March 9, 2021
Assembly Continues Passage of Sweeping Nursing Home Reform Legislative Package
Package Builds on 10 Bills Passed Last Week
Speaker Carl Heastie, Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried and Aging Committee Chair Ron Kim today announced the Assembly will continue passing a sweeping package of legislation to increase safety and improve the quality of life for New Yorkers living in nursing homes. Last week, the Assembly passed the first 10 bills of the comprehensive package. Today’s legislation addresses issues including quality improvements, oversight, transparency and enforcement.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated so many of the issues and challenges that have long existed in our state, especially in our nursing homes,” said Speaker Heastie. “Last week, my colleagues and I began the passage of these comprehensive reforms to increase the safety and protect the wellbeing of our most vulnerable New Yorkers. Today, we will build on that work. We owe it to our nursing home residents and their families to do better.”
“Working with patients, their families, workers, and advocates, we have long fought to strengthen New York’s oversight of nursing homes, increase transparency of their operations, and improve patient care,” said Assemblymember Gottfried. “Our August hearings on COVID-19, combined with the recent report by N.Y. Attorney General Tish James, shined a bright light on problems of inadequate staffing, financial misdeeds and patient neglect by for-profit operators, and the damage done by the legal immunity for health care providers inserted by the governor into last year's budget at the very last moment. The Assembly last week took important steps to improve the quality of nursing home care. Today we passed additional measures including resident care spending requirements to ensure that nursing home operators spend money on patient needs like staffing, quality food, and other critical services, rather than siphoning funds into their pockets through real estate deals and other financial manipulations.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the desperate need for these reforms, and they are long overdue for our nursing home residents and their families,” said Assemblymember Kim. “These bills will help ensure a higher standard of care in our nursing homes, as well as increase transparency and accountability for bad actors who continue to put profits over people.”
One of the bills included in the Assembly’s legislative package would require nursing home owners and operators to prioritize the care of their residents by establishing minimum thresholds for the percentage of revenue required to be spent on patient care and nursing services in nursing homes (A.5685-A, Gottfried). The plan would require that starting in 2022, 70 percent must be spent on patient care.
Legislation included in the package would also establish requirements for residential health care facilities during a state disaster emergency involving a disease outbreak. The measure would require the Department of Health (DOH) to issue guidance regarding precautions and procedures to maintain health and safety, ensure the DOH is providing the necessary supports and services a facility needs, and would establish residential health care facility reporting requirements (A.3131-A, Kim).
The package also includes a measure that would require residential health care facilities to provide a more expedited notice to residents, authorized family members and guardians of residents of the presence of an infection, and to have in place a plan or procedure for designating a separate cohort area in their pandemic emergency plan. (A.6052, Lunsford).
“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the inadequacies within our residential health care system and we must ensure residents are better protected and their families better informed,” said Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford. “My legislation will ensure that every facility is ready and able to effectively quarantine residents for their safety, while keeping residents and their loved ones informed of the situation.”
Oversight and Transparency
The Assembly will also pass legislation this week to enhance oversight and transparency, including legislation that would reform the certificate of need process by which the state assures that nursing home operators are capable and committed to quality care. The bill would ensure that nursing home operators and owners who come before the Public Health and Health Planning Council for change of ownership or operations are reviewed and approved based upon several quality metrics before they are entrusted with the care of additional individuals (A.5684-A, Gottfried). The bill also enhances transparency around related assets and operations of nursing homes, as well as applications for changes of ownership and/or operation of a facility.
The package also includes legislation that would make public all inspections conducted on nursing homes and other residential health care facilities during the COVID-19 crisis (A.1010-A, Bronson).
“In the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis, New Yorkers need and deserve transparency from the Department of Health regarding nursing home inspections,” said Assemblymember Harry Bronson. “This bill will provide transparency in inspections by requiring the department to post all such inspections on its website, allowing residents and their families to make informed decisions about their care.”
Monetary penalties for public health law violations are intended to deter bad behavior and incentivize the correction of violations by health care facilities and providers. The $2,000 floor amount for such violations has not been updated since 1990, and the escalated amounts related to repeat violations or endangerment have not been updated since 2008. The Assembly will pass legislation this week that would increase monetary penalties for public health law violations and provide support for the Nursing Home Quality Improvement Demonstration Program (A.232-C, Gottfried).