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New Ruling Lets Nursing Care Patients Settle Cases In Court

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A federal ruling has been set in place that ensures patients and families have the right to sue long-term care facilities.

Released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the new rule bans any pre-dispute binding arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts. These clauses require nursing home patients and families to settle any legal concerns over care in arbitration, rather than in courts.

The rule applies to all nursing home facilities that get their funding from Medicare or Medicaid, which is essentially almost all of them, NPR reports.

Andy Slavitt, the acting administrator for the center, stated in a blog post,

Today’s rules are a major step forward to improve the care and safety of the nearly 1.5 million residents in the more than 15,000 long-term care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Slated to go into effect by November, the change in rule was originally proposed in July 2015, with thousands of comments from the public. The new rule seeks to address reported cases wherein plaintiffs had to settle in arbitration, receiving less than they would have had they gone to court.

According to a 2009 study commissioned by the American Health Care Association, the average awards after arbitration were 35% lower than if a suit were filed in court. The AHCA represents the majority of nursing homes.

Mark Parkinson, CEO and president of the association, expressed disappointment in the ruling. In a statement, he said that the provision is “clearly exceeds CMS’s statutory authority and is wholly unnecessary to protect residents’ health and safety.” The AHCA is looking into steps they can take to counter the “unjustified” action.

The new rule also expanded guidelines on food, medical treatments and personnel requirements, including “nourishing, palatable” food for their patients, and come up with a care plan within 48 hours after a resident has been admitted. These guidelines also mandate that nursing homes provide a program for infection prevention and control, and for antibiotic use.

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