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Nursing Home Forced Arbitration

Posted on September 12, 2008

The nursing home industry has launched a campaign designed to fight a Senate vote on consumer protections for those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, sponsored by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Herbert Kohl (D-WI) would make pre-dispute binding mandatory arbitration provisions that a person signs in a nursing home contract unenforceable.

Buried in the fine print of these contracts is wording that says if a dispute arises, the elderly and their families lose their right to take a deficient nursing home to court. That would even apply to cases of abuse or neglect. Litigation is frequently one way to force some nursing homes to comply with compassionate care. What nursing facilities want instead of a court date, is for you to take your complaint before a private and secretive forum.

Members are frequently hand-picked by the nursing home stacking the deck against you and they ultimately decide the outcome of your complaint.

Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a cross section of groups, led by nursing homes, signed a joint letter to U.S. Senators to fight the proposal.

The group says it “would establish a dangerous precedent for the entire U.S. business community by eliminating the reasonable, intelligent use of arbitration agreements.”

The arbitration agreements are “less adversarial and time consuming” the group argues.

A Public Citizen study of 34,000 cases of credit card arbitration found that business won more than 94 percent of time over consumers. That is not a coincidence. Whenever you sign any agreement, please look for the very fine print on binding arbitration. That basically signs away your right to resolve a dispute in court, a right that every American enjoys.