James M. Berklan

In case you’ve been sleeping since late yesterday or doing something else like, oh, taking care of frail and elderly patients, you might have missed the big news: 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wants to be as well loved as journalists.

It’s doing a pretty good job at it, too. At least when it comes to nursing home arbitration agreements. 

CMS set off a firestorm from all sides Tuesday afternoon when it announced it would allow such pre-dispute agreements — as long as providers inform prospective signers up front about them and tell them they didn’t have to sign.

Something for both sides, providers and consumers alike, in other words. Heresy. 

“Abused grandmothers may never get justice” wailed the title of one email blast from Remington A. Gregg, a barrister for consumer rights group Public Citizen.

“Instead of protecting vulnerable seniors, the Trump administration is giving nursing home corporations a Get Out of Jail Free card,” Gregg fumed.

But wait a minute, counselor. Did you miss the part about nursing homes having to inform prospective residents and their representatives about the content of the agreements, and having to note that nobody has to sign on the dotted line for admission? Or that, upon further reflection, a signature may be rescinded within 30 days?

For what it’s worth, the long-term care provider community isn’t much happier, at least not publicly. Bashed by the Obama administration, which tried unsuccessfully to fully strip out arbitration clauses, provider advocates say they also are not satisfied with this administration’s final rule. They had hoped that arbitration clauses would be allowed with fewer strings attached.

Although still reviewing and evaluating the rule last night, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, the nation’s largest nursing home association, said his group would like to “applaud” CMS for allowing pre-dispute arbitration agreements. But …

“We are concerned,” Mark Parkinson added, “about CMS adding any conditions or administrative requirements when Congress has spoken on this topic.”

In the end, the topic, ironically, may still produce a windfall for the lawyers. Although arbitration is touted as a way to reduce legal costs, Tuesday’s announcement did one thing for sure: create further division. Salivating lawyers undoubtedly have taken note.

You can’t please everybody all the time, CMS. Take my word for it — and just about any other journalist’s. Any media member worth his or her salt has a stack of “Yeah, but …” so-called fan mail.

If the message doesn’t totally align with self interests, you’re liable to hear about it. 

Just don’t get too good at this splitting-the-baby-down-the-middle thing. At least not if you’re looking to win any popularity contests any time soon.

Follow Executive Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.