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Binding Arbitration Rule Would Impact Nursing Home Residents’ Legal Rights

The Trump administration’s efforts to relax federal regulations could impact the ability of nursing home residents across the United States to hold the facility responsible for abuse or neglect.

President Trump has issued an executive order that requires federal agencies to relax regulatory expenses. This action could result in CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) rescinding an Obama era rule that makes it easier for residents of nursing homes to sue these facilities in cases involving abuse and neglect. In September 2016, the Obama administration banned arbitration agreements that residents were required to sign before admission into nursing homes. That move came in response to the need for greater protection of the rights of elderly residents of nursing homes. The rule was challenged in court by nursing homes, and a trial is still pending.

The Trump administration proposes to require that all residents sign an arbitration agreement upon admission to the nursing home which would eliminate their right to sue the nursing home in case of abuse or neglect, and would impose neutral arbitration as the only means of dispute resolution. A typical arbitration agreement will inform the resident that signing the agreement removes his right to legal recourse via a trial by jury or court trial.  It would also work to establish that any dispute will be resolved through a process of arbitration.

According to the Trump administration, an arbitration agreement is beneficial to both nursing homes, as well as residents, because it allows for speedy and quick resolution of disputes without involving expensive litigation. However, binding arbitration agreements impinge upon the rights of nursing home residents who may be at risk of lack of care, neglect and even abuse in nursing homes.  To force arbitration and eliminate an individual’s right to legal recourse could be a dangerous step, which will certainly have an  impact on the safety of the millions of elderly Americans who depend on nursing homes for their care.

When families decide to admit their other loved ones into nursing homes, their loved ones are already suffering from serious health concerns like Alzheimer’s disease or advanced dementia.  In such situations, families often sign these agreements, not realizing that they are in actuality signing away their rights to legal recourse in the event that their loved one is abused in the nursing home.  Imposing arbitration requirements on patients and their families during such difficult times would only work to limit their ability to hold nursing homes accountable even in the most egregious cases of nursing home abuse.  This could in turn have the unfortunate result of causing an  increased number of abuse and neglect cases nationwide.