New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been under fire for a decision to shielding nursing home executives from legal liability in coronavirus cases, and now a report in the Guardian seems to connect Cuomo’s surprise budget provision to a large campaign donation from a hospital system lobby group.
Cuomo’s administration is still struggling to explain why officials decided to order nursing homes and other adult care facilities to accept recovering COVID-19 patients, many of whom were still positive for the virus, causing major outbreaks in a number of area nursing homes — outbreaks that led to, perhaps, more than 5,000 deaths.
Andrew Cuomo eventually reversed the order but has defended the decision in public press conferences, claiming that New York was only following the Trump administration’s directives, even going so far as to blame President Donald Trump for the issue as well as nursing home administrators, whom he claimed did not follow state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that coronavirus patients be sequestered from the general population of adult care facilities.
Hidden in Cuomo’s budget, released separately from the nursing home orders, though, is a provision seemingly exempting nursing home executives from liability in cases where elderly individuals and facility patients fell ill with COVID-19. The provision, according to Fox News, says that officials “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.”
Now, the Guardian, in an expose published Wednesday, reports that the “the New York State Democratic Committee, then backing Cuomo’s primary run in 2018, received more than $1 million from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) — a lobbying group for hospital systems, some of which own nursing homes.”
“As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful healthcare industry group suddenly poured more than $1m into a Democratic committee backing his campaign,” the Guardian notes.
Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for healthcare industry officials, according to legal experts.
“Three of the hospital association’s top officials separately gave more than $150,000 to Cuomo’s campaign between 2015 and 2018,” Fox News added in a follow up on the Guardian’s report.
Cuomo’s office says the order is designed to allow nursing home officials to complete their duties without fear.
“This pandemic remains an unprecedented public health crisis and we had to realign New York’s entire healthcare system, using every type of facility to prepare for the surge, and recruiting more than 96,000 volunteers – 25,000 from out of state, to help fight this virus,” a Cuomo senior advisor told the Guardian. “These volunteers are good samaritans and what was passed by 111 members of the legislature was an expansion of the existing Good Samaritan Law to apply to the emergency that coronavirus created. If we had not done this, these volunteers wouldn’t have been accepted and we never would have had enough frontline healthcare workers.”
New York lawmakers are clamoring to reverse the liability waiver, just as their session is ending in Albany, the Guardian says.
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