In late September, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the regulator of nursing homes across the country, announced a major rule change that will bring greater rights to more than 1.5 million nursing home residents.
Beginning on Nov. 28, 2016, facilities that receive Medicaid and Medicare funding will no longer be able to require forced arbitration agreements.
In more than two decades, this is the largest revision to the agency’s regulations of federal funding for long-term nursing homes.
The current system has allowed nursing home facilities to include arbitration agreements as the only option for legal recourse available to victims of abuse, neglect or wrongful death .
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Often, because these agreements were hidden deep within the fine print of contracts, they were overlooked or simply not understood by residents or their caregivers.
These agreements forced residents to give up their right to a trial by jury in return for a secretive system that often works in favor of the nursing home facility.
Arbitration agreements push concerns about quality of care out of the public eye and into a confidential system with no federal database that tracks the outcomes of the cases.
The New York Times conducted a 12-month investigation into more than 25,000 arbitrations and discovered that proceedings do not mimic courtroom procedures. Instead, they often take place in the offices of lawyers who represent the accused nursing home companies.
This allowed nursing homes to quietly arbitrate their cases without fear of potential recourse. The new rule, however, will give nursing home abuse victims their day in court once again.