Just two years after receiving a massive donation from the lobby that represents them, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will shield hospital systems and some nursing homes from litigation stemming from their handling of coronavirus outbreaks.
The $1 million donation to the state’s Democratic incumbent governor came from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), a powerful lobbying group.
Not only was GNYHA’s single donation one of the largest received by Cuomo, but The Guardian reports that three GNYHA officials individually gave more than $150,000 to the governor’s campaign from 2015 and 2018.
The Guardian credits this massive infusion of cash with Cuomo successfully overcoming a “spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary.”
The Guardian continues:
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.
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Critics say Cuomo removed a key deterrent against nursing home and hospital corporations cutting corners in ways that jeopardize lives. As those critics now try to repeal the provision during this final week of Albany’s legislative session, they assert that data prove such immunity is correlating to higher nursing home death rates during the pandemic – both in New York and in other states enacting similar immunity policies.
Back in March, Cuomo’s administration issued a controversial order allowing nursing homes to readmit sick patients without conducting coronavirus testing. Also facing allegations of undercounted COVID-19 casualties at the time, Cuomo also pushed back against pressure to have state regulators more stringently record and report death rates in nursing homes.
Representatives for Cuomo said the various protective measures for healthcare professionals were put in place to protect workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” said Cuomo’s senior adviser Rich Azzopardi. “If we had not done this, these volunteers wouldn’t have been accepted and we never would have had enough frontline healthcare workers.”
Cuomo’s immunity for the healthcare industry is being challenged within the state legislature, primarily by a group of fellow Democrats led by Rep. Ron Kim.
“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.”
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