Virginia: Nursing Homes- a Lawyer’s Arbitration

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Effective November 1, 2016, a new rule of a United States Health and Human Services Department agency prospectively prohibits any nursing facility receiving Federal funding from requiring that any resident dispute be resolved secretly by arbitration instead of publicly in court. That agency is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which controls more than $1 trillion in Medicare and Medicaid funding – the lifeblood of nursing homes.

On September 28, 2016, in an article entitled “U.S. To Bar Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Home Contracts,” The New York Times online reported: “Clauses embedded in the fine print of nursing home admissions contracts have pushed disputes about safety and the quality of care out of public view.” That has “stymied the families of nursing home residents from getting justice, even in the case of murder”! Id.

16 states and the District of Columbia advocated Federal funding protection of consumers, exposing that “arbitration kept patterns of wrongdoing hidden from prospective residents and their families”. The new rule provides major protection to the current 1,500,000 United States nursing home residents. Id.

In a year-long investigation of the secretive proceedings for 25,000+ 2010-2014 arbitration, The New York Times “found many troubling examples where issues of abuse and potential neglect never made it into the public light because they were block from court.” Id. “The sad reality is that [until the new rule] too many Americans must choose between forfeiting their legal rights getting adequate medical care,” declared Senator Leahy of Vermont. Id.