In previous issues, we have written about The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, which is currently pending in Congress. It now appears that the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living is opposing the bill. This legislation, which was introduced by U.S. Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA), would prohibit the use of arbitration agreements at the time of admission to a nursing facility or assisted living residence. The long term care groups claim use of pre-dispute agreements throughout the healthcare sector brings about more timely, less adversarial settlements, and at a lesser costs. Anybody who has been involved with a claim that went to arbitration knows those statements are simply not true.
The Sanchez bill, co-sponsored by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), John Conyers (D-MI), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and William Delahunt (D-MA), should be passed by Congress without delay. It seems enough members of Congress have committed to help improve the quality of care provided to the nation’s long term care patients to assure prompt passage.
Banning pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home admission agreements would indeed be good news for residents and their families. Our nation’s frail, elderly and disabled citizens who live in nursing home facilities, assisted living residences, subacute centers and homes for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities must be protected. There is no way to justify requiring a person who needs to be admitted to such a facility having to submit to arbitration in order to be admitted. In fact, our firm’s experience is that on many occasions persons seeking admission to a nursing home facility – or their families – don’t even realize that an arbitration agreement has been included in the forms they are asked to sign. At a time when persons needed to be admitted to a facility – when the residents or their families are in need and certainly not even thinking about a dispute – making an agreement to pre-dispute arbitration a condition of acceptance to the facility is wrong, both morally and legally.
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