The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said it will block nursing homes from federal funding should they use pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements. What this means is nursing homes in Tennessee can no longer force their patients and families to sign away their rights to sue in court before being admitted into the facility. Nearly all nursing homes are federally funded in some way or another, so this agreement could likely have a massive impact on the industry as a whole.
Prior to this ruling being made, it has been commonplace for elderly individuals and families to have to agree to private arbitration over the United States legal system. This meant elderly people, who are being cared for in federally funded nursing homes, may have been prevented from seeking legal damages as a result of neglect, recklessness, endangerment or wrongful death. Currently, these arbitration contracts have helped the nursing home industry reduce legal costs and total cumulative damages as well as prevent tarnished reputations and long lasting repercussions.
Unfortunately, elderly are often desperate for care and shelter and will be quick to sign something even if they don’t understand what is being noted in the contract. When certain people have attempted to seek legal assistance for a dispute, the arbitration has held up as a legally binding contract; thereby affecting some of the most vulnerable Americans. For all new contracts between nursing homes and residents, this arbitration clause cannot be included.
One of the big problems with arbitration, is they are secret. This can prevent the public from knowing about claims against substandard nursing homes. Also, arbitrations are expensive and many elderly residents cannot afford the process. Most importantly, the prevent victims and their families from presenting their case to a jury of their peers, a cherished truly American right.
Government funded nursing homes which do not adhere to the rule will be immediately cut from Medicare or Medicaid. Organizations representing nursing homes have voiced concerns saying that arbitration is less costly than court. They continue saying the new law could lead to more lawsuits, drive up costs and cause some homes to close. Nursing home lawyers see things in a different light; they say, arbitration keeps things under wrap and hidden away from the public and legal system.
The new rule will go into effect in November and immediately bars any nursing home from receiving federal funding should they require residents to agree to arbitration over court. Said to affect over 1.5 million people, the 713 page order is set to deliver new protections for the elderly of America. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont said “The sad reality is that today too many Americans must choose between forfeiting their legal rights and getting adequate medical care,” Thanks to the new law, the fundamental right of the elderly will regain their ability to seek justice should a dispute occur.
If you or a loved one has been affected by nursing home abuse or neglect, legal support is available. The Higgins Firm has a team of lawyers ready to answer your questions and concerns during a free consultation. To schedule a confidential meeting with our Tennessee nursing home lawyers, please contact us today.