What’s worse than using political and legal authority to cause the agonizing deaths of a large number of elderly? Doing that as a cynical favor to monied corporate donors.
Amid Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment allegations, and the scandal over his administration hiding the disgustingly high number of nursing home and group home deaths, few are talking about the elephant in the room. The big scandal isn’t that Cuomo is a creep, because everyone knew that already. The scandal isn’t even that Cuomo lied about nursing home deaths.
The real scandal is what lay behind the high nursing home deaths in New York and a handful of other states led by leftist governors such as Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, Minnesota’s Tim Walz, and Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf. It is the story of how grandpa and grandma got tossed aside for money.
The high nursing home deaths were the direct result of policies that quickly discharged elderly or disabled COVID-19 patients from the hospital when they were still COVID-positive and then put them back in group or nursing homes. The hospital lobby directly engineered this approach, and these governors obliged.
The stated reason for the policy was concern about hospital capacity, but these states kept the policy well after COVID hospitalizations peaked in April. In states like Minnesota, the policy remained in place even though the health-care system never faced the strain that was initially feared. What you don’t hear is that hospitals didn’t want to keep Medicare and Medicaid patients (especially Medicaid patients) in hospitals for too long, because longer stays with such patients are less profitable.
In New York, Michigan, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, nursing homes were required or encouraged to admit COVID-positive patients. The COVID-positive patients then spread the disease to the rest of the residents, and group and nursing homes became epicenters for COVID-19 cases and deaths. Leftists try to brush this logic aside, but a report found a direct correlation between patients discharged by hospitals and COVID-19 cases.
In Cuomo’s New York, at the height of the pandemic on March 25, the State Health Department “compelled nursing homes to accept patients who had tested positive for coronavirus.” The policy was pushed by the non-profit hospital association, the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA). New York had recently cut Medicaid funding due to budget issues, and given Medicaid is already chronically underfunded, it is possible that hospitals were losing money or at best barely breaking even on poor and indigent COVID-19 patients.
Later, Cuomo’s aides inserted a measure into an annual budget bill creating the nation’s most generous and explicit COVID lawsuit protections for health care and industry officials. One study claims that COVID-19 deaths were 7.5 times higher in states with such corporate legal immunity.
The GNYHA is “one of the most influential forces in New York politics.” Cuomo received $1 million from GNYHA in his reelection campaign, and the donation was engineered to remain secret until after his inauguration. Overall, during Cuomo’s second term his campaign and his state party committee raked in more than $2.3 million from hospital donors.
Elderly New Yorkers Were Sacrificed for Profit
That makes the attacks on Cuomo about sexual harassment especially interesting. Certainly, this behavior deserves investigation and condemnation. Yet one might notice that it hides the true story — swampy far-left Democrat governors tied to the all-powerful health-care lobby.
Sexual harassment by powerful men is bad. So is the falsification or concealment of information relating to a deadly infectious disease and government wrongdoing. But far, far worse is using political and legal authority to cause the agonizing deaths of a large number of elderly and other vulnerable people confined to nursing homes, and to do that as a cynical favor to monied corporate donors.
The media is obsessing over the first charge. Maybe it gives some coverage to the second. But it is distracting attention away from the third and worst. That leaves us with four takeaways.
First, the nation’s high-profile leftist governors put hospital profit ahead of the most vulnerable. For all progressivism’s platitudes, it was all about the money in the end. This is naked, quid pro quo corruption: You finance my campaign, I offload your sick patients who don’t pay.
Second, this is an easy story to tell the American people: “Hospitals don’t make money on poor and elderly COVID-19 patients, so they pushed Democrat governors to have these patients placed back in nursing and group homes too soon, which made nursing and group homes hubs for COVID-19 deaths.”
So why doesn’t the Republican Party tell this story? Maybe Republicans don’t talk about this angle because they are beholden to big health care too (although Democrats are certainly more entangled than Republicans).
Third, the media’s focus on harassment doesn’t just change the narrative from one about Cuomo’s sordid corruption (although it does do that). It also reinforces leftist codes about the proper relations between the sexes.
This ought to be a story that reveals the heartlessness and cynicism of prominent leftists and the corporate interests that finance them. Instead, it is transformed into a story that tracks a standard leftist script. You thought you were paying attention, but the sleight-of-hand caught you unawares.
The final takeaway is that this story tells us a lot about the overall failures of our health-care system, which neither party is willing to address. That’s worth a whole separate article, if not entire books, yet it suffices to say that this is yet another issue on which our political discourse fails to get to the heart of the matter and fix real problems faced by the American people.
The Democratic Party is both corrupt and dangerous. The current Republican Party is also too captured by corporate interests to effectively speak for the American people.
How do we break out of this death spiral? A new GOP platform is in order, which breaks the chains of corporatism and builds on what is best in Trumpism.
The case is growing for Republican renewal, which started but doesn’t end with the presidency of Donald Trump. That comes down to good rhetoric led by good policy that breaks the standard mold of timeworn GOP “remedies” that cater to corporate donors instead of the party’s voters.
Willis L. Krumholz lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is a JD/MBA graduate from the University of St. Thomas, and works in the financial services industry. Robert J. Delahunty is a professor of law at the University of St Thomas and has taught Constitutional Law there for a decade.