Nursing homes took their case for arbitration agreements Wednesday to a Senate joint committee, which heard testimony for and against a bill that would invalidate arbitration clauses in admissions contracts.

The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act of 2008 (S. 2838) would not prohibit arbitration itself but clauses requiring it. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), introduced the bill in April. A Senate judiciary committee is expected to mark up the bill by the end of the summer.

Nursing homes contend that eliminating the arbitration agreement clauses in admissions contracts could lead to a rise in legal and insurance costs. Meanwhile, opponents of the clauses, which include the consumer group AARP argue that families often sign the clauses under duress, and the statements prevent families from pursuing their right to sue facilities for negligent care.