Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is part of a coalition of 16 State Attorneys General and the Attorney General from the District of Columbia who sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) hoping to protect nursing home patients.
These states are recommending that CMS keep in place its current pro-patient rule. The existing rule protects patients’ rights by prohibiting pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home and other long-term care contracts. The current regulation was adopted on October 4, 2016, by CMS and a proposed rule would reverse the prohibition on binding pre-dispute arbitration clauses in Long-Term Care facility contracts. Pre-dispute arbitration clauses require seniors to waive their rights to go to court to resolve any disputes with a nursing home.
In the August 7th letter, the Attorneys General stated in their comments “Pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements in general can be procedurally unfair to consumers, and can jeopardize one of the fundamental rights of Americans; the right to be heard and seek judicial redress for our claims. This is especially true when consumers are making the difficult decisions regarding the long-term care of loved ones. These contractual provisions may be neither voluntary nor readily understandable for most consumers. Often consumers do not recognize the significance of these provisions, if they are aware of them at all, especially in the context of requiring care in a nursing home.”
Shapiro, commenting on the recommendation, said “I have the responsibility of protecting our most vulnerable citizens, including seniors living in long-term nursing care facilities,” If we allow nursing homes to include pre-dispute arbitration clauses in admission contracts, our seniors will have less access to the courts and to justice. I won’t stand by while seniors lose their rights.”
Pennsylvania is home to 2.2 million seniors which is the 5th highest senior populated state in the country, behind only Florida, Texas, New York and California.
Joining Pennsylvania were the Attorneys General from California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, and Hawaii’s Office of Consumer Protection.