New NY Nursing Home Law Targets Physician Privilege Disclosures

A new law in New York State will require nursing home operators to provide detailed information about their physician privileges to residents as a prerequisite for admission.

Signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo late last month, the update to the state’s public health law means that skilled nursing facilities can’t accept residents until they receive a description of the property’s policy regarding granting physician privileges.

New York State Sen. James Sanders, who introduced the legislation back in March, framed the issue as a matter of informed patient choice.

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“Potential nursing home residents have a right to know which physicians will be available to provide care prior to signing a residency agreement,” Sanders said in a statement announcing the bill’s passage last week.

Physician coverage in nursing homes has been cited as a key area of potential improvement for the industry — both for resident outcomes and financial health. Doctors who specialize in nursing home residents tend to be few and far between in many markets, despite the fact that timely interventions from physicians and other advanced practitioners generally lead to better outcomes and fewer penalties under various value-based models.

As the space geared up for the Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM) this year, for instance, SNF-specific physician groups marketed their services as a way to increase nursing homes’ ability to serve higher-acuity residents and handle the documentation necessary to receiving proper Medicare reimbursement under the new system.

Telehealth has also emerged as a potential solution, with a bumper crop of companies that provide virtual visits entering the post-acute and long-term care space in recent years.

But Sanders also pointed out that, for potential nursing home residents, simply knowing that they can continue to receive care from a familiar face can go a long way during the decision-making process.

“Many individuals enter nursing homes having pre-existing relationships with doctors in their community,” Sanders, a Democrat who represents parts of Queens, said. “Whether or not those physicians already have or have the opportunity to be granted privileges may play an important role in choosing a nursing facility.”

The bill has had a long road to passage, with versions introduced as early as 2006. The requirement will formally become law 90 days after Cuomo signed the bill November 20.