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Can you sue if a loved one is harmed in a nursing home?

Last September, the Obama administration issued new rules that would cut off Medicaid and Medicare funding to nursing homes if they required residents to sign an agreement that let any disputes, including those involving negligence or abuse, to go to arbitration. By signing these agreements, people give up their rights to have their legal disputes settled in court, no matter how egregious the accused behavior -- even if it leads to death.

These new regulations never took effect because they were blocked by a federal judge. The judge, in his decision, referenced a doctrine that limited the power of the federal government to threaten to remove state government funding to encourage good behavior by private entities.

Now we have a new administration in the White House. The Trump administration has published a proposed rule that would allow nursing homes to receive federal funds whether they force residents to sign arbitration agreements or not.

Forced arbitration generally does not favor employees or consumers. As one health policy expert and law professor says, arbitration is more likely "to favor the repeat players who hire them -- companies, not consumers."

Considering the efforts by the new administration and the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, those who favor the rules issued by the Obama administration see little hope of them surviving.

So what does this mean for Floridians who are admitting loved ones to nursing homes? It's essential to read the contract thoroughly and perhaps have an attorney review it as well. If there is a mandate of arbitration, you may be wise to seek a facility that doesn't have this requirement. If a loved one suffers harm or worse in a nursing home, you don't want to limit your avenues for seeking justice.

Source: ThinkProgress, "The Trump administration is quietly making it easier to abuse seniors in nursing homes," Ian Millhiser, July 06, 2017

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