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After several delays, Governor Hochul finally enacts nursing home staffing regulations

New York nursing homes must begin meeting new minimum staffing requirements this month after Gov. Kathy granted Hochul a temporary stay.

The governor had issued several executive orders postponing rules that were due to take effect in January, citing a shortage of healthcare workers. But after facing pressure from Attorney General Letitia James and union officials, she quietly let the last order expire on Thursday without renewing it.

The new rules require care homes to hire enough staff to provide each resident with an average of 3.5 hours of daily clinical care. These long-term care facilities must also spend at least 70% of revenue on direct patient care and at least 40% of revenue on the staff needed to provide that care. Nursing home profits will be capped at 5%.

Nursing home lobbyists still claim that many operators will struggle to hire the staff needed to meet the new staffing standards. But supporters of care home residents and the 1199 SEIU union held a press conference on Friday afternoon to celebrate the rules coming into effect.

“These are our most vulnerable citizens and we need to make sure we take care of them,” said Beth Finkel, the New York State director for AARP. “In times of crisis, you don’t lower standards. You raise the standards because otherwise the quality of care goes down.”

Advocates and union leaders at the press conference said the next step for the state is to ensure non-compliant care homes face consequences. Nursing homes with a profit margin of more than 5% this year should remit any excess revenue to the state by November next year. The money goes into a fund that is redistributed to the care facilities based on performance.

Proposed penalties for homes not meeting daily staffing hours are still being finalized.

According to a recent report by consulting firm Clifton Larson Allen, only about 63% of New York State’s 611 nursing homes were meeting the 3.5-hour staffing requirement in the third quarter of 2021. The report found that it would cost $324.5 million annually to have all state operators comply with the new requirements.

If Hochul’s proposed 1% increase in the Medicaid rate is included in the final state budget, which is officially delayed, it would result in about $140 million more per year for nursing homes, according to Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association, which represents nursing homes. His organization commissioned the report from CLA.

But Hanse said increasing staffing levels at care homes will require more than just additional funds.

“The original Executive Order [from Hochul] talked about a staffing crisis in healthcare,” said Hanse. “And here we are on April 1st. The healthcare workforce crisis has not subsided and has not been resolved.”

When asked to respond to claims that the labor force needed to fill the gaps is simply not available, advocates at Friday’s news conference said care homes should start working harder to fill the existing staff to keep.

“If employers actually invest and do everything they can to keep these workers, they will not lose them,” said Milly Silva, executive vice president of 1199 SEIU. “They have to deal with issues around wages, benefits and working conditions.”

As care homes continue to push back those mandates, consumer advocates said their next step will be to fight to raise minimum staffing standards even further.

https://gothamist.com/news/after-multiple-delays-gov-hochul-finally-allows-nursing-home-staffing-rules-to-take-effect After several delays, Governor Hochul finally enacts nursing home staffing regulations

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