NY Senator Facing Allegations of Conflict of Interest In Nursing Home Legislation

New conflict of interest claims are being made against a powerful New York State Senate leader related to nursing home legislation and operation. The situation presents troubling issues of undue influence, and it is also a good example of the complex relationships in the state which ultimately dictate rules and regulations regarding NY long-term care.

The Allegations
The New York Daily News reported on concerns that state Senator Jeffrey Klein may have acted improperly when he involved himself in issues affecting New York nursing home care in Albany while at the same time sitting on the Board of Directors for a Bronx nursing home. The BOD position was not paid, but the Senator did receive over $71,000 in campaign contributions from the nursing home industry. Troublingly, Klein did not disclose his relationship with the Bronx nursing home, Morningside House, on required disclosure forms.

Also concerning is the fact that Morningside has faced nearly two dozen elder neglect lawsuits over the past several years. About $1.4 million have been paid out toward those claims over the past eight years.

For his part, Klein claims that he erected a “firewall” between his fundraising activities and his duties as a representative of the people. He called the Morningstar position “honorary” and does not believe that his position or actions were unduly influenced by his connection to the private long-term care business. Klein also denied knowledge of Morningstar’s spotty quality of care record.

Long-Term Care Law in NY
It is impossible to separate long-term care issues in New York from state lawmakers. That is because statehouse decision makers create a wide range of rules that impact how local families plan for this care. On one hand, state lawmakers control most NY Medicaid issues, determining who qualifies, what services are covered, and what steps need to be taken to enroll in the program. In addition, those same lawmakers craft policies that affect planning, from issuing regulations about the use of certain trusts, taxes on nursing home payments (i.e. the so-called “granny tax”), and more.

For example, State Senator Klein led a bill through the chamber in 2009 that allowed seniors to tap into expected life insurance benefits to pay for nursing home care. This move was initially opposed by life insurance companies, but the nursing home industry was supportive as it opened up a new pool of money that they could ultimately secure from private citizens.

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