Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is facing heat after a report surfaced that he withheld nursing home death data from the state legislators and federal prosecutors.
The New York Post reported on February 11 that Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s top aide admitted to Democratic lawmakers in a private video conference the administration covered up the death numbers of COVID-19 nursing home patients because the numbers “would be used against us,” by federal prosecutors and President Trump.
“Governor Cuomo, the Secretary to the Governor, and his senior team must be prosecuted immediately – both by the Attorney General of New York State and the U.S. Department of Justice,” US Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) wrote in a statement. New York state lawmakers have discussed pulling back Cuomo’s emergency powers.
Early in the pandemic, Cuomo ordered nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients, a move that put non-infected residents at risk. Data now shows that 15,000 residents in nursing homes and similar facilities died from COVID-19, far higher than the 8,500 deaths originally reported.
The Medicaid Nursing Home Trap
The scandal calls attention to another serious problem with nursing homes – Medicaid, says Stephen Moses, president of the Center for Long-Term Care Reform.
“Governor Cuomo tried to ease a hospital crisis by diverting Covid-19 patients to nursing homes without considering the likely consequences,” Moses told Health Care News. “Nursing homes are less able to control contagion than hospitals and are more likely to rely on Medicaid’s notoriously low reimbursement rates. Sixty-three percent of nursing home residents in New York depend primarily on Medicaid (62 percent, nationally). It appears the Governor panicked and then covered up the tragic results.”
While the federal government oversees Medicaid, states administer the program “So, Governor Cuomo had the authority to do what he did, but he should pay the legal and ethical price imposed by federal oversight for his carelessness,” said Moses.
Moses says the media doesn’t fully understand or report the role of Medicaid in diverting people disproportionately to nursing homes since 1965. As a result, little attention is what it takes to ensure quality care. Consumers fail to appreciate the cost until after it is needed. “When it’s too late for people to save, invest or insure privately,” said Moses.
The Medicaid and Chip Payment and Access Commission recently recommended Congress change and weaken Medicaid estate recovery rules, says Moses. “Estate recovery is mandatory so that people who preserve wealth while receiving Medicaid long term care benefits pay it back in the end,” said Moses. “Estate recovery ensures that Medicaid doesn’t operate as free inheritance insurance for heirs.”
AnneMarie Schieber (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the managing editor of Health Care News.