Lawmakers Mull State-Level Ban on New For-Profit Nursing Home Licenses, Expansions

As nursing home deaths in New York remain national news, reform efforts in the state are increasingly focusing on for-profit providers, and one proposal would specifically ban their expansion in the Empire State.

For-profit nursing home operators would be prohibited from establishing new facilities or expanding their existing ones under a proposal sponsored by Manhattan assemblyman Dick Gottfried, the New York Post reported.

“Lots of people have been discovering that there are enormous problems in our nursing homes,” Gottfried said during a hearing last week, per the Post. “COVID may have brought them to light and made them worse but a lot of us know those problems have been there for many, many, many years.”

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While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sat at the center of the nursing home controversy in New York — with a particular focus on legal immunity provisions and a March 2020 order requiring facilities to accept patients regardless of COVID status — officials have also taken aim at the state’s nursing home sector.

A January report from state attorney general Letitia James found serious fault with operators in the state, while also revealing that Cuomo’s health department may have under-reported nursing home COVID deaths by 50%.

“Already-low staffing levels decreased even further, to especially dangerous levels in some homes, even as the need for care increased due to the need to comply with COVID-19 infection control protocols and the loss of assistance from family visitors,” James’s office observed. “OAG’s preliminary investigations reflect many examples where for-profit nursing homes’ pre-pandemic low staffing model simply snapped under the stress of the pandemic.”

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Gottfried criticized for-profits’ historic performance in promoting his proposal, the Post reported.

“We’re not going to license any more for-profit nursing homes or for-profit beds,” he told television station NY1. “We should stop the creation of for-profit beds … you should [run a nursing home] to care for people, not because you want to make money.”

The state assembly and senate have both released ambitious nursing home reform plans; Cuomo himself put forward a proposal that would impose caps on profit and executive pay while also requiring stricter transparency rules for nursing home operators.

“Facilities have put profits over care for far too long and as we look forward, we must learn from the past and prepare for the future,” Cuomo said in a late February statement. “These facilities must be transparent and we have to have the tools necessary for holding bad actors accountable — that is the only way families will have peace of mind and I won’t sign a budget that doesn’t include these common-sense reforms.”

The Cuomo proposal marked an escalation in the governor’s rhetoric against for-profit nursing homes.

“Everything becomes one or the other,” Cuomo said during a mid-February press conference. “Do you want to have more staff or do you want to make more profit? Do you want to buy more PPE and stockpile more PPE, or do you want to make more profit? Do you want to buy new equipment, new beds, new sheets, new furniture, invest in the facility, or do you want to make more profit?”