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Federal changes impact paths to resolution in nursing home abuse

Those in Pennsylvania who must decide whether to place their loved one in a nursing home often agonize over the decision. Once made, they still have to worry about whether their loved one's needs are being met and that protections from nursing home abuse are provided. In the past, some victims of such abuse may have been denied the opportunity to seek justice in a civil court. Recent changes in federal regulations may help these victims and their families seek justice.

The changes involve rules were issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and involve facilities that receive federal funds. Some argue that it has become increasingly common for these facilities to require residents, or their loved ones, to agree -- prior to admission -- that any legal claims, such as allegations of abuse or neglect, will be arbitrated. Arbitration, some argue, is biased toward businesses.

However, the new rules prohibit facilities that receive federal funds from forcing potential residents or the families to agree to arbitration as an admission requirement. In addition to new rules regarding arbitration requirements, the rules include additional requirements regarding personnel, food and medical treatment. They are set to go into effect Nov. 28, 2016.

Most nursing home facilities in Pennsylvania are devoted to protecting their patients. Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect does occur. Forcing potential patients, or their family members, to agree to arbitration as a condition of admission should a dispute arise limits victims' paths to recourse. These recent changes could potentially help victims and their families ensure that nursing home facilities are held fully accountable for acts of negligence and abuse.

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