Finally, Nursing Homes Have to Play By the Rules

HelpIt’s taken 25 years and tireless work by elder law attorneys and other patients’ advocates but at long last the nursing home industry is finally being forced to reveal hidden wrongs that happen to residents.

As I explained in a blog on October 6th of this year, a recent decision by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires this removal of all arbitration agreements from pre-admission contracts when admitting patients to their nursing home. Most folks don’t realize these agreements prohibited the family from bringing a lawsuit if anything went wrong in a nursing home. Instead, the family would be required to go to arbitration, where the outcomes weren’t known outside of those connected to the arbitration hearing. Consequently, if a nursing home neglected or harmed one of its residents, then nobody would know how the arbitrator decided such a case.  However, this was not the only rule CMS changed.  Although no one wants to live in a nursing home, after surgery, serious illness, or an accident—or because a loved one requires nursing care 24/7—nursing homes are a necessary part of our health care system. They should be safe, comfortable places.

The new rules require nursing homes to properly train and staff their facilities, as well as protect vulnerable people from dangerous other residents who might harm someone if not carefully supervised by skilled staff. The facilities are required to spend the money to retain enough workers and train them on how to properly do the job.  Here is a brief description of the other changes to the rules.

The CMS issued revised rules which impact more than 15,000 long-term care homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid across the U.S. Sadly, the worst nursing homes won’t realistically comply with the new rules; they didn’t follow the old ones. But to receive payment from Medicare and Medicaid, all nursing homes must adhere to better standards or they’ll lose money.

Anyone with an aging parent or other loved one who must go to a nursing home is likely to be safer now than before these rules came into effect. Rules aren’t a guarantee of safety, but no one placing a loved one in a nursing home can be forced into signing an agreement to arbitrate an issue, instead of having their day in court.

Reference: Forbes (September 29, 2016) “The End of Secrecy in Nursing Home Wrongdoing”


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