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State Senator Seeks More Nursing Home Oversight; LeadingAge NY Advances Quality Agenda

On the heels of a series on nursing home care in The Buffalo News, a State Senator has proposed legislation aimed at improving care standards in nursing homes in New York State. Meanwhile, LeadingAge NY has developed a Nursing Home Quality Agenda aimed at promoting quality of care by addressing workforce challenges, excessive mandates, and funding concerns. Our Quality Agenda follows up on a recent meeting with State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to discuss these issues.

The Buffalo News coverage has focused on examples of adverse resident outcomes and out-of-town ownership of facilities with quality issues. These stories, we believe, contributed to the passage of Ruthie’s Law, an Erie County statute that purports to impose additional reporting requirements and fines on nursing homes, which are prohibited by the New York State Public Health Law. While LeadingAge NY members have not been the focus of this coverage, we are concerned that negative perceptions of nursing homes in general affect their ability to recruit and retain high-quality workers, contribute to public calls for greater oversight of the field, and erode public support for adequate funding through Medicaid and other programs.

Senator Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) announced a series of bills he is introducing. S.113, the “Unpredictable Nursing Home Inspection Act,” would require 40 percent of nursing home inspections to be performed outside of business hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays. A second bill, S.112, would place a two-year bar on nursing home owners seeking to purchase additional nursing homes while any of their currently owned facilities are out of compliance. Another bill, which has yet to be filed but includes previous legislative proposals, would reportedly allow the Department of Health (DOH) to require an independent quality monitor for correcting serious deficiencies, increase fines for violations of state law, and authorize DOH to enter nursing homes if conditions in the facility are believed to pose a danger to residents.

LeadingAge NY and other groups met with Commissioner Zucker last fall to discuss nursing home quality of care and the need for creative solutions to workforce shortages and other challenges. Working with our Nursing Facility Cabinet, LeadingAge NY developed a Nursing Home Quality Agenda, which provides a set of recommendations to address key workforce, oversight, and program and funding challenges. We are working with other associations to develop a consensus set of recommendations for Commissioner Zucker’s consideration and discussion at a follow-up meeting.

We will keep members posted on further developments and needs for grassroots advocacy.

Contact: Dan Heim, dheim@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8866