Nursing home laws are changing all the time. Perhaps none of those laws change quite as much as those pertaining to nursing home residents and arbitration agreements. Now, those laws have changed once again.
Prior to the Obama administration, nursing homes were allowed to force their residents into an arbitration agreement before admitting them. This meant if nursing home staff was negligent, residents could not sue them. Instead, they would have to enter arbitration. President Obama signed a law stating that nursing homes could not use arbitration at all. Now, under the Trump administration, they can again, but their power is still somewhat limited.
“They should not be an option,” says Matthew D. Emerson of Emerson Straw Injury Law. “These hearings do not benefit the resident. Instead, they kept nursing home abuse quiet, leading to more residents entering into nursing homes that were not providing quality care. It is encouraging that nursing homes cannot abuse these hearings as they once did. Unfortunately, it does open the door for more abuse of the system than what was once allowed.”
The new law takes effect on September 16, 2019. Under it, nursing homes can enter into arbitration with residents that have a dispute. However, they cannot force residents to go through this process. Nursing homes must also provide residents with a 30-day period in which the resident can withdraw from the arbitration agreement if they choose. According to the new law, arbitration agreements cannot contain any language that prohibits residents from contacting state or federal authorities to report nursing home abuse.
The biggest concern with the new law is that nursing homes may still include a provision for arbitration in their applications, even though it is prohibited. Residents applying to live in the home are often vulnerable, and cannot always understand what is contained in these lengthy documents. Even when they do, they may not understand the significance of these clauses.
It is, for this reason, very important that anyone placing their loved one in a nursing home read the application carefully. If there is any language they do not understand, they should have an attorney review the contract to ensure their loved one’s rights are being upheld.