Right To Sue Nursing Homes For Abuse At Stake In Proposed Rule Change

Is your grandmother a vulture, just waiting to prey on the innocent nursing home that accidentally employed the person who hit her when she had trouble choking down a pill one night? What about your great uncle Walter? Does he fall and break his hip every six months just so he can get some of that sweet, sweet judgement cash? That’s the claim that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) seems to be making under the guidance of the Trump administration.

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In June, Trump’s CMS proposed doing away with a rule that was passed by the very same division of Health and Human Services back when it was Obama’s CMS, albeit with different management. That rule, in effect since it was implemented during the Obama administration, prevents nursing homes that accept federal funds — that is to say, any facility that takes Medicare or Medicaid as a form of payment — from including in their resident contracts any requirement for disputes to be settled by third parties.

Let’s re-phrase that to simplify:

Obama’s rule made it so federally-funded nursing homes couldn’t force old people to waive their right to sue if they’re abused. The Trump administration wants to overturn that rule.

The government’s argument, like any conservative argument against rules that favor consumers instead of companies, is that litigation is expensive and “old people can’t afford lawyers anyway, so we’re kinda doing them a favor!”

But the improbably-named Remington Gregg, which is likely a superhero’s secret identity or something, says otherwise. Gregg is the counsel for civil justice and consumer rights at Public Citizen, a consumer rights and advocacy group.

When you are trying to get someone in a nursing home, often time it’s stressful or an emotional time. Often times loved ones can’t take care of themselves, so for a nursing home to say in order to get in you have to waive your right is shameful. We’re talking about everything you may have a problem with – abuse, neglect, sexual assault, a wide variety of things – they are now saying you are waiving your right to full justice.”

That’s not just shameful. It’s gross.

Public comments are open until the agency issues its final ruling, and even the AARP got in on the outcry:

To the extent that CMS may be relying on the authority to promulgate regulations ‘to promote the effective and efficient use of public moneys’ the regulations still need to be for the benefit of Medicare and Medicaid nursing facility residents and not to their detriment.”

In other words, if your authority is to protect public money in the interest of Medicare and Medicaid, any rules you make have to be in the interests of the people who get that money — the consumers.

Public Citizen has not taken any options off the table, including a lawsuit, to prevent the Trump administration from stripping away seniors’ rights.

Featured image via Adam Berry/Getty Images

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