming spike of infections. More significantly, it was discovered that the nursing home death count was underreported by as much as 50 percent. Cuomo attributed this lower reporting to his fear that the Trump administration would use the numbers as a political weapon (New York Times). The updated estimate placed New York with the most nursing home deaths of any state.

In light of this, legislation aimed at improving long-term care facilities has been introduced. Governor Cuomo is expected to sign the incoming bills. In the case of for-profit nursing homes, new rules would require 70 percent of revenue to be allocated toward direct patient care, including 40 percent for staffers working directly with residents (Fox News). Furthermore, any profit margin exceeding 5 percent is to be given to the State. Also, Cuomo recently signed a Bill which repealed a “legal shield” for nursing homes. This “shield” protected nursing homes from certain lawsuits during the time of pandemic. According to Nina Kohn, Syracuse University School of Law professor, “What [that] immunity provision did is give a green light to facilities to engage in practices and staffing patterns known to create unreasonable risk to residents.” Although lawsuits brought while these immunity provisions were in place will not be considered, the numerous reforms aim to bring back accountability and responsibility to those in power.





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