Health care interests in New York on Wednesday continued to push back against a measure meant to roll back liability protections for nursing homes and long-term care facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, signaled he would be open to a version of the legislation that carved out COVID cases from liability, but said he would have to read the measure.
Lawmakers are meeting this week in Albany for a rare mid-July session of the Legislature to take up a range of coronavirus-related bills as well as typical end-of-session measures that are often left to the very end of the bill calendar, but was disrupted by the pandemic.
More than 6,300 nursing home residents have died during the pandemic. State lawmakers have called public hearings next month on the issue.
Exempting the facilities from liability during the pandemic was approved earlier this year and retroactive to the start of the emergency in New York in March.
The measure under discussion now at the Capitol would not create a look-back window for cases. Still, groups like Health Care Association of New York State signaled their opposition to the measure.
"This legislation would take a significant step backwards by repealing almost all of the liability protections passed by the legislature only a few months ago," the group wrote in a memorandum of opposition released on Wednesday.
The gourp added, "In emergency situations, such as those our frontline healthcare workers endured every single day in the spring, healthcare facilities and professionals treated everyone – those with and without COVID-19 under extraordinary circumstances and in non-traditional settings without fear of potentially frivolous lawsuits based on the type of patient to whom they were providing care and treatment."
The Cuomo administration, meanwhile, has come under scrutiny for a March 25 order that required nursing homes and long-term care facilities to take in COVID-positive patients discharged by hospitals. That guidance has since been partially rescinded.
The Department of Health this month released a report pointing to asymptomatic staff and guests at the facilities for spreading the virus. New York allowed asymptomatic staff to work in the facilities until late April; guests were barred in mid-March.
Cuomo on Wednesday said he is yet to read the liability rollback measure as it is written now.
But he said he understood the "rational" for exempting COVID cases from any rollback of the liability exemption.
"COVID was one thing," he said in a conference call with reporters. "If there was an issue with nothing to do with COVID, I'd have to see the actual bill. "