Long-awaited changes to basic rules for nursing homes will hopefully shed light on standard practices that have wronged residents and their families for decades.
Did you know that patients were required to sign arbitration agreements before they could be admitted to a nursing home? As explained in a Forbes article, “The End of Secrecy in Nursing Home Wrongdoing,” these agreements prevented families from suiting the nursing home in court if something occurred to a loved one, no matter how grave the offense. The family was required to go to arbitration, a process that is hidden from the public eye. The power of taking a nursing home to public trial in an open court, along with other important changes, has now been restored to patients.
Although no one wants to live in a nursing home, after surgery, serious illness, or an accident—or because a loved one requires nursing care 24/7—nursing homes are a necessary part of our health care system. They should be safe, comfortable places.
The new rules require nursing homes to properly train and staff their facilities, as well as protect vulnerable people from dangerous other residents who might harm someone if not carefully supervised by skilled staff. The facilities are required to spend the money to retain enough workers and train them on how to properly do the job.
The Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued the revised rules, which impact more than 15,000 long-term care homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid across the U.S. Sadly, the worst nursing homes won’t realistically comply with the new rules; they didn’t follow the old ones. But to receive payment from Medicare and Medicaid, all nursing homes must adhere to better standards or they’ll lose money.
This is a victory for patients and families. While the change of rules aren’t an immediate guarantee of safety, the ability to file a lawsuit and hold the nursing home accountable in a public forum will certainly pressure facilities to provide better care. The risk of losing Medicare and Medicaid funds, along with the damage that a bad reputation can bring, should help elevate the standards of care for our most vulnerable citizens.
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