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Cuomo announces “sweeping nursing home reform legislation” as investigation looms

After mounting pressure in Albany and statewide criticism stemming from his own record, Governor Andrew Cuomo has sought to finally implement new “sweeping nursing home reform legislation,” which is aimed at addressing the misconduct of nursing home operators amid COVID-19. 

The specific provisions were announced as a part of the governor’s routinely scheduled press conference, which occurred on Friday, Feb. 19.

Cuomo, who has received millions in direct political campaign contributions from nursing home and long-term care facilities like Centers Health Care and provided nursing home operators legal immunities, later claimed that those same facilities “have put profits over care for far too long.”

Attorney General Letitia James’ recent COVID-19 report revealed that the state’s Department of Health is largely at fault, and yet Cuomo calls for greater accountability and transparency within the actual nursing homes and long-term care facilities. 

While the 2021-2022 fiscal year budget is currently in works and months ahead of when its actually voted upon by the state Legislature in Albany, Cuomo even pledges that he wouldn’t “sign a budget that doesn’t include these common-sense reforms.”

Those “common-sense reforms” were broken down into three categories by the Cuomo administration: increasing transparency, holding operators accountable for misconduct and prioritizing patient care over profit. 

Increasing Transparency

These reforms aim to increase transparency by:

  • Requiring nursing homes to post their rates for each payer source on a public website, updated annually;
  • Requiring the posting of all facility owners;
  • Requiring the posting of a list of all contracts or other agreements entered into for provision of goods or services for which any portion of Medicaid or Medicare funds are used by the facility within 30 days of execution of the agreement; and
  • Requiring information regarding staff be included in an application to establish a nursing home.

Holding Operators Accountable for Misconduct

These reforms aim to hold operators accountable for misconduct by:

  • Increasing civil monetary penalties to $25,000 for violations of the Public Health Law, including increasing penalties for willful violations of Public Health Law or regulation;
  • Removing the requirement to provide adult care facilities a 30-day period to rectify violations prior to imposition of a penalty; and
  • Building off legislation signed by the Governor in 2019, requiring any nursing home with a repeat Infection Control Deficiency to work with the Quality Improvement Organization, or a state designated independent quality monitor, at the nursing home’s own expense, to assess and resolve the facility’s infection control deficiencies.
  • Streamlining process to appoint a receiver to protect patient health and safety.

Prioritizing Patient Care Over Profit

These reforms aim to ensure nursing home facilities are prioritizing patient care over profits by:

  • Requiring that nursing homes spend a minimum of 70 percent of revenue on direct patient care and a minimum of 40 percent of revenue on resident staffing; and
  • Establishing a nursing home profit cap and limiting certain unscrupulous transactions, including but not limited to related party transactions over fair market value and payment of compensation for employees who are not actively engaged in or providing services at the nursing home.
  • Limiting the overall proportion of management salaries and setting a cap by regulation, dependent on the size of the facility, for managers and executives.