Nursing homes are now Big Business. As baby boomers begin to need nursing home facilities, profit-focused corporate chains have dominated the market. This increase in residents and emphasis on profits has led to a distressing rise in neglected and abused seniors. But instead of improving safety, corporate nursing homes are working to limit their accountability and deny residents’ rights.
There are many laws and regulations aimed at protecting seniors. Yet government agencies, non-profit watchdogs and media organizations consistently report that serious problems persist in our nation’s nursing homes.
Between 2000 and 2008, instances of events that cause “immediate jeopardy”- violations likely to result in serious harm or even death - rose 22 percent. More than 90 percent of all nursing homes were guilty of at least one violation.
With regulatory and legislative bodies unable to cope with a groundswell of neglect and abuse, the civil justice system has stepped into the breach. Attorneys who represent our nation’s seniors and their families play a critical role in uncovering abuse and neglect and serve as an effective force to compel irresponsible nursing homes to fix their conduct.
But many corporate nursing homes attempt to evade accountability by hiding dangerous forced arbitration clauses in the fine print of admission contracts. These forced arbitration clauses allow corporations to get away with wrongdoing by denying residents and their families access to the civil justice system.
The New York Times recently published an investigative three part series of front page stories exposing the corporate bullying tactic of forced arbitration. The second story, "In Arbitration, a Privatization of the Justice System" tells stories of consumers who lost their right to go to court - including when a nursing home had done them wrong.
Accountability is essential to ensuring nursing homes are safe. We must stand up for the most vulnerable in society and make sure they are protected.
Dangers Hidden in the Fine Print of Nursing Home Contracts:
- The decision to place a family member in a nursing home is a difficult and often immediate one for families. When handed nearly a hundred pages in an admission contract, few families have the time or knowledge to closely read the fine print. And even fewer have an attorney present.
- The corporate nursing home industry is notorious for forcing patients and their families to sign away their rights under binding mandatory arbitration.
- Forced arbitration is an unfair practice that allows negligent corporations to get away with wrongdoing by denying residents and their families access to the civil justice system.
- Additionally, forced arbitration allows negligent nursing homes to keep the facts of cases secret. Even if a case raises important public health and safety issues, the public may never find out about the irresponsible actions and the negligence will continue.
Representative Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) introduced the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act (H.R. 6351) in the 112th Congress to prevent nursing home corporations from using forced arbitration in their admissions contracts.
Forced arbitration clauses prey on families when they are most vulnerable. We should be protecting the elderly and the defenseless in our society – and not allowing corporations to use loopholes that take advantage of them. H.R. 6351 would ensure that the decision to arbitrate is made voluntarily and only after a dispute has occurred.