Last year, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Service (CMS) finalized a new rule that bans nursing homes from forcing patients and their families into private arbitration. These mandatory arbitration clauses were hidden in the contract’s fine print, and many families were unaware of the term or misunderstood what private arbitration entailed. This type of arbitration is a practice that keeps any potential nursing home abuse charges out of the public court system, which weakens a patients’ legal leverage.
On June 5, 2017, CMS released another proposed rule that would almost entirely do away with the ban on mandatory arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts. These supposed changes are to “strengthen” the transparency in the arbitration process. However, consumer advocates quickly condemned the change with the Fair Arbitration Now (FAN) Coalition arguing the reversal will hurt nursing home residents, who are at the most vulnerable time in their lives.
This almost complete 360-degree turn is largely the result of the change in power this January. The current presidential administration will be forcing seniors to sign contract terms that negate their right to sue the court if they are victimized by neglect or abuse.
The old rule, proposed in 2015, wanted to bar nursing homes from using forced arbitration clauses but allowed facilities and consumers to enter into voluntary arbitration agreements if they wished to. It also only applied to new contracts. However, the nursing home and healthcare industry fought the rule. A Mississippi judge issued a preliminary injunction in favor of nursing homes, and the rule has been stalled in court ever since.
This new rule removes the ban completely and only makes a provision that says the arbitration clause must be in “plain language” and must be explained. Patients must also acknowledge they understand the policy.
CMS will be accepting public comments on the proposed rule for 60 days after it appears in the Federal Register. If you disagree with this potential for elder abuse, speak out now before the 60 days are up. For more information about how this law could affect you or your loved ones, or if you would like to begin a case, talk to ourskilled Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorneys. Let us see what we can do for you. Contact us by filling out our online form to get in touch.