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Cuomo scandal heats up Hill inquiry into nursing home death data

The upcoming meeting combines the escalating high-level political scandal with long-standing Congressional investigations into the reliability and accuracy of Covid-19 data – a conversation that so far has taken place outside of view between the heads of the various federal health agencies. They come as allegations against Cuomo have exploded nationally, with nine senators having previously asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate the matter.

More than 9,000 New York state patients were referred from hospitals to nursing homes at the start of the pandemic until the policy was dropped over fears it could cause further outbreaks.

The meeting “is not about one particular scandal,” but about ensuring the accuracy of nursing home data, said a senior Republican aide at Ways and Means.

GOP members of the House committee overseeing the coronavirus response searched for months for information from Democratic governors who transferred some Covid-19 positive patients out of hospitals and nursing homes, to free up beds as new cases increased.

It is still unclear exactly how Cuomo’s office calculated Covid-19 nursing home deaths and what data feeds it used to update its public tracking tool. Staff at Cuomo’s office offered various explanations during a call with state officials last month, according to a transcript. They said the team relied on two separate reporting systems that did not speak to each other. Neither included complete residential or demographic data.

A lengthy report from New York Attorney General Letitia James said Cuomo’s office may have underestimated nursing home deaths by 50%. According to a New York Times report, Cuomo’s office updated its public dashboard to reflect missing deaths and added 3,800 deaths to the tally.

Committee staff plan to interview officials on whether agencies need to improve the flow of vital Covid-19 data from states to the federal government and whether they have the capacity to detect other cases in which the numbers are being manipulated , according to two officials.

The CDC and CMS did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment. A Democratic spokesman for the Ways and Means House did not immediately comment; The Republican aide said Democrats “would be more than welcome at our briefing.”

Covid counts plagued the CDC for months. The agency struggled to effectively collect, analyze and report state accounts. At one point last month, CDC officials said they were still weeks behind in collecting information and some states had yet to report deaths as of late 2020.

Counting the dead is complicated. Each state requires different information from their nursing homes. At the start of the pandemic, many nursing home patients were transferred and died in hospitals. And doctors usually don’t include a person’s place of residence prior to their transfer to hospital on death certificates.

In New York City, death certificates do not include a line indicating whether a person has been transferred from a nursing home. However, officials on the appeal last month said the state was relying on its health emergency response data system, or HERDS, to update the number of people who have died in a hospital one day. given. This system does not include residential information. Nursing homes are also required to report deaths to the state through this system. A separate database, the Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System, or SPARCS, includes a section where health care facilities can report whether a person has been transferred from another facility, although it is not always clear from where.

New York, along with all other states and jurisdictions, provides the federal government with a variety of mortality data from hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities, as well as death certificate reports.

In early May, CMS – the nursing home regulatory agency – began requiring facilities to submit data on their coronavirus cases and deaths to the federal government. The information was transmitted directly to the CDC’s data system, known as the National Healthcare Safety Network. Facilities should include all coronavirus deaths, even if they ultimately died outside of the nursing home, such as in a hospital.

Yet, due to the large number of data feeds tracked by the federal government, it is difficult for officials to detect cases of undercoverage unless the activity is glaring or someone reports it.

Shannon Young contributed to this report.

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