In dealing with the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic, many aspects of life have been put on hold.

One thing that has continued, however, is the inclination of the state government to pass out unfunded mandates. A recent one comes from an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on May 10, which will hit the budgets of nursing homes.

Mr. Cuomo’s executive order directs “all nursing homes and all adult care facilities, including all adult homes, enriched housing programs and assisted living residences to test or make arrangements for the testing of all personnel, including all employees, contract staff, medical staff, operators and administrators …” Facilities failing to comply with this order may have their operating certificate suspended or revoked. Personnel who refuse to be tested in accordance with their company’s plan “shall be considered to have outdated or incomplete health assessments and shall therefore be prohibited from providing services to such nursing home or adult care facility until such testing is performed.”

The twice-weekly novel coronavirus testing for nursing home staffs are intended to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable residents, but many facilities are concerned about the substantial cost that falls squarely on their shoulders.

While it was not explicitly stated in the executive order issued on May 10 by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, nursing homes and adult care facilities ‘are responsible for providing testing for their employees, including assuming responsibility for the costs of testing,’ according to the first ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ directive dated May 12, fleshing out the order’s details. That cost, which was about $51 per test as of May 1, is now up to $100 at LabCorp, a commonly used ‘reference lab’ among upstate facilities.

The costs for these tests will strain the financial resources of nursing homes.

For example, the Livingston County Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, a county-owned skilled nursing facilityi n Mount Morris, expects costs in the range of $80,000 per week, according to County Administrator Ian M. Coyle.

“The County is still seeking support from New York State for this unfunded mandate on public nursing homes,” Coyle told The Livingston County News.

And while it appears that insurances can be billed, Coyle noted that the county is self-insured “so any employee with insurance throught he County, this still represents a cost for the CNR.”

The county will look to funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the CARES Act to offset its testing costs.

“This is not a sustainable expense,” Coyle said.

The order is expected to remain in place until at least June 9.

The testing is obviously a response to the criticism Mr. Cuomo received for ordering nursing homes in March to accept patients who tested positive for the virus. The state has recorded thousands deaths of nursing home residents from COVID-19 – including 41 at nursing homes in the four-county GLOW Region – , and the governor has since revised his order.

So it’s good that his administration wants to control the spread of infection among nursing home residents and staffers.

But Mr. Cuomo’s latest directive will cost these facilities an enormous amount of money, and many aren’t sure where these funds will come from. Legislators need to look for ways to help nursing homes pay for these tests to avoid their closure, which would deepen this health care crisis even further.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1