CMS to Publish Proposed Rule Allowing LTC Pre-Dispute Arbitration Agreements as Condition of Admission
By David Leatherberry on June 8, 2017
Today (June 8, 2017), CMS is publishing its proposed rule removing prohibitions against binding pre-dispute arbitration provisions in long-term care agreements. On October 4, 2016, CMS published a final rule entitled “Reform of Requirements for Long-Term Care Facilities.” The final rule amended 42 C.F.R. 483.70(n) to prohibit LTC facilities from entering into pre-dispute arbitration agreements with any resident or his or her representative, or requiring that a resident sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of admission. The final rule required 1) that an agreement for post-dispute binding arbitration must be entered into by the resident voluntarily; 2) that the parties must agree on the selection of a neutral arbitrator; and 3) that the arbitral venue must be convenient to both parties. The arbitration agreement could be signed by another individual only if allowed under state law and all other requirements under the Federal Rule were met. Particularly, a resident’s admission or right to remain at the facility could not be made contingent upon the resident or his or her representative signing an arbitration agreement.
However, in October 2016, the American Health Care Association and a group of affiliated nursing homes succeeded in obtaining a preliminary injunction in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. The district court held that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail in their challenge to the 2016 final rule. It concluded that it would likely hold that the rule’s prohibition against LTC facilities entering into pre-dispute arbitration agreements was in conflict with the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq. The court also reasoned that it was unlikely that CMS could justify the rule, or could overcome the FAA’s presumption in favor of arbitration, by relying on the agency’s general statutory authority under the Medicare and Medicaid statutes to establish rights for residents (sections 1891(c)(1)(A)(xi) and 1919(c)(1)(A)(xi) of the Act) or to promulgate rules to protect the health, safety and well-being of residents in LTC facilities (sections 1819(d)(4)(B) and 1919(d)(4)(B) of the Act). CMS subsequently issued a nation-wide instruction on December 9, 2016, directing state survey agency directors not to enforce the 2016 final rule’s prohibition of pre-dispute arbitration provisions, while the injunction remained in effect.
Under the recently announced policy change, CMS would retain provisions of the 2016 final rule related to protecting the interests of LTC residents, including the requirement that the agreement be explained to the resident and his or her representative in a form and manner that he or she understands. However, the proposed rule would remove the following:
- the requirement at §483.70(n)(1) precluding facilities from entering into pre-dispute agreements for binding arbitration with any resident or resident’s representative;
- the prohibition at §483.70(n)(2)(iii) banning facilities from requiring that residents sign arbitration agreements as a condition of admission to a facility;
- certain provisions regarding the terms of arbitration agreements.
The proposed rule would retain the requirement that a copy of the signed agreement for binding arbitration and the arbitrator’s final decision must be retained by the facility for 5 years and be available for inspection upon request by CMS or its designee. Comments on the proposed rule must be received at CMS by 5:00 p.m. on August 7, 2017.