Buried in many nursing home contracts is a clause that severely restricts patients and their families from suing nursing homes. It’s called an Arbitration Clause and for most patients and their families, they have no choice but to sign the contract to get the care their need.
High quality care in nursing homes is about to take a back seat to higher profits, especially as more Wall Street investment firms are snapping up nursing home companies. And the Trump Administration isn’t about to prevent these new investors from taking away consumer protection rights. Their goal is to prevent your right to a trial by a jury of your peers as guaranteed by the Constitution. This is a tragedy for many families who seek justice. The jury system has worked very well for hundreds of years. In arbitration the deck is slanted heavily in favor of corporate interests. Ask yourself why are corporations afraid of juries. The answer is they want a result in their favor every time and they want to screw you!
Arbitration Clauses might be standard practice in some industries and may make sense in commercial settings where two businesses have negotiated and agreed to them, but they severely limit consumers ability to hold those accountable who have caused harm. Clauses like these set up arbitration for nursing homes instead of allowing their residents and families to sue them when things go wrong. While this might seem like a good thing at first to help patients, the reality is most Arbitration Clauses force patients and their families to sign away their rights to sue nursing homes—no matter what laws they break. Instead, families are forced to go through third-party arbitration. Most people are surprised to find this out after a nursing home has killed or severely injured their love one.
Any good lawyer will tell you to avoid Arbitration Clauses in contracts you sign if there’s any potential you might need to sue the other party. The goal of these clauses is to restrict consumer rights—and that’s just what nursing homes are doing to keep profits high. As well, arbitration clauses often limit the ability of consumers to bring up the same issue again if it recurs through an estoppel effect.
In other words, if your loved one is hurt in a nursing home because of negligent care, you may be required to go through a third-party arbitration that seeks to limit damages paid by the nursing home to your family. On top of that, if your loved one has to stay in the same facility because there is no where else they can be relocated to, which is not uncommon in rural areas, if the same abuse or harm recurs, you may have no recourse to stop it.
As a result, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services put together a proposal in 2016 to ban nursing homes from using arbitration in their contracts while receiving federal money, including Medicare and Medicaid funds. But the Trump Administration is trying to break down the proposal and prevent it from becoming a rule in nursing homes ability to seek funds from the government.
Paul Bland at the Center for Public Justice recently wrote an extensive article summarizing the importance of this proposal and what it does for patients and their families.
The truth is that nursing homes depend on federal dollars to be profitable. 62% of beds in nursing homes are paid for by Medicaid. With new restrictions on Arbitration Clauses, nursing homes would have to resort to removing these clauses that gut consumer protections from their contracts with patients. This would improve access to the right to a day in court for those abused or hurt by nursing homes or negligent care.
But in a move that shouldn’t surprise anyone, the Trump Administration is seeking to put nursing home profits over citizen rights and prevent the new proposal from going through.
We urge you to call your representative and let them know your opinion about the proposal as well as check any contracts you may have with nursing homes from Arbitration Clauses so you are aware of your rights.