Lawmakers want to know how NY’s legal immunity for nursing homes was conceived

New York State

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Questions swirl around the conception of a bill that gave broad legal immunity to New York State nursing home operators during the pandemic.

The Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), a lobbying arm of hospitals and nursing homes, helped draft the bill that lawmakers say was revealed to them within an hour of it being signed. 

But recently, Brian Conway, spokesman for GNYHA told NEWS10 ABC through an email exchange that “the final version that passed in April differed in certain significant respects from our proposed language.”

Assemblymember Ron Kim wants all correspondence between the Governor’s office and these lobbyists turned over to legislators and the press, because the group’s stance on the sweeping protections seems inconsistent.

Screenshot provided by Ron Kim of a GNYHA press release.

“They didn’t say it was worded differently when they sent out a press release the day after the budget.  They celebrated that they passed their drafted bill into the budget to their members,” Kim told NEWS10 ABC.

Kim called it a “poison bill” that gives nursing home operators a disincentive. A report from Attorney General Letitia James also alluded to it possibly leading to a “profits over people” culture at nursing homes. Senator Alessandra Biaggi pressed Health Commissioner Dr. Zucker on it during a joint legislative budget hearing on Thursday.

“I find this concern about the belief that immunity would make health care workers not provide the appropriate care actually pretty offensive to all those who are working so hard on this pandemic,” Zucker said in response to Biaggi.

Zucker said he supported the law at the time it was passed, but says necessary changes can be made to it today.  

“[That] tells me that they got caught putting in a toxic bill that led to, in my opinion, more unnecessary deaths,” Kim said.

The state scaled back some of the legal protections in August, and the Governor’s proposals for nursing home reforms include minimums for revenue going toward patent care and staffing, as well as a cap on profits.

Going forward, Kim wants all policies to be left out of the budget, especially at the last minute.

“Literally in the last hour, it was impossible for us to be briefed,” he explained.

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