Nursing homes, consumers lock horns over arbitration bill at congressional hearing

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Nursing homes, consumers lock horns over arbitration bill at congressional hearing
Nursing homes, consumers lock horns over arbitration bill at congressional hearing
Providers cried "discrimination" and consumer advocates called for an even tougher stance Tuesday during a congressional hearing on the "Nursing Home Arbitration Act of 2008." House and Senate bills (H.R. 6126 and S. 2838) seek to disallow pre-admission clauses that bind residents to arbitration should a complaint be filed later.

Providers "aggressively oppose efforts to diminish the use of arbitration by American businesses, especially those unfairly targeting long-term care consumers and providers," testified Gavin Gadberry on behalf of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living before members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law. He said troubling anecdotes cited by others at the hearing were the exception rather than the rule in nursing homes.

Among those endorsing the "Fairness" act was AARP board member Dr. William Hall, who said he hoped to work with all parties to expand the bill's reach. AARP hopes that the bill would apply to "all current residents of long-term care facilities, not just those whose pre-dispute arbitration agreements are made, amended, altered, modified, renewed or extended on or after the date of enactment of the bill. The protections provided under this legislation should be available to all current long-term care facility residents."

Battling testimony on the bills will take place again a week from today when Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) will chair a joint Judiciary Subcommittee-Aging Committee hearing on the arbitration-clause bills. Kohl is chairman of both the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition and Consumer Rights and the Special Committee on Aging.