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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced a new rule that preserves the rights of patients and families to sue long-term care facilities in court for claims such as elder abuse, sexual harassment and wrongful death. The rule bans any long-term care facility, including nursing homes, that receives federal funding from requiring its residents to sign forced arbitration contracts to resolve disputes through arbitration instead of the court system. The parties may enter into an arbitration agreement after a dispute arises, but not before. The rule promises to help deliver safety measures for residents. Requiring patients and families to use the private arbitration system for claims reduces legal costs for facilities, but may block patients and families from getting the justice that they seek. The Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that the rules “are a major step forward to improve the care and safety of the nearly 1.5 million residents in the more than 15,000 long-term care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.” The rule is scheduled to go into effect November 28, 2016 for facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Written by Heather W. Winter, Esquire

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