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Trump Administration on Verge of Permanently Repealing Critical Protections for Nursing Home Patients and Families

Aug. 13, 2018

Trump Administration on Verge of Permanently Repealing Critical Protections for Nursing Home Patients and Families

Public Citizen Experts Can Comment on Trump’s Plan to Block the Courthouse Doors to Seniors and Their Families

One of the many shameful acts of the Trump administration is the reversal of a rule that would allow nursing homes to escape accountability for fraud, neglect or abuse against their residents.

Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed rolling back Obama-era protections for seniors in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that prevented them from slipping pre-dispute, binding “forced arbitration” agreements into their contracts. CMS is poised to release a permanent rule that would finalize this problematic change.

Forced arbitration is a privatized, secretive system of justice that many nursing homes use to block seniors who have been harmed from seeking justice in the courts. Under these contracts, residents and their families have few ways to hold nursing homes accountable for mistreatment and other illegal conduct – even incidents of rape, as CNN recently reported.

Public Citizen has been aggressively fighting the repeal of this critical protection, including submitting comments opposing the rule, joining a coalition of 75 organizations urging Congress to act and supporting legislative solutions. Public Citizen has experts available to comment, including Remington A. Gregg, Public Citizen’s counsel for consumer and civil justice, once a final rule is released.

Forced arbitration agreements usually are presented to seniors or their families during the admission process – often an emotional and stressful time – and patients often are required to sign them, or believe they must sign them, to receive care. The contracts typically allow the nursing home to select the arbitrator, the state in which the arbitration will occur and the rules for the arbitration process.

The Obama administration in late 2016 finalized a rule prohibiting nursing homes from including forced arbitration clauses in contracts with residents. A month later, a judge blocked it from taking effect and the new Trump administration CMS did not appeal.

The Trump administration’s finalized rule would allow nursing homes to once again force victims of abuse and neglect into secretive proceedings that are rigged against them, as well as further stack the deck against residents by giving long-term care facilities a legal right to force residents to sign away their rights as a condition of admission or even require current residents to sign them away as a condition for staying.

A recent study indicated that the population of Americans 65 years or older will more than double by 2060 and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2030 one in every five U.S. residents will be 65 years or older. Critical protections for seniors will only become more vital as America cares for more seniors. We need a president who will protect seniors and not willingly be a party to their neglect.