CMS has released the final version of a broad-based proposed rule update that will take effect November 28, 2016. One of the most notable provisions is a prohibition on including a mandatory arbitration provision in a nursing home admission agreement. Long a bone of contention, with strong advocacy efforts on each side of the question of whether such mandatory clauses should be allowed, it remains to be seen whether the rule will be challenged in court. Those against mandatory arbitration say it deprives individuals of their day in court; those in favor say there are benefits, including less expensive and quicker resolution of claims.

Only admissions agreements of future residents will be affected by the new rule. Providers should note too that arbitration clauses are not banned altogether. In a blog post on September 28, 2016, Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt stated “[f]acilities and residents will still be able to use arbitration on a voluntary basis at the time a dispute arises.” He went on to say that “[e]ven then, these agreements will need to be clearly explained to residents, including the understanding that these arbitration agreements are voluntary, and that these agreements should not prevent or discourage residents and families from talking to authorities about quality of care concerns.”

The new rule includes a number of other new or modified provisions, which according to CMS were designed to set higher standards for quality and safety in long-term care facilities and protect and empower residents, with a focus on preventing abuse and neglect in facilities.