Proposed rule called “disturbing” new direction for federal agency which “should be protecting patients, not making it easier for facilities to harm them and cover it up.”
By Common Dreams. Published 8-7-2017
“Why does Trump hate grandmothers?”
So asked Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) on Sunday as he decried a proposal from the administration that would prevent abused or mistreated seniors in nursing homes from getting their day in court, jeopardizing their health and safety.
Lieu’s concern and outrage over the effort is shared with fellow lawmakers as well as patient and consumer advocacy groups like Public Citizen, who said the effort to roll back protections from some of society’s most vulnerable people is just part of “a disturbing trend of the Trump administration attempting to reverse critical protections against forced arbitration,” which prevents individuals or groups of people from filing lawsuits or seeking damages for fraud, abuse, neglect, medical malpractice and other forms of wrongdoing.
As Jason P. Steed, an appellate lawyer, kindly translated on Twitter: “Translation: Trump Admin making it easier for nursing homes to abuse elderly and not be held accountable for it.”
With Monday the last day for the public to weigh in on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposal to ditch an Obama-era rule prohibiting use of forced arbitration “ripoff clauses” in nursing home admission agreements, lawmakers and advocacy groups are trying to draw attention to the effort and also filing official objections to the rule with the agency.
“Almost everyone will admit a loved one into a nursing home or long-term care facility,” said Remington A. Gregg, counsel for civil justice and consumer rights in Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, who authored the group’s objections. “This life-changing and often heart-breaking experience is made even worse when being forced to sign away your right to go to court if you are the victim of neglect or abuse. CMS should be doing all that it can to protect and honor our seniors rather than eliminating critical protections for their well-being.”
Meanwhile, in a letter sent Monday to Seema Verma, the controversial head of CMS appointed by Trump, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was joined by 30 Democratic senators in denouncing the deregulatory effort.
“Forced arbitration clauses in nursing home agreements stack the deck against residents and their families who face a wide range of potential harms, including physical abuse and neglect, sexual assault, and even wrongful death at the hands of those working in and managing long-term care facilities,” the letter (pdf) states. “These clauses prevent many of our country’s most vulnerable individuals from seeking justice in a court of law, and instead funnel all types of legal claims, no matter how egregious, into a privatized dispute resolution system that is often biased toward the nursing home. As a result, victims and their families are frequently denied any accountability for clear instances of wrongdoing.”
In its letter to the CMS, the Fair Arbitration Now Coalition, which also opposes the effort by Trump, said the “proposed rule is a disturbing new direction for CMS, which should be protecting patients, not making it easier for facilities to harm them and cover it up.”
According to Gregg, the protections imposed under Obama were finalized “after examining years of evidence and studies showing increasing abuse and neglect at nursing homes and the need for more accountability.”
Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center, said “Everyone should be outraged that the Administration is proposing to strip legal rights from fragile seniors and their families during the incredibly stressful time when a loved one is entering a nursing home.”
While Esquire political columnist Charles P. Pierce gave Trump himself a bit of a pass by placing the blame for the move squarely at the feet of right-wing ideological “cruelty,” there were those highlighting the possible conflict of interest of the president:
Guess who owns some nursing homes! https://t.co/YZeFhv0YWY
— veggieviola (@veggieviola) August 7, 2017