Last fall, new rules governing nursing homes were released. One of the new rules was very clear: no forced pre-dispute arbitration. Forced pre-dispute arbitration is the practice of slipping language into nursing home admission agreements – often long and complicated – that force a person into waiving their right to go to court if something terrible happens or someone is killed.
Instead of going to court, these documents forces families into private hearings with no judges, juries, or press. Nursing home companies want arbitration solely because studies show that awards at arbitration are lower than awards in court.
This practice is particularly wrong in nursing home admission agreements. First, families are not in a position to negotiate anything. Their mom or dad is sick, needs care, and is typically in the facility already or on the way shortly. Typically, families just sign whatever documents are put in front of them regardless of what they say without a real opportunity to read a 25 page contract. Second, most people I speak with do not want to start off the relationship between a facility and their parent by arguing over the contract. They don’t want to “rock the boat” is what I typically hear.
The new rule banning the practice of tricking or forcing people to sing these documents was written because studies show care is worse when residents and their families are forced into arbitration. This is probably due to the fact, that with arbitration nursing home companies know they won’t truly be held accountable when they under-staff or short resources.
The rule was temporarily blocked by a judge in Mississippi. However, before an appeal by the Obama administration was heard, there was the election. The Trump justice department has changed course 180 degrees. The government is now saying that not only is it OK to slip this language into confusing admission agreements, but nursing home companies can make signing forced arbitration documents a requirement of admission. That is, you can’t come in unless you sign.
At the current time, more changes regarding pre-dispute forced arbitration are being considered. You can let congress know how you feel about this horrible practice. You can find and contact your U.S. Representative here: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
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Let these lawmakers know how you feel about taking advantage of and forcing families into forced arbitration.