Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) recently introduced the “Arbitration Fairness Act of 2011,” legislation that would remedy a recent Supreme Court ruling and restore consumers’ rights to seek justice in the courts. The Arbitration Fairness Act, would ban forced arbitration clauses in nursing home admissions contracts.

 

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care released a statement in support.  Consumer Voice strongly supports the Arbitration Fairness Act and expresses our thanks to Senators Franken and Blumenthal and Representative Johnson for reintroducing this much-needed legislation to allow consumers to decide for themselves whether or not arbitration will provide a fair hearing and resolution of their complaint.

Consumers who are forced to sign predispute arbitration agreements in long-term care admissions contracts are at a critical disadvantage during a stressful and emotional event in their lives:
• Disadvantaged in the admissions process because they are under pressure to find a care facility as quickly as possible. Sixty percent of nursing home admissions are from a hospital.
• Disadvantaged in the arbitration process because the arbitrator relies on the provider for its business and because the process itself is costly and closed to public scrutiny.
• Disadvantaged because the facility knows that the agreement’s fairness cannot be challenged in an unbiased court of law with an open record of the proceedings.

Who are the people whose families are forced to sign arbitration agreements?
• William Kurth, 84, a World War II veteran from Wisconsin who was allowed to develop dehydration, malnutrition, and pressure sores so severe that his bones and organs were exposed—factors that led directly to his death.
• Vunies High, 92, the sister of the legendary boxer Joe Louis, who froze to death when she wandered outside her assisted living facility wearing only her pajamas.
• Ms. L.C. Gould, 85, a Florida nursing home resident who broke her hip in a fall when she was unattended in the bathroom. She subsequently died from complications of surgery for the broken hip, including the facility’s failure to assess and properly treat an infection.

Mandatory arbitration clauses protect providers of care for the elderly and disabled from accountability for neglecting them. By allowing the provider to pick the arbitration company with which it routinely does business and the rules of the arbitration, the system heavily favors the provider and denies justice to the injured.

Families should not be required to sign a contract containing a pre-dispute, binding arbitration clause as a condition of a loved one’s admission to a long-term care facility, nor be required to participate in an arbitration process that is heavily weighted in favor of the facility. The Consumer Voice is urging Congress to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act to end the practice that requires them to do so.

 

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