NY Gov. Cuomo unveils nursing home reforms, lashes out over accusations

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NEW YORK (WABC) -- Governor Andrew Cuomo announced what he called "sweeping nursing home reform legislation" as controversy continues to swirl over his handling of data on COVID deaths in such facilities.

It comes as the New York State Department of Health is slated to allow nursing homes to resume visitation. Cuomo said 73% of nursing home residents are vaccinated, and that visitors must take a rapid test that will be provided by the state before entry.

He once again fired back at critics over his handling of the pandemic and the nursing homes in particular, calling the attacks purely political.

"We didn't fight back against lies and politics and distortions aggressively enough," he said. "I was not aggressive enough in knocking down the falsities...I won't make that mistake again."

Watch more of Cuomo press conference addressing allegations:
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He insists the state didn't cover up deaths but should have moved faster to release the data.

"There are facts that I want nursing home families to know specifically," he said. "All the information that the state put out about all the deaths, hospital deaths, and nursing home deaths from day one..it is a lie to say any numbers were inaccurate."

ALSO READ | Gov. Cuomo insists nursing home COVID data was accurate, blames 'raw politics'

Cuomo said the announced reforms are designed to increase transparency, hold nursing home operators accountable for misconduct, and help ensure facilities are prioritizing patient care over profits.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing health equity and access to care issues among all communities, however, the state's minority communities and older adults have been disproportionately affected.

The reforms would make permanent the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to improve the health and safety of nursing home residents, as well as the quality of services in nursing home facilities.

The reforms aim to increase transparency by:
--Requiring nursing homes to post their rates for each payer source on a public website, updated annually
--Requiring the posting of all facility owners
--Requiring the posting of a list of all contracts or other agreements entered into for provision of goods or services for which any portion of Medicaid or Medicare funds are used by the facility within 30 days of execution of the agreement
--Requiring information regarding staff be included in an application to establish a nursing home

The reforms aim to hold operators accountable for misconduct by:
--Increasing civil monetary penalties to $25,000 for violations of the Public Health Law, including increasing penalties for willful violations of Public Health Law or regulation
--Removing the requirement to provide adult care facilities a 30-day period to rectify violations prior to imposition of a penalty
--Building off legislation signed by the Governor in 2019, requiring any nursing home with a repeat Infection Control Deficiency to work with the Quality Improvement Organization, or a state designated independent quality monitor, at the nursing home's own expense, to assess and resolve the facility's infection control deficiencies
--Streamlining process to appoint a receiver to protect patient health and safety

The reforms aim to ensure nursing home facilities are prioritizing patient care over profits by:
--Requiring that nursing homes spend a minimum of 70 percent of revenue on direct patient care and a minimum of 40 percent of revenue on resident staffing
--Establishing a nursing home profit cap and limiting certain unscrupulous transactions, including but not limited to related party transactions over fair market value and payment of compensation for employees who are not actively engaged in or providing services at the nursing home
--Limiting the overall proportion of management salaries and setting a cap by regulation, dependent on the size of the facility, for managers and executives

Earlier Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio continued his assault on the governor, saying that Cuomo's emergency pandemic powers should be revoked so "we can get back to normal Democratic governance in this state."

Asked if Cuomo committed obstruction of justice and should be impeached or resign, de Blasio said the Justice Department should investigate.

ALSO READ | Assemblyman alleges Cuomo threatened him over nursing homes scandal
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Joe Torres reports on the political riff between the governor and Assemblyman Ron Kim.


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) acknowledged the ongoing federal investigation into the Cuomo administration, but she added that the problems in nursing homes are bigger than that.

"I'm certainly aware there is already an investigation ongoing on the federal level, and I will of course monitor that," she said.

Gillibrand said there needs to be a larger investigation into "the broader issue" of nursing home deaths "because this is not something that is isolated to New York alone."

Asked if the governor should resign or be impeached, she said she didn't know because her focus is her job in the US Senate and that pandemic powers "is the state legislature's job to review."

Cuomo is also involved in a dispute with another state Democrat who claims the governor threatened him over the reporting of COVID nursing home deaths.

Assemblyman Ron Kim, of Queens, says Cuomo vowed to "destroy" him during a private phone call last week for criticizing his handling of the outbreak.

De Blasio weighed in on that Thursday, saying he believes Kim 100% and that threatening public officials is nothing new for Cuomo.

"That's classic Andrew Cuomo," he said. "The threats, the belittling, the demand that someone change their statement right that moment. Many, many times I've heard that, and I know many other people in the state have heard that...I believe Ron Kim, and it's very, very sad."

Cuomo has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Last week, Cuomo's top aide Melissa DeRosa told Democratic lawmakers that the administration took months to release data revealing how many people living at nursing homes died of COVID-19 because officials "froze " over worries the information was "going to be used against us."

It comes as the FBI and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are investigating Cuomo's coronavirus task force with a particular focus on his administration's handling of nursing homes early in the pandemic, two sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

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