Colorado Lawmaker Proposes Ban on ""Binding"" Nursing Home Arbitration Clauses
April 10, 2008
DENVER -- One state lawmaker believes more and more nursing homes are taking advantage of elderly patients and their families by including binding arbitration clauses in their contracts, and she is sponsoring legislation to prohibit the clauses.
""Binding arbitration means you don't get your day in court,"" said Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge.
The arbitration clauses mean that no matter how egregious the treatment, the patient can't file suit in public court to settle a dispute, Jahn said. The patient can only negotiate behind private doors with an arbitrator chosen by the nursing home, she said.
""More and more they're placing them in these contracts, and people literally don't know what they're signing. That is wrong,"" Jahn said.
Mike Trenkle, of Elizabeth, experienced the issue firsthand after admitting his grandmother into a Colorado nursing home.""You just sign whatever you do because you care for your loved one,"" said Trenkle.
He said after a negligent physical therapist caused his grandmother to break her leg, he pulled her out of the home and tried to sue, but he had signed a binding arbitration agreement. The arbitration procedures dragged on for more than two years, until she died in January.""When you've got these arbitration agreements there's nothing to make these people toe the line,"" he said.
Jahn said she is drafting a late bill to ban binding arbitration agreements in long-term care contracts. The Colorado Health Care Association, a trade organization representing the state's nursing homes, is opposed to the bill. In a statement, the groups general counsel, Fred Miles, wrote:
""The process is not mandatory and may not be a condition of admission to any facility; in fact, the agreement may be rescinded by the patient or responsible party within 90 days of signing if they so choose. It is condescending to suggest or imply that these citizens should be denied this right because they don't know what they are doing -- we venture to say that the real motive behind this bill relates to the monetary desire of trial lawyers to further litigation and to 'control' their clients. The increased cost associated with litigation will be borne by you and I as citizens (in the form of increasing the cost of long-term care to private payers) and the taxpayers (as such cost increases will be passed on to governmentally funded health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid).