Hochul signs ordinance delaying new rules for retirement homes


ALBANY – Governor Kathy Hochul signed an executive order temporarily preventing the entry into force of a new law that would require operators of state nursing homes to increase their workforce and provide residents with a minimum level of daily care .

The law was passed by the state legislature last year in response to criticism that years of chronic understaffing in the industry have left facilities unprepared to care for residents during the COVID pandemic. 19. It was to come into effect last weekend.

Hochul cited ongoing labor shortages in the healthcare industry as the reason for the order, which she signed on New Years Eve. The order also extends a statement by one month. Statewide Disaster Emergency which it first released in September in response to staff shortages.

The governor’s office did not respond directly to questions about the order on Tuesday. Samantha Fuld, spokesperson for the state’s health ministry, confirmed the delay in the law.

“While nursing homes are encouraged to comply, in light of the current staff crisis, the suspension (of the executive order) makes it clear that non-compliance will not constitute a violation of the public health, to avoid penalizing facilities that cannot comply due to the emergency, ”Fuld said.

Nursing home executives applauded the delay this week, saying the law would have exacerbated an already difficult situation for facilities struggling to recruit and retain workers.

“In an age when nursing homes are already facing an epic staff shortage, the application of staffing ratios would have only exacerbated this crisis and hurt both our workers and our staff. to our residents, pushing the industry to the brink of tragedy, ”said Michael Balboni, executive director of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, a trade association representing long-term care facilities.

Unions representing healthcare workers disagreed, saying law is needed to force nursing homes to act. In the years leading up to the pandemic, workers regularly held rallies to protest low staffing levels – arguing that staffing fueled burnout and endangered the safety and well-being of residents .

“Without staffing standards, nursing homes will not be able to retain the staff that residents depend on,” said Yvonne Armstrong, senior executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “Dedicated caregivers are driven from the bedside by the inability to provide the care residents need without the right resources. “

The new law that was due to come into force would have required the state’s health commissioner to establish minimum staffing standards for nursing homes that included at least 3.5 hours of nursing care per resident per day.

It would also require homes to spend at least 70% of their income on direct resident care and at least 40% on staff caring for residents. A state attorney general report released last year called on the growing for-profit sector to pocket profits while leaving their nursing facilities understaffed.

Industry representatives argue that it is the state’s history of low Medicaid reimbursement, however, that is causing the staff shortages and say the rate hike is one move. could be taken immediately to deal with the crisis.

“Almost 80% of nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid,” said Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association. “So the most crucial recruiting and retention is putting that Medicaid rate into the workforce so that we can come out and compete. It’s essential.

Retirement home operators are fighting to block the law for good.

More than 250 homes as well as business groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Albany last month, claiming the new requirements violate the U.S. Constitution as an inappropriate “taking” of private property for any purpose. public. They also claim the law violates the supremacy clause by forfeiting federal dollars paid to nursing homes through Medicare, the federal seniors’ health care program.

The state’s health ministry declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

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