At some point in your life you or a loved one may need full time care in a nursing home facility. As part of the process of being admitted into a nursing home you, on your own behalf or on behalf of a loved one, may have to sign a nursing home agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of your residency in the facility. This agreement, by whatever name it may be called, e.g., admission agreement, provider agreement, or nursing home contract, is a legally binding document that governs the relationship between you and the nursing home. For that reason it is important that you become familiar with the terms and conditions in the nursing home contract for your own benefit or to protect your loved one.
Understand Your Rights
Every nursing home resident has rights that nursing homes are required to honor. These rights include, among others, access to quality medical care, the freedom from discrimination and third party payment guarantees, and a complete and understandable disclosure of the facility’s rules and regulations. You have the right to be an active participant in your care, and be informed of your treatment, and the operations of the facility in which you or a loved one are a resident. However, sometimes nursing home facilities either ignore the rights of the patients in their facility, or act in a negligent manner. To the extent you have a dispute with the facility, residents have the right to assert your grievances to the nursing home, and even government officials, without the fear of reprisal.
When you or a loved one cannot resolve a breach of your rights or are harmed by the nursing home facility or its staff, you may need to assert your rights under New York law or your agreement with the nursing home. Typically, this entails initiating an action in court against the nursing home. However, sometimes nursing homes attempt to include an arbitration clause in the nursing home agreement. Arbitration is a private dispute resolution process before a neutral arbitrator outside of the judicial process. Arbitration may limit your ability to have your case heard by a judge and jury. Clauses that feature mandatory arbitration are disfavored and are limited in some states. Also, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have recently proposed a rule to curtail mandatory arbitration. While mandatory arbitration clauses may become less of a problem in the future, voluntary arbitration agreements are still prevalent. Generally, arbitration clauses in nursing home agreements are enforceable in New York.
Before signing a nursing home contract, you should clearly understand your rights and obligations included in the agreement, especially where the nursing home has included an arbitration clause. Clauses that purport to require mandatory arbitration or offer voluntary arbitration of your claims against the nursing home must be carefully considered before you sign on the dotted line.