The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Servicers (CMS) just made a momentous change of federal nursing home regulations. Nursing homes are now banned from using pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements. This means nursing homes can no longer force you to sign away your right to due process.
Let me explain….
Before this regulation change, nursing homes had a sneaky clause that was hidden in the fine print of nursing home admission contracts. The clause banned residents from taking a nursing home to court over disputes about safety and quality of care. This clause forced the resident to use arbitration which is a private, judicial determination of a dispute by an independent third party. Basically, the resident is forced to “work things out” with the nursing home which often left residents virtually powerless.
You might be wondering why you would sign such a contract. Believe me, it happens all day, every day, all over the country. Being admitted to a nursing home can be one of the most stressful moments you will experience. In that situation, families are desperate to get their elderly or disabled loved one the care they need, so they sign the contract not realizing that they’ve signed their rights away.
Thankfully, this new regulation change not only secures the rights of the person who would complain about the nursing home, but it also makes nursing home violations public knowledge. In the arbitration process, issues of abuse and neglect never get publicized because they were blocked from court. This added level of accountability is a major win for anyone who needs nursing home care.
It is important to note that this applies only to nursing homes that receive federal funding. If the nursing home does not receive Medicare or Medi-Cal it is quite possible that this arbitration clause is still hidden in the fine print.
Nursing home admission contracts should always, ALWAYS be carefully reviewed before they are signed. Ideally, you are working with a Newport Beach elder law attorney before you even need nursing home care to make sure your financial future is secure, even if you experience a medical emergency. But, at minimum, have an experienced attorney review any nursing home contracts you are faced with so that you will know in detail what you are agreeing to.
If you currently have a contract that you need reviewed, or you would like help putting in a proper planning strategy for your loved one that is facing long-term care, please call our office at (949) 260-1400 to schedule a consultation.