Those who are willing to speak out are punished for their efforts. Attorneys have been disbarred for whistleblowing, called something else, as they attempt to uncover the inhumanity. Newspaper journalists have been and continue to be admonished or sued for shedding light on the hardcore truths about the industry. Public media wars have been waged on politicians trying to right an entirely skewed collective moral compass. It is an “open secret” in politics, we are told.
There is a sheer and inexplicable cognitive dissonance of those who do not question this industry, its finances, its treatment of the elderly. For years we, along with our collective and small group of journalists, bloggers and activists have tried to scatter the puzzle pieces for anyone who might be willing to put them together.
The savagery coupled with the profit is really not rocket science to figure out.
It took a pandemic to show just how blurred the lines of that which is deemed acceptable in a humane society really are. The black and white of right and wrong were crossed a very long time ago. Perhaps a New Jersey law is a step in the right direction. Likely not. Until owners who have records of abusing the system are put permanently out of commission, no law will draw an impassable line. It is all just a distraction.
Nursing home operators must reveal more information about their finances and their ownership and also pass a review evaluating their track record on safety and quality before state regulators will allow properties to be sold, under a new law Gov. Phil Murphy signed late Wednesday.
Manatt concluded the industry was unprepared for the pandemic, in part because one-third of all facilities had been cited for infection control violations previously and staffing shortages were endemic.
The consultant also took issue with the Health Department for not aggressively monitoring the 370 nursing homes in the state, 74% of which are owned by for-profit companies that change hands often. Manatt recommended the state adopt a stricter system of reviewing operators’ finances before they are permitted to buy new facilities.
The law, A4477, requires nursing home operators to report the names, addresses and the organizational chart for the companies who intend to buy a facility, any lease or management agreements, a list of all facilities the buyer has owned in the last five years and financial audits from the last three years. The health department will use the information to identify facilities which may be in financial distress, according to the law. Applications for ownership transfers must be posted on the DOH’s website.
HYDE PARK, NY – Senator Sue Serino released the following in response to comments made today by the Governor at a Buffalo event in relation to COVID-19 deaths in New York’s nursing homes:
“The Governor can rewrite history all he wants, but the truth is the only people who played politics when it came to hiding the number of nursing home deaths in New York State are the members of his Administration who have now been caught doing so for months.
I first called for a full investigation into the state’s overall handling of the COVID crisis in nursing homes on May 7, 2020—at a time when the Governor’s approval rating was through the roof—and most would argue it was actually politically unpopular to criticize anything his Administration was doing at the time. I did so because it was the right thing to do. Families who were losing loved ones deserved answers. Having access to the real number of deaths could have provided a more accurate picture of the pandemic’s impact, which could have helped us improve the state’s response and maybe even saved lives.
Time and again, the Governor clearly put politics—and profit—over the residents of these facilities. It’s not right, and we will not stop pushing for truthful answers and real accountability.”
When asked today why his Administration hid the accurate number of nursing home deaths for so long, the Governor claimed the issue was simply politicized. He continued to argue that withholding the data was about ‘accuracy.’
Senator Serino countered that point saying, “If they were so concerned about ‘accuracy,’ then they would have withheld all the numbers until they were properly audited. Instead, they were okay with publicly releasing a blatant undercount that fit the Administration’s own political narrative. An undercount the Governor publicly bragged about repeatedly. The hypocrisy is stunning. New Yorkers—especially these vulnerable residents and their loved ones—deserve so much better.”
Senator Serino is the Ranking Member of the Senate’s Aging Committee.
Perhaps the punishment for cruelty to the elderly in nursing care should be lying in the same nursing home bed forced to wallow in excrement and urine. Were we to be a legislators, this would be the top of our bucket list. Alas, should the punishment not fit the crime? And yet, those with the courage to speak out are inevitably doomed.
Most of New York’s nursing homes or those owned throughout the United States by New York nursing home conglomerates, are a special brand of hell to the elderly living in them; and their owners and managers deserve accountability. Many are understaffed or staffed by undertrained employees. In most care is substandard, if there is care at all. In many the food is unpalatable or barely edible, but it is inexpensive. In all but a select few, elderly patients can spend hours sitting in their own excrement, thirsty for a drink, exposed to Covid-19 and other pathogens. There is no accountability. Where laws exist there is no oversight. It is a vicious cycle.
In some, the owners use the open spaces for parties and celebrations – a show of wealth and so-called hospitality. After all, a nursing home is a hospitality business. Even during Covid-19, at the worst of the outbreaks, we received reports of massive gatherings in the halls of some of these homes, catered by top kosher caterers, but not open to the patients and their families.
In all but a select few, money flows like water; and the only beneficiaries are the owners and operators, their investors and the politicians who benefit from political contributions. Name the horror and you will likely find it in New York’s nursing homes. Sadly, so many of the nursing homes are owned by different combinations of the same uber-wealthy individuals who have already sold their souls for money. Their attorneys shut their eyes, look the other way. It is really not an attorney’s job to judge. And the billing is glorious to those attorneys for whom these are their top clients. If one is without a conscience, a sense of morality, and is already adept at skirting laws, falsifying records and documents, paying off or discrediting those who get in their way – will new laws do anything but pay lipservice?
Factor in the guardians, many of whom are complete savages, and we have a lethal mix. Many of the patients are sent to nursing home hell by self-serving guardians who likely get hefty kickbacks – a “quid pro quo” of sorts. Most of New York’s nursing homes are for profit. Their ownership structure can be a moving target, crafted to avoid accountability. Many are financed by hedge funds, hedge fund owners and investment managers; or are publicly traded in various portfolios in the stock exchanges of the United States, Israel, the Canadian Stock Exchange and so many others. It is business, after all. Are we talking about human life? Irrelevant really. We are talking about money.
Guardianship is an extraordinary racket, a well-oiled machine which includes (but is not limited to) social workers, judges, politicians, guardians, medical staff, nursing staff, attorneys, the judiciary and the list goes on and on and on. It is a vicious cycle with little hope of breaking. We have been told it is an “open secret” in government and those who attack the system inevitably doom themselves to a loss of livelihood, reputation, financial well-being and even family safety. The people involved in this racket are like a close-knit family “the Gansa Mishpucha” for whom money leads, whatever conscious there is or may have been was set aside long ago.
The multitude of people involved are not morally bankrupt, as that implies there was something there to bankrupt in the first instance. That is a stretch. The elderly in many of the nations nursing homes are nothing more than financially lucrative chattel; lives of meaningless vulnerable people whose daily existence generates cash. It is a godless business.
New York’s nursing homes and their owners are some of the worst. And then there’s the governor, Andrew Cuomo and his aides who were complicit in setting in motion further devastation as Covid-19 ravaged the elderly. So what did they do? They created immunity – and another loophole to escape accountability. We have coined that immunity the “Granny Killer Immunity Provisions”. Cuomo’s political existence has depended, in large part, upon a significant donor pool that exists within the nursing home industry. He is the quintessential beneficiary of political largesse.
Creating laws that would protect our morally challenged nursing home owners was all part of the movement of money. Until Covid-19 put the brakes on that, at least temporarily it just kept going. The Granny Killer Immunity Provisions immunized nursing home owners, operators and managers and hospitals. Those provisions have been overturned but their creation should be a warning to anyone in this fight. If the power of the nursing home industry can have sway over Governor Cuomo, it will happen again.
There is an effort (see below) to place restrictions on nursing homes. We again pose this: restrictions mean nothing if there is no one there to enforce. Our government is a part of the problem. Enforcement will not happen and the crimes against humanity – our elderly and most vulnerable – will continue. Do we not owe them more lest we all be savages?
While Gov. Andrew Cuomo was securing a reported $4 million deal to write a book on his pandemic “leadership,” he and his staff were busy suppressing the truth about New York’s nursing-home deaths in the wake of the March 25 order that forced homes to admit COVID-contagious patients. And it now turns out the coverup was even worse than we’d thought.
On top of blocking health officials from telling the truth, senior staffers also quashed a scientific paper that reported the true fatality total, The New York Times reported.
A June 18 e-mail from top aide Melissa DeRosa to health officials shows Team Cuomo was “anxious” about a pending Department of Health report on nursing-home coronavirus fatalities and out to downplay the idea that the March 25 mandate had proved deadly.
The Cuomoites were publicly citing a nursing-home death toll of about 6,000 by ignoring home residents who’d died while hospitalized. The draft report shared the full count of over 9,700, noting that the homes accounted for “approximately 35 percent” of all NY coronavirus deaths. But DeRosa — who at the same time was intimately involved in the gov’s book-deal negotiations — and other staff got all that edited out. The final report said the homes only yielded 21 percent of the state’s virus death total, making it seem below, rather than above, the US average.
The feud between Ron Kim and Andrew Cuomo is not over yet.
Assemblyman Ron Kim and Governor Andrew Cuomo had a very raw, very public falling out this past February that essentially catapulted the nursing home scandal—in which Cuomo is accused of hiding the number of fatalities from COVID-19 within New York State nursing homes—into the media spotlight. Kim became a household name overnight after the local politician alleged Cuomo threatened to ruin his career. Now, Kim is calling upon the Attorney General to join the fight.
Kim gathered with Voices for Seniors members in Foley Square on Monday afternoon. In the shadow of the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse, the assemblyman stood ahead of those who had lost elderly loved ones to the deadly virus calling out the Governor for what he says are “Some of the worst and deadly policies that this country has ever witnessed.”
“For ten months Andrew Cuomo only listened to the worst operators, the lobbyists, to put forward policies that were not only deadly but were irresponsible and criminal. So, we are here once again calling for full accountability for Andrew Cuomo’s unilateral decision-making around nursing homes, in particular, we are asking for the Attorney General and every other investigator who has now opened up investigations into Andrew Cuomo to look into him and his allies, and his administration committing fraud,” Kim said.
While Attorney General Letitia James is reportedly already conducting an investigation into the slew of sexual misconduct allegations levied at the head of state, this demand for action asks James to look into a cover-up of deaths within nursing homes. Kim also cited the importance of this proposed investigation to the families of the deceased who formed Voices for Seniors, a group that looks to improve the lives of the elderly through advocacy. Members of the organization clutched photographs of perished family members and signs dubbing the Governor a “super spreader,” blaming Cuomo for the deaths of their loved ones.
As part of its recent budget, New York State has enacted a new law that significantly impacts nursing home operators in New York. Effective January 1, 2022, the new Section 2828 of the Public Health Law requires, among other things, that:
Not less than 70% of nursing home revenues shall be spent on direct resident care costs;
40% of the nursing home revenues must be spent on staff who work directly with patients (so-called resident-facing staff, as that term is defined in Section 2828), which is included in amounts spent on direct resident care costs; and
Nursing home profits are limited to not more than 5%, and profits in excess of this threshold shall be turned over to the [sic]
Pursuant to the legislation, the Department of Health shall promulgate regulations in accordance with the new [sic]
Direct resident care is defined to include non-revenue support services (e.g., maintenance and patient food service), ancillary services (e.g., laboratory and pharmacy services), and program services directly serving patients.
Direct resident care is defined to include non-revenue support services (e.g., maintenance and patient food service), ancillary services (e.g., laboratory and pharmacy services), and program services directly serving patients. Expenses that are specifically excluded as not related to patient care include, without limitation, administrative costs (other than nurse administration), capital costs, debt service, taxes (other than sales taxes or payroll taxes), capital depreciation, rent and leases, and fiscal services. Specifically excepted from the new law are nursing homes that provide certain specialized services, including, for example, behavioral intervention and neurodegenerative services.
Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aides engaged in a sustained effort to prevent the state’s own health officials, including the commissioner, Howard Zucker, from releasing the true death toll to the public or sharing it with state lawmakers, these interviews and documents showed.
A scientific paper, which incorporated the data, was never published. An audit of the numbers by a top Cuomo aide was finished months before it became publicly known. Two letters, drafted by the Health Department and meant for state legislators, were never sent.
Queens assemblyman and advocates rally for nursing homes investigation and immunity repeal
“Every time we get close to the truth, it seems like the governor is untouchable. How many more scandals? How many more women? How many more nursing home-related lies and frauds need to be exposed before we can hold him accountable?” Kim said during a virtual rally with advocates on Thursday, April 1.
This week, Arizona legislators will vote on bill 1377, which would shield nursing homes from civil liability for negligence while providing services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At least 32 states have already passed laws or issued executive orders during the pandemic making it harder for nursing home residents or their families to take the companies that run these facilities to court. The new Arizona bill would protect any health care institution assumed to be acting in “good faith” except in cases of “willful misconduct” or “gross negligence.”
The provision of such broad immunity is particularly problematic for nursing homes in light of growing evidence indicating that during the pandemic, nursing home residents have suffered considerable harms from neglect and prolonged isolation, in addition to the risk of Covid-19 itself.
In a report published last week, Human Rights Watch documented serious concerns over possible neglect in nursing homes across the United States during the pandemic’s first year, when staffing was low and family members were often not allowed in facilities. Residents, family members, and staff reported extreme weight loss, dehydration, and infected bedsores, which in some cases may have contributed to death. In many cases, residents’ hygiene appeared to have been neglected as well, with family members reporting residents were left in soiled incontinence pads for hours at a time and their hair and fingernails grew long and dirty. Many nursing home residents, deprived of daily social contact because of restrictions on visitors and activities, declined physically and emotionally.
The academic evidence echoes our findings: just last week, an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association (JAMDA) found that in Connecticut nursing homes, depression, substantial weight loss, and incontinence increased among residents in the four months after visitor restrictions went into place.
Human Rights Watch, to continue reading click here.
New York’s now infamous corporate immunity law for nursing home executives has been placed on the legislative docket for repeal. The law, slipped into last year’s budget by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, shielded nursing homes from liability as they were forced by the governor to accept patients presumed to have COVID into their facilities.
Last Spring, while the national media was celebrating Cuomo, The Daily Poster helped break open the story of Cuomo passing the law after receiving huge campaign donations from the corporate group pushing it. As The Daily Poster reported earlier this week, the law has shielded administrators and executives from liability for a wide range of negligence claims, even those that don’t appear to be directly related to COVID.
Governor Andrew Cuomo offered blanket immunity from prosecution for negligent nursing home executives last year. Now those who lost love ones during the pandemic thanks to those executives’ greed have nowhere to turn. Those who put profit over human life — and Cuomo — need to be held responsible.
As the Daily Poster reported last May, the Cuomo administration quietly inserted the liability shield provision into the state’s 2020 budget bill after a powerful health care industry group that donated more than $1 million to Cuomo’s political machine drafted and lobbied for the law.
The provision was ostensibly designed to help nursing homes as they made difficult decisions in the face of an unprecedented emergency. But the law extended the protections not just to medical staff, but also to corporate executives — and critics worried that the law would allow the facilities’ owners and operators to cut corners and risk people’s lives without repercussions.
As lawmakers pushing to revoke the measure noted in a legislative memo that month, the immunity law “egregiously uses severe liability standards as a means to insulate health care facilities and specifically, administrators and executives of such facilities, from any civil or criminal liability for negligence.”
Now, as Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic has exploded into a national scandal amid revelations of suppressed COVID death counts alongside reported threats against Cuomo critics and allegations of sexual harassment, the Daily Poster has found the law is indeed insulating nursing home administrators and executives from civil or criminal liability for their actions.
Over much of the past year, the provision has apparently had a chilling effect across the state, causing many lawyers to refuse all new nursing home–related negligence cases, whether or not they seem to be directly related to COVID-19, and limiting the scope of other legal actions begun before the pandemic. Though New York has seen more than fifteen thousand nursing home deaths, there have only been a handful of wrongful death cases filed in the state, according to data compiled by the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, which has been tracking COVID-related cases.
On April 3, 2020, as the media was reporting on how New York was becoming a global coronavirus hot spot, Cuomo signed into law the state’s budget bill for the year, which included a little-noticed provision on page 347 that noted that executives, board members, trustees, and other corporate officials at nursing homes and other health care facilities “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 health care services” related to COVID-19.
The liability shield, which covered both lawsuits and criminal prosecutions, was made retroactive to March 7, 2020. A Cuomo spokesperson would later insist the measure wasn’t due to industry influence — but lobbyists suggested otherwise.
The day before the measure became law, the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) — a major lobbying group that represents hospital systems, including some that own nursing homes, that has donated more than $1.25 million to Cuomo’s political operation — sent out a memo stating it had “drafted and aggressively advocated for this legislation.”
As GNYHA noted to its members in the announcement, “You and your heroic workers have enough to agonize over without having to worry about liability for decisions and actions made under extraordinarily challenging circumstances.”
The provision’s effect was immediate.
Holly Mosher, a partner at the Friedlander & Mosher, PC law firm in Ithaca, which focuses on nursing home negligence cases, told the Daily Poster that before then, her firm usually followed up on several reports of alleged nursing home abuse or neglect each week. Now, suddenly, they weren’t looking into any potential new cases at all. That included not just allegations of residents getting sick or dying from COVID-19 because of improper conditions, but also claims of negligence that seemed to have little to do with coronavirus at all, such as preventable injuries and bedsores, other than the fact that the incidents occurred in the middle of the pandemic.
To continue reading the article in its entirety, click here.
New York is a cesspool of corruption; and sadly for those of us for whom this State has some sentimentality, we may be deluding ourselves into believing it can be fixed. absent tearing down the entire system of government and rebuilding it. It does not help that there is very little in New York that is transparent and, more to the point, even transparency is shrouded in secrecy. For instance, most states prohibit vendors who have significant state contracts from donating to politicians within the state. Sounds logical. But New York does not have such a prohibition. Couple that with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010)), which paved the way for mega-donors to give money in secret, and you have a recipe for unending money-meets politics power brokering. And the players have learned to game the system like a BlackJack card-counter plays a hand. New York has no safeguards against running amok either. And it has.
Moreover, for those of us who misguidedly thought it could not get any worse, Covid-19 made corruption that much easier. While all eyes were on the extraordinary havoc Covid-19 was wreaking on the state, and while many of us chose Cuomo’s news briefings over those of the President at the time, Cuomo was constructing a return to his donors. He had made promises that needed to be kept if he ever wanted to be President. While New Yorkers were dying, Cuomo was devising the “quid pro quo”. Sadly, the real difference between Cuomo and Trump is political sides. Both played to their acolytes similarly. Interestingly, many of Cuomo’s top donors in New York and the greater Tri-State area were also Trump’s top donors. There is an heir of true opportunism in that.
Real Estate moguls who had donated large sums (either themselves or through their attorneys) were given an “essential business” pass to continue building, or operating when all other businesses were shut down. Hospitals and nursing/rehabilitation homes were given the well-touted immunity from any and all liability for deaths that occurred during the height of the Covid-19 spread. It does not matter what was the cause of death. The immunity is very broad. Any accountability for the negligence of nursing home owners, operators and staff, if not gross negligence got a Cuomo signed pass without accountability. We have dubbed those provisions the “Granny Killer Immunity” provisions, and it is noteworthy that these hugely significant provisions were snuck into a well-needed budget bill.
And, for those mega-donors who did not need global sweeps in return for their investment in Cuomo: including exceptions to rules, regulations, standards of behavior or full on immunity, Cuomo returned his donor largesse into important and influential political positions. Some of the megadonor law firms, those responsible for deciding the political slate of Democrats who run in many counties, most notably Kings County were the beneficiaries of client satisfaction. Moreover, to add icing to the cake, the person tasked with investigating the wrongdoing within Cuomo’s administration, notably the nursing homes and the Cuomo sexual harassments allegations is also the beneficiary of many of those donations. Her hands are largely tied, the question is how she will play the political chess game.
It should be clear that where Cuomo did not directly reap the benefits of the nursing home lobby, the major New York hospital chains and the related unions, Cuomo had the benefit of donations from their lawyers and accountants, who stepped in and donated big. Some of the highest donations to Cuomo’s campaign came from law firms representing nursing homes, real estate magnates, construction contractors, their lending banks and finally union members. And, to add insult to injury, some of the top donating law firms also requested and received some of the most extensive PPP loans.
One might consider that the PPP loans actually went to donations to Cuomo’s campaigns if it all comes out in the wash.
We are not providing you with information you could not find on your own. There are countless articles that have questioned the Cuomo donations over the years. Few have connected the dots. We are directing you to the most intriguing of the articles, but there are many more. The following we have only excerpted . We encourage you to read the entire article. It tells an important historical story of who has been scratching who’s back, the graft, the political PAC’s that help to make it possible and the incestuous web of political ties and money. And… this was before Covid-19.
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com found 347 state vendors that gave $6.2 million in political donations to Cuomo over a six-year period (2014-2019). Meanwhile, these companies reaped $7 billion in state payments.
These donations represented the equivalent of more than half of the current cash on hand – $11.9 million – in the governor’s campaign committee as of 12/31/2019, according to disclosures.
We created an interactive map displaying by ZIP Code all of the governor’s campaign contributions since 2014. Just click a pin (ZIP Code) and scroll down to see the results that render in the chart beneath the map.
Hospitals – Covid-Positive Patients Transferred To Nursing Homes
The Greater New York Hospital Association (Association) funneled $1 million to Cuomo’s re-election through the state Democratic party in 2018. That same year, the Association and the healthcare union, 1199SEIU, backed Cuomo’s healthcare “reforms” and spent $5.9 million lobbying in Albany.
By February 2020, Cuomo appointed the Association’s past chair and board member Michael Dowling along with 1199SEIU President Dennis Rivera as co-chairmen of the “Medicaid Redesign Team.” (State Medicaid was $4 billion in the red because of Cuomo’s accounting gimmicks.)
Just six weeks before the governor’s appointment, Michael Dowling gave Cuomo a $5,000 campaign donation (12/14/19). (Dowling is also the CEO of Northwell Health – which received $10 million in state payments in 2019.)
Twenty-eight days before the governor made 1199SEIU president Dennis Rivera co-chairman of his Medicaid Team, the union gave $15,000 to Cuomo’s re-election fund (1/6/2020). Since 2014, 1199SEIU backed Cuomo with political endorsements and $95,250 in campaign cash.
Real Estate, Development, and Construction Companies
Between years 2011 and 2020, real estate tycoon Scott Rechler, owner of RXR Realty, LLC, his wife, children, and affiliated LLC businesses gave $540,000 to Cuomo’s campaign fund. Family donations amounted to $385,000 and multiple LLCs funded another $155,000.
Scott’s brother, Todd, Chief Construction and Development Officer at RXR Realty, also contributed an additional $90,000 to Cuomo during the period.
We found four real estate leases owned by RXR Realty affiliated LLCs and signed by two state agencies: Office of Inspector General and Commission on Judicial Conduct. These leases were signed in the years 2014, 2019, and 2020 and are worth $41 million with $13.7 million already paid out. (Note: In 2014, RXR bought the building and the state agencies were existing tenants.)
The public has a right to know whether Cuomo was serving the public interest or his private political interest when his administration negotiated these leases. Every single transaction is a potential conflict of interest.
Furthermore, in 2011, the governor appointed Rechler to the Board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where he became chairman. In 2017, the governor nominated Rechler to the Board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and he served until 2019.
Big Four Accounting Firms – $360,000 in campaign cash
The independent accounting firms, Deloitte; Ernst & Young (EY); KPMG; and PriceWaterhouseCooper collectively gave Gov. Cuomo $360,000 in campaign donations during years 2014-2019. The firms reaped $258.8 million in state payments.
Between 2013 and 2015, New York regulatory agencies and the governor investigated Deloitte, PwC, and EY for alleged wrongdoing. The firms paid $45 million and other penalties to settle the various claims.
Are these firms “independent” auditors with a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers? We found that the firms coordinated their campaign cash to the governor giving the same amounts on the same days in the same years.
Three of the Big Four – PwC, KPMG, and EY – each gave the exact same amount of campaign cashto Cuomo during the six-year period ($88,333.33). Deloitte contributed another $105,000.