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New Rule Ensures Major Protection of Nursing Home Residents

Sep 30, 2016

A new rule promises to deliver a level of protection for nursing home residents and their families in the case of any dispute that may need to be addressed. Formerly, any claims of elder abuse, sexual harassment or even wrongful death would be resolved by a private system of justice, or arbitration, as opposed to court. Clauses included in nursing home admissions contracts kept quality of care and safety issues out of the public eye, reports The New York Times.

The system has helped reduce legal costs in the nursing home industry, but it has prevented the families of nursing home residents from getting justice. With this new ruling comes a new level of transparency. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency under Health and Human Services, has "restored a fundamental right of millions of elderly Americans across the country: their day in court," according to the Times.

"The sad reality is that today too many Americans must choose between forfeiting their legal rights and getting adequate medical care," Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, said in a statement, the Times reports.

The new rule on arbitration was successful after officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia prompted the government to stop funding nursing homes that use the clauses, saying that arbitration kept secret any patterns of wrongdoing from prospective residents and their families. The new nursing home rule, first proposed in July 2015, is focused on improving disclosure. After a group of patients raised concerns about the common use of arbitration, the agency took a closer look.

A case involving a 100-year-old woman who was found strangled by her roommate in a nursing home was initially blocked from court. Also, a case of a 94-year-old woman who died from a head wound in a nursing home in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, was also blocked from court. These cases were the subject of a New York Times front page article in November 2015.

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