Look closely at a questionable Empire State health-care policy, and you’re liable to find the fingerprints of the Greater New York Hospital Association, the hospital and health-system trade group that is one of the most influential forces in New York politics.
A case in point is the state Health Department’s directive, issued on March 25, that compelled nursing homes to accept patients who had tested positive for coronavirus. It turns out, as the Journal reported, that this ill-conceived policy was the brainchild of the nonprofit hospital association, which pitched it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office shortly before it went into effect. In the name of easing a crisis for the association’s members, the Cuomo administration contributed to a disaster for vulnerable nursing-home residents, who died by the thousands.
This fatal misstep grew out of a remarkably tight political alliance between the governor and the trade group that has become increasingly bad for the state’s health. Its recent history began before Mr. Cuomo’s last election when, in March 2018, he browbeat the state’s Catholic bishops into giving up $2 billion in proceeds from the sale of a church-affiliated nonprofit health plan. The money went into a “Health Care Transformation Fund” to be spent at the governor’s discretion in an election year.
That summer the hospital group poured more than $1 million into Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign, which was a lot even for one of Albany’s deepest pockets. Much of the funding flowed through a loophole that would keep it secret until after his inauguration. Just before Election Day, with no advance notice, Mr. Cuomo dipped into his health-care slush fund to finance an increase in the fees paid to hospitals and nursing homes for taking care of Medicaid patients, a top lobbying priority of the hospital association.