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Conn. AG Jepsen Sides With Consumers In Long-Term Care Arbitration

AP Photo/Jessica Hill

Attorneys General from 15 states, including Connecticut and New York, want the federal government to stop long-term care facilities, like nursing homes, from requiring that people sign a type of contract called a pre-binding arbitration agreement.

This type of agreement is designed to avoid a lawsuit. Often patients or their family members are required to sign these agreements before they’re admitted to a long term care facility.

If something goes wrong with the patient’s care down the line, the patient or their families can’t sue the facility. They have to go into arbitration. In arbitration a third party, or arbiter, decides if there’s been a violation and if any compensation should be made. Their decision is legally binding.  

Perry Zinn Rowthorn, Deputy Attorney General of Connecticut, said many people don’t realize they’ve signed away their right to sue when they enter a long term care facility or they don’t fully understand what it means.

"We think that’s an unfair position to put consumers in," he said.

Rowthorn also said arbitration often gives the facility an unfair advantage.

"Very often, but not always, arbitration can be in private, so the public and regulators aren’t aware of them and they often foreclose consumers from banding together in class action lawsuits," he said. "All of that has the result of not advancing the public interest in making sure these facilities are held to high standards of care."

The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services are reviewing this practice. The Attorneys General want any long-term care facility receiving funds from Medicare and Medicaid to be barred from having patients sign these agreements.

Ann is an editor and senior content producer with WSHU, including founding producer of the midday talk show, The Full Story.