House Democrats on Wednesday called on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma to change her mind on reinstating the use of arbitration clauses in skilled nursing contracts.
Referencing the recent problems at nursing homes in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, 46 Democratic representatives wrote a letter to Verma asking her to allow nursing home residents to take providers to court, The Hill reported.
“These clauses are buried in the fine print of voluminous nursing home admission contracts and typically only accepted because they are unnoticed,” the Democrats wrote, according to The Hill.
Earlier this year, CMS announced a plan to scrap an Obama-era rule that would prevent nursing homes from requiring residents to sign arbitration clauses as a condition of admission. Originally set to take effect last November, a judge’s injunction temporarily halted implementation of the rule just before the presidential election.
The Verma-led CMS then proposed a new rule that would allow the use of arbitration agreements, with a series of restrictions: Providers would be required to explain the clauses’ purpose in clear language, and post a notice regarding the use of arbitration clauses in an area visible to both residents and visitors.
Industry players such as the American Health Care Association have applauded the decision to reinstate the use of arbitration agreements.
“Arbitration produces swifter resolution to disputes, compensates residents without undue litigation expense for either party, and reduces the funding burden on the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a press release when CMS rolled out the new proposal in June.
“We greatly appreciate CMS and the Trump administration making the determination that this ban is not in the best interest of our nation’s millions of patients, residents and families, and the providers who care for them.”
Critics of the plan, including Congressional Democrats, have claimed that requiring arbitration agreements strips residents of their right to pursue relief through the courts. Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, wrote in a tweet that Trump “is going after grandparents. Why does Trump hate grandmothers?”
The group of House Democrats was more measured in tone in the Wednesday letter, according to the Hill.
“This is a time when we should be protecting our nation’s seniors, not rolling back their fundamental right to hold wrongdoers accountable for neglect and abuse,” they wrote.
Written by Alex Spanko