Brady, Nunes, Reed Call for Official Briefing from Biden Admin on NY Nursing Home Deaths & Cover-Up

February 25, 2021 — Blog    — Coronavirus Bulletin    — Correspondence    — Health    — Oversight    — Press Releases   

WASHINGTON, DC – After Democrats refused a request for a bipartisan hearing, Ways and Means Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-TX) moved forward with Republican leaders in calling for a briefing from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding its role in collecting state government data related to 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).

This is the second time in two weeks Democrats have refused to hold governors accountable and get answers for nursing home residents and their families. On February 11, 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 specifically required governors to attest that their states have been reporting accurate nursing home data and that they would continue to report accurate data moving forward. Every Democrat voted against the amendment, causing it to fail.

On February 22, Republican Leaders Brady, Nunes and Reed asked Chairman Neal for a bipartisan hearing on the issue. Given the timeliness of this crisis, the letter requested a hearing be scheduled by Wednesday, February 24. Democrats did not even bother to reply.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s disastrous March 15th order that 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.”

A copy of the letter to HHS can be found here. The text appears below.

 

February 26, 2021

 

Acting Secretary Norris Cochran

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

 

Dear Acting Secretary Cochran,

We write today to seek a briefing from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and relevant sub-agencies regarding its role in collecting state government data reporting regarding COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.   

Since last summer, Members of the Ways and Means Committee 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.[1],[2] The tragedy of the deaths that resulted from these fatal decisions have been compounded by a lack of transparent, accurate data.

On January 28, 2021, the New York State Office of the Attorney General issued a report finding that “COVID-19 resident deaths associated with nursing homes in New York state” appear to have been undercounted by “approximately 50 percent.”[3] Then on February 11, 2021, 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.”[4]

Given the Ways and Means Committee’s jurisdiction over Medicare payments to skilled nursing facilities and continued role in legislation relating to federal COVID-19 financial aid to states, it is essential the Committee use all tools at its disposal to investigate whether the state of New York deliberately provided false data to the federal government and to the public.

We therefore request that you provide a detailed briefing to staff addressing:

  • The types of data reported to HHS regarding COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities by state and local governments and facilities
  • The manner in which such data is reported to HHS
  • The auditing and review process performed by HHS upon receipt of such data, including any review prior to public posting
  • Any guidance regarding methodology and/or submission of such data provided by HHS to state and local governments and facilities
  • Any clarifying guidance from HHS requested by state and local governments and facilities regarding the reporting of such data
  • Authorities under which HHS can conduct its own oversight of the accuracy of state and local government data reporting regarding COVID-19 related deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities
  • Recourse available to HHS if such data was purposefully reported inaccurately

We ask you schedule this briefing no later than March 5, 2021.

__________________________

Kevin Brady

Republican Leader

Committee on Ways and Means 

__________________________

Tom Reed

Committee on Ways and Means 

__________________________

Devin Nunes

Republican Leader

Subcommittee on Health

Committee on Ways and Means 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://gop-waysandmeans.house.gov/nunes-opening-statement-at-subcommittee-hearing-on-examining-the-covid-19-nursing-home-crisis/

[2] https://reed.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=3192

[3] https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/2021-nursinghomesreport.pdf

[4] https://nypost.com/2021/02/11/cuomo-aide-admits-they-hid-nursing-home-data-from-feds/