Pending Regs

Senate Dems push Trump admin to protect nursing home residents’ right to sue


Senate Democrats are calling on the Trump administration to abandon its proposal to strip nursing home residents and their families of their right to settle disputes with facilities in court.

In a letter Monday, Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) urged Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to reconsider her proposal to reverse an Obama-era rule that prohibited nursing homes that accept Medicare or Medicaid funds from including language in their resident contracts requiring disputes be settled by a third party, rather than in a court.

The senators argue that these clauses, known to lawyers as pre-dispute arbitration agreements, “stack the deck against residents and their families” and prohibit them from suing over alleged physical abuse and neglect, sexual assault, or wrongful death.

{mosads}“These clauses prevent many of our country’s most vulnerable individuals from seeking justice in a court of law, and instead funnel all types of legal claims, no matter how egregious, into a privatized dispute resolution system that is often biased toward the nursing home,” they wrote.

“As a result, victims and their families are frequently denied any accountability for clear instances of wrongdoing.”

When CMS announced its proposal in June, the agency said it decided to reconsider the rule after a federal district court judge in Mississippi issued an order in November temporarily blocking the rule from taking effect.

Under the rule change, nursing homes would be allowed to use the clauses in resident contracts as long as they are written in plain language, with the facility explaining the agreement to the prospective resident or his or her representative.

Residents would also be required to acknowledge they understand the agreement.

“Regardless of how plain the language is, as potential nursing home residents and their families are weighing their options for long-term care, they should not also be expected to contemplate whether such a grave harm could arise, let alone what avenue of recourse they would pursue in the event that it does,” the senators wrote.

“Too often, only after a resident has suffered an injury or death do families truly realize the impact of the arbitration agreements they were forced to sign. The only truly transparent arbitration agreement is one that is voluntarily signed, after a dispute has arisen.”

Tags Al Franken Ron Wyden
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