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Repeal of nursing home rule could hurt residents

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 20 percent of the United States population will be 65 years or older by 2030. Many may need to spend at least some time in a nursing home. However, Mississippi residents and others may lose a critical protection if the federal government has its way. It intends to get rid of a ban on pre-dispute arbitration.

In essence, a resident in a nursing home or that person's representative agrees to give up their legal rights in a dispute. In some cases, a nursing home may even refuse to admit a patient if family members representing that person refuse to do so. Many people agree to such terms because they or a family member may desperately need a place where they can receive necessary care. A typical nursing home contract gives the nursing home itself control over the arbitration process.

For instance, it can choose the arbitrator, where the hearing takes place and how the process works. This makes it easier to find arbitrators who will rule in favor of the nursing home. They may feel compelled to rule in favor of the care facility because it may mean more cases and more money in the future. Since arbitration is held in secret, a nursing home doesn't have to publicly admit wrongdoing if it does something wrong.

If a nursing home resident is hurt because of an medication error or any other type of neglect, that person's family may wish to pursue legal action. The nursing home may be liable for paying that person's medical bills or other costs related to their injuries. Punitive damages may also be awarded to generally hold the nursing home accountable and to show that such actions won't be tolerated.

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