New rule protects nursing home residents’ right to sue

For the first time in 25 years the federal government has completed a comprehensive revision of the way it regulates nursing homes, where 1 million older adults and younger people with disabilities reside.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency within the Health and Human Services Department, recently released a new rule for nursing homes, banning contracts that require arbitration. The rule applies to nursing homes and assisted living facilities that receive federal funding.

Many nursing homes have required new residents to sign mandatory arbitration agreements, giving up their right to sue for wrongdoing.

Though mandatory arbitration can reduce costs, it also hinders the ability of patients and families to be compensated in cases of elder abuse, patient neglect, sexual harrassment, and even wrongful death. Arbitration also enables the facility to hide these cases from the public.

The rule will affect 15,000 nursing homes, which house 1.5 million residents.

Unless challenged in court, the new rule goes into effect on November 28. It will only apply to residents admitted in the future. Nursing homes will still be able to offer arbitration as a voluntary option to solve disputes.
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