House Democrats plead for right of residents to sue nursing homes

House Democrats plead for right of residents to sue nursing homes
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In the wake of nursing home deaths cause by Hurricane Irma, House Democrats are asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to let nursing home residents take facilities to court over allegations such as abuse.

Over the summer, CMS announced it intended to change the rule under President Obama that banned nursing homes accepting Medicare or Medicaid funds from requiring a third party to settle disputes.

In a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, 46 House Democrats wrote that “these clauses are buried in the fine print of voluminous nursing home admission contracts and typically only accepted because they are unnoticed.”

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The lawmakers pointed to the nursing home in Florida, where 12 residents died after the hurricane knocked out the facility’s air conditioning.

“The horrific reports of abuse at facilities in Florida and Texas in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey underscore the need for your agency to reconsider upending the legal protections of those who have worked and saved for their entire lives to retire with dignity,” the lawmakers wrote.

“This is a time when we should be protecting our nation’s seniors, not rolling back their fundamental right to hold wrongdoers accountable for neglect and abuse.”

More than 75 consumer, health and advocacy groups have formed the Fair Arbitration Now Coalition to stop the rule’s reversal.

Previously, the American Health Care Association and a group of nursing homes had sued CMS over the rule, alleging that it violated the Federal Arbitration Act. The rule never went into effect because a judge temporarily blocked it, and CMS decided to reconsider the measure.