For most patients, entering a nursing home can be one of the most stressful and difficult decisions they’ll ever make. On top of that, many nursing homes have required enrolling residents to sign a pre-dispute arbitration agreement, giving up the right to a trial in case of any future harm. As of Nov. 28, however, mandatory arbitration agreements will be banned, courtesy of a recent CMS final rule.

Patient advocacy groups applauded the ban, saying it will help restore patient rights and lead to better care. Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy for the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, told me that mandatory arbitration agreements forced patients to make a critical decision without any knowledge of what a future dispute might look like.

“Ending pre-dispute arbitration means that should the resident experience harm, he or she or his or her representative will have the knowledge they need to make the decision that is best for them and their situation and can be fully focused on the legal consequences of agreeing to arbitration should they choose that alternative,” Grant said.

Grant also said the threat of a large lawsuit can be enough to persuade nursing homes to make improvements, boosting overall patient care.

However, the American Health Care Association said it was “extremely disappointed” by the ban on mandatory arbitration agreements. Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the AHCA, said the ban exceeded the CMS’s authority. The AHCA represents about 12,000 not-for-profit and for-profit nursing homes across the country.

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