Another insidious trick the Florida Legislature has allowed nursing-home owners to unleash against elderly and vulnerable citizens is the mandatory arbitration clause. When a loved one is admitted into a nursing home, families are usually frightened and confused. They are handed a stack of papers upon admission. Most of the papers they sign discuss bed-hold policies, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, and other innocuous administrative issues. What most residents and their families don’t realize is that almost every nursing home in Florida now makes residents sign away their constitutional rights to a jury trial in favor of mandatory arbitration. Many times the terms of the arbitration are secret and designed to protect the facility that wrote the agreement.
Florida law allows this. Brian Lee was Florida’s long-term-care ombudsman for more than a decade. He had a reputation for protecting residents and making sure their families could gather transparent nursing-home financial and ownership information. When the nursing-home industry did not like what Lee was doing, Gov. Rick Scott fired him in 2011 and replaced him with a long string of short-timers the nursing-home industry liked. The fox is now guarding the henhouse. Unfathomable, indeed.