Bill in U.S. House Would Outlaw Pre-Dispute Arbitration Provisions Used by Nursing Homes

A bill introduced yesterday in the United States House of Representatives would make it illegal for nursing homes to require that binding arbitration clauses be signed by current and prospective patients before care-related disputes arise.  "This legislation will not prohibit arbitration [after a dispute arises]. Instead, it will simply ensure that residents have the choice whether to arbitrate a dispute after it has arisen," reported Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA), who co-sponsored the bill and whose father recently entered a nursing home. 

The AARP, the Alzheimer's Association, and the National Senior Citizen's Law Center are among a number of groups that have supported "The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act of 2008."  The American Health Care Association, which represents the nursing home industry, strongly criticized a Senate version of the bill that was proposed months ago, is expected to oppose the House bill.

Eric Carlson of the National Senior Citizen's Law Center, who is one of the strongest critics of the use by nursing homes of pre-dispute arbitration provisions, and I spoke not long ago at a seminar on nursing home and assisted living care.  He persuasively discussed the many reasons that arbitration provisions and other types of agreements that reduce or eliminate patients rights are against unfair, against public policy, and illegal.  I'm glad to see his opposition to the nursing home industry's efforts to prevent patients and their families from having access to the court system is gaining traction.  Arbitration provisions and other "fine print" in nursing home and assisted living agreements don't protect patients and their families, only the facilities and their corporate owners and operators that prey on them.  The use of these types of provisions by nursing homes and assisted living facilities should be illegal.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia

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