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Report: Nursing Home Residents Empowered by New Federal Rules

There are currently nearly 1.5 million residents in nursing homes across the country. Now, with the passage of new federal rules – the most expansive update in a quarter century – those residents will have more involvement in their own care. 

The new regulations were first proposed in 2015 by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who advocated for a shift toward care that is “person-centered.” That includes efforts to:

  • Hasten the development of care plans;
  • Allow greater variety and flexibility in snacks and meals;
  • Improved review of residents’ drug intake;
  • Heightened security;
  • Streamlined procedures for grievances;
  • Careful review of discharges that are involuntary.

Most nursing home costs are mostly covered by Medicaid and Medicare programs, doling out an estimated $75 million a year. That amount is slated to skyrocket in the coming years as baby boomers age. The trade-off is that these facilities must comply with government regulations and standards of care.

The hope is that by properly rolling out and enforcing these new provisions, residents can expect an experience that is vastly improved – and hopefully, markedly safer.

By giving residents and their families greater control of their care plans, the hope is that vigilance will be improved. People will have a better idea of what to expect – and what not to tolerate.

One measure that has generated controversy involves nursing home arbitration agreements,. These are binding contracts that require the resident or resident’s legal representative to agree in advance to resolve any and all disputes (including allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect) through a private arbitration process, rather than have access to the public court system. Arbitration really gives patients the short end of the stick because proceedings aren’t public, there is lesser accountability and arbitration rulings are more frequently in favor of the nursing homes. There is no obligation on the part of the arbitrator to abide by the law, and even when damages are awarded, they are often for substantially less than what a plaintiff might receive if the case went to trial – or at least to court. It’s a system that almost exclusively benefits the nursing homes – and they have essentially made it mandatory for residents to get on board if they want to stay there. That leaves many people feeling they have no choice. One of the provisions of the new regulations would ban mandatory arbitration agreements. However, due to fierce objection by the industry, which alleges Medicare has overstepped its authority on this, that particular provision is on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by industry insiders.

Meanwhile, other measures are expected to be enacted swiftly. Among those:

Nursing homes are going to feel more like home. The regulations indicate residents are entitled to receive snacks and alternative meals. They are also entitled to eat at times that aren’t traditionally scheduled meal times.

Discharges will be on hold if an appeal by the resident is pending.

Grievance procedures will now be handled by an official, appointed by the nursing home, who will handle complaints and follow a grievance process that will follow along a more stringent path. All decisions have to be handed down in writing.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

New rules give nursing home residents more power, Dec. 27, 2016, By Susan Jaffe, The Washington Post

More Blog Entries:

Report: Hospital Patients Often Sent to Poorly-Rated Nursing Homes, Jan. 2, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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