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Ruling makes it easier for nursing homes to be sued in court

Nursing homes may have to deal with more lawsuits in the future, especially if they wish to keep federal funding. In the past these types of claims had the option of ending up in arbitration, which was a more cost-effective and less time-consuming option for facilities. Arbitration is still an option, but the care facility will then be barred from receiving funding from programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claims that this ruling will prevent issues of nursing home abuse, neglect and malpractice from being kept a secret from the public. But proponents fear the added expense of litigation may force nursing homes to cut staffing levels, reduce the number of beds or shut down completely.

As reported by the NY Times, Mark Parkinson, the president and chief executive of the American Health Care Association, a trade group, said in a statement that the ruling regarding arbitration “clearly exceeds” the agency’s statutory authority and was “wholly unnecessary to protect residents’ health and safety.”

This decision marks the most extreme change to rules governing the federal funding of care facilities in decades. If it is not successfully challenged in court, the ruling will go into effect in November and apply to all patients who are newly admitted to care facilities. 

Additionally, the ruling is likely to change the legal landscape when it comes to defending against nursing home malpractice claims. Instead of sending all cases to be resolved in arbitration, there will be a marked increase in litigation. This will require help from defense attorneys with solid courtroom experience.

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