Late in 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began enacting dramatic changes to the regulations governing nursing home operation. These rules should provide nursing home residents with increased opportunities to customize their experience in the facility, as well as more robust safeguards against nursing home abuse.
The new regulations represent the most sweeping revisions made to the HHS rules on nursing homes in 25 years, and represent the input of nearly 10,000 suggestions made during the public comment period. The new regulations are slated to be introduced in waves, allowing facilities time to fully implement the regulations in each phase. The rules already in effect include:
- Greater control over living preferences: New regulations allow residents to request meals or snacks at alternative times of day, outside of standard meal times. Residents may also choose their roommates, and these can include siblings or same-sex partners. Additionally, residents can now have visitors at any time of day, rather than only during set visiting hours, so long as the presence of those visitors does not impose on another resident’s rights in some way.
- Greater protection from abuse: Financial exploitation has now been recognized as a form of abuse under the rules’ legal definition. Once a professionally-licensed nursing home staff member has been disciplined for an instance of abuse, neglect, mistreatment, or financial exploitation, that individual will no longer be eligible to be hired by another nursing home.
- Protection from wrongful involuntary discharge: If a resident has been threatened with discharge for failure to pay, that resident may not be discharged if they have an application pending for Medicaid or another form of insurance. If appealing their discharge, a resident may not be forced out of the facility until their appeal has been considered. Additionally, a state long-term care ombudsman will receive notice whenever a nursing home resident is involuntarily discharged, allowing that office to begin an investigation into the discharge immediately.
Among the new rules introduced in the recent overhaul was one that prevented nursing homes from requiring residents to take any legal claims against the facility to arbitration, rather than being allowed to file suit in court. Permitting residents who were victims of malpractice, negligence, or abuse to sue in court provided the valuable service of allowing the public to learn of such claims. In contrast, requiring residents to arbitrate claims keeps the results of such claims entirely confidential. The rule that prohibited mandatory arbitration was immediately challenged by a nursing home industry group that claimed the HHS lacked the authority to enact this rule. The rule was put on hold by a judge until courts could rule conclusively on whether or not it was enacted legally.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of nursing home abuse or malpractice in Kentucky, Tennessee, or Indiana, speak with a knowledgeable and compassionate Nursing Home Abuse attorney to discover if you may have a claim for money damages by contacting the Louisville law offices of the Slechter Law Firm for a consultation, at 502-694-5407 or online.