Laws created during the Obama administration 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 making changes to discharge and grievance procedures.

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

Some of the new rules include:

No more “visiting hours”

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

Freedom to snack

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

Choice of roommate

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

Complain without fear

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.

More transfer and discharge protections

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 rule and a U.S. District Court 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, 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.