CHICAGO. In September, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a new rule that prohibits nursing homes that receive federal money from Medicaid or Medicare to require residents or their families to sign arbitration agreements. Over 15,000 nursing homes will be required to abide by the new rule. For families who have loved ones in nursing homes, this is good news.
Until very recently, families who signed arbitration clauses when they put their loved ones in nursing homes essentially signed away the important right to be able to pursue nursing home abuse lawsuits in public court. The arbitration clauses required families to seek compensation through a private system, referred to as arbitration. According to the New York Times, the system of arbitration essentially permitted nursing homes to hide cases of neglect, negligence, or abuse through the use of private justice systems. When a family member suffers nursing home abuse, many families contact nursing home abuse lawyers like the Dinizulu Law Group, Ltd. in order to raise awareness of the issue and prevent it from happening to others in the future. Yet, when families are forced to submit to arbitration, they lose the ability to use public courts to speak out against nursing home abuse or neglect. According to Forbes, the results of arbitration hearings were only known to families and the nursing home involved. Essentially, the families of other residents in the nursing home would never have the chance to learn about the case.
Families should be aware that if they signed an arbitration clause earlier than the rule change, that the clause may still be valid. Families should look over their nursing home contracts to see if there are arbitration clauses present. While a nursing home isn’t necessarily required, under the new rule, to change an arbitration clause, you can always ask. It is also important to remember that if you decide to change nursing homes, the new home would not be permitted to require you to sign an arbitration clause if it receives Medicaid or Medicare funds. Some families may be able to use this fact to pressure a current home to change its contract.
Over the past decade, more companies have been moving toward arbitration. When arbitration is used, the results of any decision are sealed. Companies claim that arbitration keeps legal costs down, but consumer advocate groups claim that arbitration denies individuals their fair day in court.
Even though the rule is in place, it is still wise to carefully read through your nursing home’s contract. Having to put your loved one in a nursing home can be a stressful experience. If you are uncomfortable about aspects of a nursing home contract, speak to the nursing home, or have the contract reviewed by a lawyer. You don’t want to sign away important rights. The Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers at the Dinizulu Law Group, Ltd. work hard to protect the rights of families and residents of nursing homes.