New Obama-era rules designed to give nursing home residents more control of their care are gradually going into effect. 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 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; the rest will be phased in over the next two years.
Here are some 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.
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 will take effect in November 2019.