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CLS Opposes Arbitration Agreements in Long-Term Care Facilities

Aging and Disabilities

CLS Opposes Arbitration Agreements in Long-Term Care Facilities

Date Posted: 
08/10/2017

The following letter was submitted to Seema Verma, Administrator of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, on August 7, 2017.

Re: Arbitration Agreements in Long-Term Care Facilities

Dear Administrator Verma:

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, and Senior Law Center wish to strongly express our opposition to the proposed regulation regarding nursing facilities and arbitration agreements.  As attorneys who provide free legal representation to nursing home residents, we urge CMS to withdraw this proposal.  We echo the concerns expressed by our colleagues, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care, but write separately to share our experience as advocates.

For decades, we have worked with residents and their families to ensure that the residents are receiving the highest quality of care.  Residents and their families are in crisis when they are seeking admission to a nursing home.  The process is fraught with complexity and stress, as the urgent need for medical care takes top priority.  The furthest thing from their minds is how to plan for the future resolution of a dispute that arises from the provision of negligent care by the facility.  It is unreasonable and unfair to require individuals to make this decision at a time when their main concern is getting high quality medical care.

Nursing homes push arbitration agreements because of the potential to benefit financially, even when quality of care is compromised.  Facilities know that having a potential resident sign an agreement, well before any injury has occurred, is much more likely than after the injury.  The urgency and necessity of nursing care coerces individuals into signing documents.  Our clients have often signed documents that they did not understand or were not properly explained to them only because they urgently needed medical care and were in severe distress.

CMS’s role is to protect the health and rights of nursing home residents.  By endorsing the practice of allowing nursing homes to coerce potential residents into signing a document that takes away their rights, CMS abrogates its duty as an agency formed to help the vulnerable and ill.  We urge you to withdraw this proposed rule and in turn protect the rights of nursing home residents.

Sincerely,

Samuel Brooks, Staff Attorney, Community Legal Services

Samuel W. Milkes, Esq., Executive Director, Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network

Karen C. Buck, Executive Director, SeniorLAW Center