Nursing Home Abuse: Forced Arbitration Banned
Binding arbitration agreements for nursing home residents are no longer required for the provision of care and treatment. The recent ruling that bans forced arbitration for skilled and long-term facilities will protect the rights of residents.
Forced Arbitration Agreements Banned in Nursing Homes
Under a new federal ruling, arbitration regulations for skilled nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been amended. Previous regulations required all facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs to obtain signed arbitration agreements from all residents prior to admissions. Under the new ruling, forced arbitration agreements will be banned. Residents will no longer be required to sign them as a prerequisite to admission, care, and treatment. This will provide nursing home residents with access to information about their health care and support residents’ rights.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will still allow nursing homes to use binding arbitration agreements under certain conditions:
- A resident must be informed that he/she is not required to sign a binding arbitration agreement to secure facility admission or appropriate health care. This information must be explicitly stated in the resident’s arbitration agreement.
- Nursing home facilities must explain the arbitration agreement to the resident or resident’s representative in a manner or form that is understood. The resident or resident’s representative must acknowledge in writing that he/she understands the agreement.
- Nursing home facilities must not discourage or prohibit any resident or resident’s family members from contacting or communicating with federal, state, or local officials. This includes law enforcement, state surveyors, health department employees, and the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
- The arbitration agreement must grant the resident or resident’s representative the right to rescind the agreement within 30 days from signing it. This allows the resident or resident’s representative time to seek legal advice.
- If arbitration is used to resolve a dispute between the nursing home facility and a resident, a copy of the signed arbitration agreement and the arbitrator’s final decision must be kept on file for at least 5 years.
- A signed arbitration agreement must be made available for inspection at the request of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or its designated party.
The recent amendment to ban forced arbitration agreements for nursing home residents will ensure better care for residents. It will also permit residents to seek help from federal, state, and local authorities without barriers if matters of substandard care, abuse, or neglect are suspected.
Illinois Nursing Home Facilities
In Illinois, nursing homes are licensed, certified, regulated, and inspected by federal and state agencies. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) ensures that nursing homes comply with mandatory state regulations. This state agency works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Federal law requires nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs to be in compliance with certain rules and regulations. Under the Nursing Home Reform Act, nursing home administrators must ensure that these facilities provide health services that maintain the highest level of physical, mental, and social well-being for each resident. Facilities are required to:
- Conduct a comprehensive assessment of each resident
- Provide sufficient nursing staff
- Provide good nutrition, grooming, and hygiene
- Maintain adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration
- Provide adequate supervision to prevent injuries
- Ensure that residents do not suffer from abuse or neglect
State law operates under state statutes of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. State laws ensure that no nursing home resident is deprived of his/her rights, privileges, or benefits guaranteed under the United States Constitution. State regulations ensure that residents are allowed to retain the services of their own personal physicians through health insurance; refuse the right to medical treatment; refuse the use of physical and/or chemical restraints; manage their own financial affairs unless under guardianship, and wear or use their personal property when medically appropriate.
Federal and state-regulated nursing homes are rated on their provided health care and treatment. Ratings range from one to five stars. Currently, 41 percent of Illinois nursing homes are rated below average. Complaints include allegations of falls and personal injuries, bedsores, malnutrition and dehydration, medication errors, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect, and wrongful death. Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers are all too familiar with nursing home complaints and violations.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regulates and investigates 829 nursing homes within the state. Unfortunately, federal and state violations are far too common. A high percentage of nursing homes are cited for serious violations and hit with steep fines each quarter. The Department of Public Health publishes violations on a quarterly basis. Concerned nursing home residents and their family members can view all violation reports for specific nursing homes by name on the IDPH official website.