Arbitration disagreements

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It appears that the American Health Care Association once again is angling for a fight.

This time it is over a bill that aims to do away with pre-admission arbitration agreements. The bill, which was introduced by Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) last week, would prohibit the use of arbitration agreements that residents are asked to sign when they are admitted to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, called the bill “misguided.”

“Arbitration settlements are quicker and less adversarial than traditional litigation, and many courts throughout America have determined the process to be both fair and appropriate,” Yarwood said in a statement.

This is the second time in recent months that AHCA has found itself in a corner with its fists up. In February, it expressed near outrage over a bill that could dramatically increase fees for severe care deficiencies and require more public disclosure regarding facility ownership and staff information.

It’s only April, but it’s already proven to be a pretty stressful year for the association, some of whose members have gotten hammered in the press and on Capitol Hill for their reputation for less than adequate care.

Once again, though, the association might benefit from keeping an open mind. The purpose of the latest bill is not to deliberately destroy nursing homes but to better protect residents and families who may be the victims of negligence and, therefore, rightfully deserve to recoup damages before a judge and/or jury.

It’s not the easiest position to defend, given the detrimental impact malpractice lawsuit awards can have on its members’ insurance and, ultimately, care costs, but it may be the right thing to do.

In the end, the association is likely to win more support for its causes by taking the high road. Keeping residents' rights and facility accountability at the forefront of its message may well be the best public ad campaign it can run.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.