Written by Staff Writer – May 27, 2020
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nursing home scandal just got a lot worse, it turns out in return for political donations Cuomo gave nursing home executive immunity.
In 2018, Cuomo was in a heated Democrat primary race to run for governor. At the last minute money poured in from a large health care industry group. The healthcare lobbying group poured more than $1 million into Cuomo’s coffers and it was enough to help push Cuomo to victory.
Less than two years after receiving the cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month very quietly giving immunity to nursing home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Legal experts believe this provision is the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for the healthcare industry.
More than 5,000 New Yorkers have died in nursing homes and state legislators are doing their best to repeal the bill. Cuomo snuck in the immunity clause in a small passage of his annual budget.
The GNYHA aggressively lobbied the governor to add the provision, no doubt reminding him of the money they gave provided him to win the Democrat primary. According to the new law, nursing home companies, “shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, for any harm or damages alleged to have been sustained as a result of an act or omission in the course of arranging for or providing healthcare services” to address the Covid-19 outbreak.
Cuomo like most governors had already temporarily granted legal immunity to frontline doctors and nurses, however, this clause was buried in the States annual spending bill and for executives. The legislation covers “healthcare facility administrator, executive, supervisor, board member, trustee or other person responsible for directing, supervising or managing a healthcare facility and its personnel or other individual in a comparable role.”
Democratic assemblyman Ron Kim is leading 14 New York lawmakers to repeal the language in the legislation because the immunity provisions are linked to the higher death rates in nursing homes.
“It is now apparent that negligence by administrators and executives of nursing homes has occurred at an extraordinary degree,” proponents of the legislation argued in a memo accompanying the bill. “[The immunity law] egregiously uses severe liability standards as a means to insulate healthcare facilities and specifically, administrators and executives of such facilities, from any civil or criminal liability for negligence. Repealing this article is a much-needed step to holding healthcare administrators accountable and doing everything possible to stop even more preventable deaths from happening.”
During his campaign for a second term in the general election against his Republican contender, Cuomo received another $2.3 million from the GNYHA. Cuomo’s campaign received over $3 million from nursing home industry donors and their lobbying firms.