Upon admission, a nursing home will request that a resident (or agent signing on his/her behalf) sign an admission agreement that details the residents rights and responsibilities and those of the nursing home. This process may involve signing contracts written by nursing homes that contained deceptive or illegal terms. Some common provisions to watch out for are explained below.
Binding Arbitration Agreements / Arbitration Clause
Don’t sign them! Nursing homes use arbitration agreements to prevent residents from being able to sue for bodily injuries resulting from neglect and abuse. Administrators frequently try to trick resident’s into signing these agreements under the guise that “it allows disputes to be settled quickly.” Don’t fall for this tactic. If binding arbitration is in the resident’s best interest, this decision can be made after the dispute has arisen and the resident has consulted with an attorney.
Responsible Party Agreements
A nursing home cannot require a resident (or a person signing for a resident) to sign an arbitration agreement and provisions requiring arbitration should be crossed out before signing an admissions agreement. By signing a binding arbitration agreement, a resident gives up his/her constitutional right to go to court if a dispute arises in the facility. Additionally, binding arbitration agreements may negatively impact a resident’s ability to collect evidence to prove neglect or abuse that resulted in serious bodily harm. Be wary of “responsible party agreements.” Some nursing home agreements request that a “responsible party” party sign the admissions agreement as a way to trick a relative or friend to become financially liable for the resident. Frequently, family members often sign the “responsible party” line believing that they are a contact person because the “responsible party” signature line does not explain what “responsible party” means. Instead, the term is defined in another section of the agreement. A nursing home is prohibited by law from requiring a family member or relative to become financially liable for nursing home expenses. The signature of relative or friend can be required only if they are signing on the nursing home resident’s behalf.
Medicare/Medicaid and Private Pay Provisions
It is illegal for the nursing home to require a Medicare or Medicaid recipient to pay the private rate for a period of time.
Provisions Allowing Eviction of a Resident
It is illegal for the nursing home to authorize eviction of a resident for any reason other than that the nursing home cannot meet the resident’s needs, the resident’s health has improved, the resident’s presence is endangering other residents, the resident has not paid, or the nursing home is ceasing operations.