Nursing home arbitration act resurfaces in Senate

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Senators Wednesday re-introduced the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, a bill that would prevent nursing homes from using pre-dispute arbitration agreements. The bill failed to pass through Congress during the last session.

Sens. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) reintroduced their measure in an effort to "restore the original intent of arbitration laws [and] ensure that families will not have to choose between quality care and forgoing their rights within the judicial system." Critics of the bill, however, argue that arbitration agreements allow nursing homes to use their limited Medicaid funding on resources such as nurses, medical equipment and medication, rather than costly legal battles.

The version of the bill introduced in the last session of Congress was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but never came to a full floor vote. The bill does not prohibit the use of all arbitration agreements by nursing homes, only pre-dispute agreements. Arbitration agreements could still be used after a dispute arises, though the bill would make them a voluntary matter.