Across America, nursing homes have been using the private justice system of arbitration to quietly deal with practices such as abuse, sexual harassment, or even wrongful death to reduce legal costs at the expense of their patients. Upon entry, patients sign a contract with a clause that mandates arbitration for anything a nursing home could be held liable for. In many cases it is argued that the elderly do not fully understand what they are signing. These clauses have disturbing consequences; in Murrysville, Pennsylvania a 100 year-old woman was murdered by her roommate and initially blocked from court as a result of such a clause.
Washington, D.C. and 16 states urged the government to cut funding to any of the nursing homes that use these clauses, with the American Health Care Association soon responding by saying that the clause “clearly exceeded” the agencies authority and was “wholly unnecessary to protect residents’ health and safety.” The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service then moved to restore the fundamental right of trial for the elderly Americans in their care. So long as it is not challenged, the ruling should go into effect by November.
However this is just a small step, as Arbitration has been growing steadily for a decade and holds a strong argument for being cost efficient. Corporations often use arbitration to keep illegal actions quiet, and often keep the clause in a fine print that is overlooked. Everything from cellphone companies to credit card companies use such methods to strip away the right for trial to save both money and reputation.