On September 28, 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, issued a new rule that bans federal funding to any nursing home that requires its residents to enter mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements upon admission. The rule prevents nursing homes from forcing residents to submit any disputes concerning care, payment for services, etc., to mandatory binding arbitration rather than to a court.
Mandatory arbitration agreements are frequently used in many types of industries and have been for decades. However, recent efforts by several consumer advocate groups have sought to curtail the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in industries where the individuals who executed such agreements have little to no bargaining power. According to these groups, nursing home residents are potentially more vulnerable than most to being unwittingly bound by such agreements because of the nature of the admissions process. The new rule is set to take effect on November 28, 2016, and will only apply to agreements entered into after that date.