News &Insights

New Protections for Nursing Home Residents

New Obama-era rules designed to give nursing home residents more control of their care are gradually going into effect over the next couple of years. The rules give residents more options regarding meals and visitation as well as make changes to discharge and grievance procedures.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the rules — the first comprehensive update to nursing home regulations since 1991 — in November 2016. The first group of new rules took effect in November and the rest will be phased in over the next two years.

Here are some examples of the new rules now in effect:

Visitors: The new rules allow residents to have visitors of the resident’s choosing and at the time the resident wants, meaning the facility cannot impose visiting hours. There are also rules about who must have immediate access to a resident, including a resident’s representative.

Meals: Nursing homes must make meals and snacks available when residents want to eat, not just at designated meal times.

Roommates: Residents can choose their roommate as long as both parties agree.

Grievances: Each nursing home must designate a grievance official whose job it is to make sure grievances are properly resolved. In addition, residents must be free from the fear of discrimination for filing a grievance. The nursing home also has to put grievance decisions in writing.

Transfer and Discharge: The new rules require more documentation from a resident’s physician before the nursing home can transfer or discharge a resident based on an inability to meet the resident’s needs. The nursing home also cannot discharge a patient for nonpayment, if Medicaid is considering a payment claim.

The CMS also enacted a rule forbidding nursing homes from entering into binding arbitration agreements with residents or their representatives before a dispute arises. However, a nursing home association sued to block the new rule and a U.S. district court has granted an injunction temporarily preventing CMS from implementing it. The Trump Administration is reportedly planning to lift this ban on nursing home arbitration clauses.

In November 2017, rules regarding facility assessment, psychotropic drugs and medication review, and care plans, among others, will go into effect. The final set of regulations covering infection control and ethics programs are then scheduled to take effect in November 2019.

For more information on Nursing Home facilities and protections for Nursing Home residents, please contact the experienced attorneys at Zacharia Brown. You may schedule an appointment by visiting our website at PittsburghElderLaw.com or by calling 724.942.6200.

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