Nursing homes concerned about testing mandate


NEW YORK STATE (WSYR-TV) — One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent orders says nursing homes need to develop a plan on how to test staff twice a week and report the results to the state. But testing shortages and the quick turn around have facilities and lawmakers worried it isn’t possible.

The biggest concern is how the tests are paid for. Each test can cost more than $100 each, and there is a $2,000 fine for each day a nursing home does not comply with the new order. If the home consistently does not comply with the order, they could ultimately lose their certificate. 

“Insurance companies aren’t going to cover the testing, so that means facilities have to pick up the tab at $150 per test. For my 30 employees that’s gonna cost me $9,000 a week,” said Karen Eller, administrator for Evergreen Heights in Weedsport.

Eller has been in touch with a number of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Central New York and each of them has the same concerns.

“Testing twice a week, I know we can do, and I will help get the tests if they can’t get them,” Cuomo said.

The New York State Department of Health has given Evergreen Heights 120 test kits. The only problem, they don’t have anyone on-site certified to do the test.

A spokesperson for the department addressed lab concerns saying, in part, if a county or nursing home is unable to secure testing capacity on their own, the department will connect them to a partnered lab to run the tests.

Eller tried that but said the lab the state sent Eller to told her they can’t help. She was able to get a contract with the company WellNow, but they sent her an email saying:

“We have learned the COST FOR TESTING is to be entirely absorbed by the employer. Having said that, we WILL NOT be able to submit employer mandated testing visits through insurance. Should this change, we will adapt according.”

A letter from WellNow Urgent Care regarding state mandated nursing home testing

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are asking for a review, but Cuomo says it needs to be done.

“He’s going to have to make some decisions on how he can help them accomplish what is impossible to accomplish for many of our nursing homes,” said Senator Jim Tedisco.

In Tuesday’s press briefing, when asked about the cost of testing, the Governor suggested facilities send their employees to free testing sites.

“An employee can use the other facilities to get a test. You can walk out of here today, go to CVS to get a test, go to Rite Aid to get a test, go to a drive thru to get a test, go to a doctor’s office to get a test,” Cuomo said.

A spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health sent NewsChannel 9 the following statement Tuesday evening:

“The New York State Department of Health has communicated with nursing homes, adult care facilities, and their associations to ensure understanding of the executive order which states that facilities are responsible for providing testing for their employees, including assuming responsibility for the costs of testing. However, the Department removed potential barriers to this testing initiative by sending 320,000 testing kits directly to facilities this week and connecting all facilities with commercial labs that have capacity to manage tens of thousands of tests daily.”

Spokesperson, NYS Department of Health

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