Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nursing Home Arbitration Preys on Vulnerable Seniors

More and more nursing home corporations are using forced arbitration clauses as a way to avoid accountability for their negligence. Inserted in the fine print of lengthy admission documents, many families are unaware they have signed away their rights until something tragic happens.

Families who face the stress and anxiety of placing a loved one in a nursing home are often in a frazzled state when signing these contracts and sometimes have no other options for care. Nursing homes frequently use tactics like allowing family members with no power of attorney to sign, asking patients with dementia or other debilitating conditions, forcing elderly spouses to sign and even gathering together a group of seniors without family members present in order to force them to sign.

The bipartisan Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act (S. 512 / H.R. 1237), sponsored by Senators Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) in the House, bans pre-dispute forced arbitration clauses from nursing home contracts. The House Judiciary committee passed the legislation in July and the Senate is expected to consider the legislation in committee before Congress goes out of session.

Legislation is needed to counter draconian Court decisions such as that in Massachusetts which recently upheld these agreements. See Decision. A major problem with Arbitration is that there is often very limited or no discovery allowed before a hearing.

The facts

No comments: