There is a lot of hard-to-read fine print routinely hidden in the many pages of nursing home contracts, and some clauses may limit the rights of consumers, the American Association for Justice reports. They site a column from the Washington Post that warns consumers about possible loss of rights if they sign certain contracts.
The Washington Post says that a mandatory arbitration agreement is “an often overlooked document tucked inside the package of admissions documents at many nursing homes these days…But anxious seniors or their caregivers often sign every document that’s put in front of them, perhaps only glancing at the content.
Signing an arbitration agreement means that in the event of a problem that is not amicably resolved…you agree to bring the dispute before a professional arbitrator rather than file a lawsuit for negligence or wrongful death, for example.”
Arbitration clauses are found in other contracts than just nursing homes. They are found in cell phone contracts, doctor’s offices, and fine print for credit cards as well, but consumers are often more emotional when signing themselves or a loved one into a nursing facility.
If both parties voluntarily agree to arbitration clauses they can be an effective way to address issues, but if the consumer is unaware of what they are signing, it can unfairly reduce options and limit rights.
The good news, according to a spokesman for the American Health Care Association, is that signing an arbitration clause is “not a condition of admission to the facility.” While each facility is different, the experts say that you should not sign an arbitration agreement, and if you do, there is typically a 30-day opt out provision.