WASHINGTON, DC – Ways and Means Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-TX) sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) calling for an immediate hearing to investigate New York nursing home deaths. The letter was joined by Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY).
In New York, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s disastrous March 15th order knowingly sent thousands of COVID-19 positive patients back into nursing homes across the state, which spread the virus and killed thousands of New York’s parents and grandparents.
In January, the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s report stated that nursing home deaths had been undercounted by “approximately 50 percent.” The death toll has now risen to approximately 15,000 souls.
In February, Governor Cuomo’s top aide then admitted that numbers were not accurately reported out of fear that the accurate numbers would be “used against us by federal prosecutors.”
“Given the committee’s jurisdiction over Medicare reimbursement to skilled nursing facilities and continued role in providing COVID-19 financial aid to states, it is imperative that we use all the tools at the Committee’s disposal to determine if the state of New York deliberately provided false data to the federal government and the public,” said the Ways & Means Republicans.
The request for an investigation comes after Rep. Reed provided Democrats with the opportunity to add to their partisan $1.9 trillion spending bill an amendment to ensure honest COVID-19 information from states. The amendment would have specifically required governors to attest that the data their states have been reporting is accurate now and moving forward. Every Democrat voted against the amendment.
The House Ways and Means Committee has oversight of Medicare reimbursements to skilled nursing facilities.
A copy of the letter can be found here. The text is below.
February 22, 2021
Chairman Richard Neal
Ways & Means Committee
Dear Chairman Neal,
We write to request you schedule a full committee hearing in the next 15 days on the integrity of the nursing home COVID-19 deaths data reported by the State of New York.
Since last summer, committee Republicans, led by Mr. Reed, have been raising alarms about the decision made by several governors, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to require nursing homes to admit or readmit COVID-19 positive patients from hospitals., The tragedy of the deaths that resulted from these fatal decisions have been compounded by a lack of transparent, accurate data.
A January 28, 2021, report from the New York State Office of the Attorney General found “… preliminary data for [a sample of] 62 facilities [for the week of March 1 to the date of the facility’s response, which varied from the week of April 12 to July 19] suggests that COVID-19 resident deaths associated with nursing homes in New York state appear to be undercounted by [the New York State Department of Health] by approximately 50 percent.” Exposed by the New York Attorney General, Governor Cuomo’s administration confirmed the findings, with the Associated Press reporting, “[t]he surprise development, after months of the state refusing to divulge its true numbers, showed that at least 12,743 long-term care residents died of the virus as of Jan. 19, far greater than the official tally of 8,505 on that day, cementing New York’s toll as one of the highest in the nation.”
On February 11, 2021, Mr. Reed gave committee Democrats the opportunity to add to their partisan, ostensibly COVID-19-focused $1.9 trillion spending bill legislative language to ensure honest COVID-19 information from states. The amendment would have required governors to attest that the data their states have been reporting is accurate and would remain that way moving forward. The amendment was rejected by every single Democrat on the committee.
Mere hours later, the New York Post reported “Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aide privately apologized to Democratic lawmakers for withholding the state’s nursing home death toll from COVID-19 — telling them ‘we froze’ out of fear that the true numbers would ‘be used against us’ by federal prosecutors.” If this reporting is accurate, then the blatant admission of a cover-up is shocking.
Given the committee’s jurisdiction over Medicare reimbursement to skilled nursing facilities and continued role in providing COVID-19 financial aid to states, it is imperative that we use all the tools at the Committee’s disposal to determine if the state of New York deliberately provided false data to the federal government and the public.
We hope this can be an area of bipartisanship given your personal concern with nursing home reporting. In a letter to the then-Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, you wrote, “…there are reports of insufficient survey activity and unreliable data across nursing homes – the very oversight activities necessary to keep patients safe” and that there was a “…clear congressional imperative for nursing facility surveys and reliable data, as well as the concerns for families and patients around the country about long-term care facilities and COVID-19…”
Given the urgency of our request, we ask you confirm the scheduling of a full committee hearing examining the accuracy of New York’s nursing home COVID-19 deaths data reporting by Wednesday, February 24, 2021. We look forward to your prompt reply.
KEVIN BRADY DEVIN NUNES
Republican Leader Republican Leader
Ways & Means Committee Ways & Means Committee, Health Subcommittee
Ways and Means Committee