U.S. nursing homes are fighting an effort in Congress to invalidate arbitration clauses in admissions contracts. Legislation has been introduced that would make it easier for residents to sue for shoddy care or wrongdoing. The legislation is needed to protect residents’ rights to sue. Advocates say families and patients often do not notice fine print in standard contracts, which compels them to engage in binding arbitration instead of going to court to address claims of abuse or negligence. “Most are unaware they are signing away their right to go to court,” according to Senator Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat co-sponsoring the bill to invalidate the clauses.
The AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association back the legislation. However, the prospects for the legislation passing are unclear, which I have difficulty understanding. The entire U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are up for election. About 1.5 million Americans currently live in long-term care facilities, with most of them in nursing homes. That number is expected to increase with the coming retirement of nearly 80 million baby boomers.
Many reports have documented shoddy care in the nation’s approximately 16,000 nursing homes. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly said sanctions for offenders are ineffective and that deficiencies and outright negligent care is common. The pending legislation would not ban arbitration, but remove clauses requiring it. It’s my belief that no resident in a nursing home would choose arbitration if a dispute arose with the facility’s owners or operators. Neither would a resident or his or her family agree to submit any claim to arbitration before a dispute occurs. Requiring arbitration as a prerequisite to admission to a nursing home is wrong and can’t be tolerated. Putting an arbitration clause in admission forms – without even discussing it with the resident or family members – is even worse. I am reasonably sure that routinely happens. In any event, arbitration in nursing home claims should never be allowed.
Source: Insurance Journal
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