As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Faces Intense Criticism For Concealing Data About Nursing Home Deaths & Reportedly Threatening A Lawmaker Who Pushed To Investigate The Matter, A Powerful Hospital Lobby With Close Ties To Cuomo & Other New York Politicians Is Coming Under Scrutiny.
Photo: First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Chuck Schumer following a remembrance ceremony on September 11, 2020 in New York City.
Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Published February 19, 2021
The Center for Responsive Politics [By Karl Evers-Hillstrom] –
The Greater New York Hospital Association, a hospital trade group that donated nearly $1.3 million to a Democratic party committee account that boosted Cuomo amid his challenging 2018 primary race, has secured numerous policy wins under the third-term governor.
The group drafted a provision in Cuomo’s state budget bill that shielded healthcare workers — including top executives of nursing homes and hospitals — from legal liability over deaths of patients from COVID-19.
State Assemblyman Ron Kim, the Democratic lawmaker berated by Cuomo, released a report last year arguing that provider immunity led to more patient deaths from the virus.
New York Attorney General Letitia James found in her report that the immunity shield might encourage providers to refrain from making sufficient investments to keep their patients safe. Cuomo argued the provision was needed to accommodate volunteer healthcare workers.
The controversial move protects healthcare officials from specific legal actions over the roughly 13,000 deaths of New Yorkers in long-term care facilities.
Cuomo’s administration previously said about 8,500 residents died. Earlier this year, Cuomo tapped the trade group to run New York City’s vaccination hub — instead of the city’s own health department — confusing and angering health officials. One of Cuomo’s top aides is relatives with several lobbyists representing the trade group.
The Greater New York Hospital Association has cultivated powerful relationships with New York politicians for decades. But it’s also emerged as a powerful force in Washington, where it attempted to implement similar legal immunity legislation while bankrolling congressional Democrats.
As Congress debated another stimulus bill in November, the group lobbied lawmakers to “ensure that health care entities and workers are protected from all forms of legal exposure and liability” amid their COVID-19 response efforts.
Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged the Senate to pass broader corporate liability protections, but Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) rejected them. The association spent $2.3 million to deploy 32 lobbyists to Washington in 2020.
But the group really flexed its political muscle with big-dollar donations. As Democrats fought an expensive battle to gain control of the Senate, the Greater New York Hospital Association gave $10 million to the Senate Majority PAC, Senate Democrats’ top super PAC linked to Schumer.
That’s after the group gave $2 million to the Senate Majority PAC in 2016 and $4.5 million in 2018. It also gave $2 million to the House Majority PAC, affiliated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in the 2020 cycle.
Schumer didn’t give hospitals what they wanted on legal immunity, but he delivered on other priorities. The New York Democrat pushed for significant funding for health care providers in the CARES Act, and Congress awarded $100 billion to hospitals in the initial stimulus package.
The Greater New York Hospital Association was an influential player in stimulus talks, reportedly communicating closely with Schumer and Jared Kushner, then-President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser. The group didn’t respond to a request for comment by time of publication.
Congress gave $278 million in grants and interest-free loans to hospitals and nursing homes, far more than any other industry. Hospitals also secured a win in surprise billing legislation.
The pandemic sparked record lobbying from the health sector, and increased popularity of healthcare providers emboldened hospital executives to ask for even more government aid in the next stimulus package.
“There is a time to ask for things you wouldn’t usually ask for,” an anonymous health care lobbyist told STAT News. “If you get straight A’s, it might be the time to ask your parents for a new iPhone. This is the time not to be shy. You’re kind of the golden children, but it’s not going to last forever.”
Another top hospital lobbying group, the Federation of American Hospitals, wants an additional $32 billion in funding for providers in Democrats’ proposed relief package.
While rural hospitals across the nation struggle to stay afloat, some major hospital chains increased their profits in 2020.
Back in New York, Democratic lawmakers will reportedly strip Cuomo of emergency powers they granted during the early days of the pandemic. The move came after the Albany Times Union reported the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn are investigating Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic.