Federal Judge Blocks New Rule Allowing Residents of Nursing Homes to Sue

In issuing decision, judge cited concerns over federal overreach

Federal Judge Blocks New Rule Allowing Residents of Nursing Homes to Sue
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November 8, 2016

A federal judge has blocked new rules prohibiting most nursing homes from using forced arbitration agreements to keep new residents from suing them.

As NPR reports, the rules were supposed to go into effect on November 28, but a lawsuit was filed in October by the American Health Care Association (AHCA)—an industry group representing most U.S. nursing homes—to block them, calling the new rules "arbitrary and capricious."

The acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS)—the agency that issued the new rules—argued in a blog post in September that the regulations would improve the "care and safety of the nearly 1.5 million residents in the more than 15,000 long-term care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs."

The rules would apply to the facilities that are funded from either Medicare or Medicaid, i.e. almost all of them.

The AHCA's suit also claimed that only Congress, not the CMMS, has the authority to regulate the manner in which nursing home facilities handle disputes. In other words, it claimed, the federal government had overreached. Supporters of the rules, writes The Hill, believe that they are necessary in order to make sure that seniors are protected from being "forced to sign contracts during one of the most stressful and vulnerable times of their life."

A federal district court granted the injunction against the rules, says NPR, though it also acknowledged that "nursing home arbitration litigation suffers from fundamental defects." As reported by The Hill, however, the rules are blocked only while they are challenged in court.

In its order, writes NPR, it explained that it blocked the rules because it believes they represented "incremental 'creep' of federal agency authority beyond that envisioned by the U.S. Constitution."