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Public Citizen Defends Nursing Home Residents’ Right to Go to Court

Aug. 7, 2017

Public Citizen Defends Nursing Home Residents’ Right to Go to Court

Trump Proposal Would Roll Back Protections From Forced Arbitration ‘Rip-Off Clauses’ in Nursing Home Contracts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trump administration’s proposal to roll back protections for nursing home residents who may be neglected or abused is cruel and heartless and should not go forward, Public Citizen said in comments (PDF) filed today with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The proposal is part of a disturbing trend of the Trump administration attempting to reverse critical protections against forced arbitration, Public Citizen maintains.

The proposal would repeal a CMS rule finalized less than a year ago that prohibits forced arbitration “rip-off clauses” in nursing home contracts. Forced arbitration denies nursing home residents access to the courts when seeking compensation for fraud, abuse, neglect, medical malpractice and other forms of wrongdoing – forcing them instead to seek redress before corporate-friendly arbitrators, where hearings are held in secret, the rules are rigged, and there are few grounds for appeal.

“Almost everyone will admit a loved one into a nursing home or long-term care facility,” said Remington A. Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights in Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, who authored the comments. “This life-changing and often heart-breaking experience is made even worse when being forced to sign away your right to go to court if you are the victim of neglect or abuse. CMS should be doing all that it can to protect and honor our seniors rather than eliminating critical protections for their well-being.”

Nursing home admissions can be a stressful and confusing time for seniors and their families, who are in no position to evaluate the coercive fine-print terms in contracts. Nor are they likely to appreciate the important constitutional rights they are giving up by entering into a forced arbitration agreement or walk away from the contract if they object to provisions intended to rip them off.

The Trump administration’s proposal not only would allow nursing homes free rein to use forced arbitration clauses, but also would allow nursing homes the right to refuse admission to any resident who is unwilling to sign away their rights. A change in administration does not qualify as a valid justification for such drastic and draconian changes to a rule that was finalized so recently, Public Citizen’s comments argue. Public Citizen is urging CMS to maintain the provisions of the existing rule that protect the health and safety of seniors and all residents of long-term care facilities. In addition, Public Citizen received signatures from more than 12,000 people urging CMS to maintain the provisions of the existing rule.

Read the comments (PDF).