Groups Ask Forced Arbitration in the Nursing Home Industry to End

Posted: October 21st, 2015

A group of twenty-seven lawmakers have written a letter to the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requesting that the agency establish a regulation to guarantee that all nursing home arbitration agreements are entered into on a voluntary and informed basis. Effectively ending forced arbitration in nursing home contracts which would limit the ability of residents and their families to file lawsuits over nursing home neglect and abuse.

Proposed new regulations by the CMS would force revision of arbitration clauses in nursing homes which receive federal funding. However, consumer watchdog groups and others feel that the proposals do not act aggressively enough to limit forced arbitration.

Forced arbitration clauses included in some nursing home contracts act to keep families and residents from filing lawsuits against the facility. Therefore, any claims of neglect, abuse, or other issues which could otherwise become the subject of a lawsuit, are settled by a third-party arbitrator who may be referred by the nursing home industry itself. To add to such concerns, participation in such an arbitration set-up is a requirement of admission to the facility. Furthermore, residents and families are not always adequately advised of the nature of the agreement when they are signing it.

The current proposal was reopened for public comment on September 15, 2015 for a month, and does not require Medicare and Medicaid participants to halt the use of forced arbitration clauses, though it does nod to the trouble they cause for residents and their families.

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