Op-Ed | Governor, lawmakers need to get off fence & boost nursing home oversight, shine light on Rx prices

Pills spilling out from yellow container. Medical and pharmaceutical concept.
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Why are Governor Kathy Hochul and the State Senate on the fence on properly funding a program that protects some of New York’s most vulnerable people? And why is the State Assembly reluctant to shine a light on skyrocketing prescription drug prices?

Those two key issues hang in the balance as the April 1 state budget deadline draws perilously near.

Residents of New York’s 1,400 nursing homes, assisted living and other adult care facilities, about 530 of which are in New York City and Long Island, deserve a better oversight system.

The State’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) serves as the eyes and ears of aging New Yorkers living in such facilities and their family caregivers. But LTCOP has been woefully underfunded for years. Nearly 80% of nursing homes in New York City didn’t get a single visit during a three-month period last year, let alone once a week – the program’s stated goal. State records also show 52% percent of facilities statewide didn’t receive a single visit from an ombudsman during those three months.

The number of volunteers, who comprise most of LTCOP’s ombudsmen, has dwindled significantly as a result of the pandemic.

AARP New York and other aging advocates are calling on the Governor and Legislature to boost LTCOP’s funding by an additional $15 million in the state budget. That would allow the program to hire 235 professionals, enough for make one ombudsman visit per week per facility.

Governor Hochul’s executive budget proposal keeps LTCOP’s funding at last year’s level. The Senate is proposing $2 million in additional funding – well short of what’s needed, and far below the Assembly’s proposal to add $12.5 million.

Conversely, it’s the Assembly that’s holding out on the Governor’s comprehensive Rx price transparency reforms, which would:

  • Require prescription drug manufacturers to report proposed price increases in advance;
  • Expand the State’s power to investigate such increases, and;
  • Require disclosure of shady ‘pay for delay’ deals where brand name makers pay their generic counterparts to delay the availability of cheaper generics.

The Governor and Senate Majority need to do better for our loved ones living in adult care facilities – our parents, grandparents, spouses and other relatives. And the Assembly should step up for the millions of New Yorkers who rely on prescription medication.

With the state budget due in just a few days, the time for our leaders to step up is now.