Minnesota Senator Al Franken has sent a letter to the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, strongly asking them to ban nursing home arbitration clauses. In short, nursing home clauses strip away a vulnerable victim’s 7th amendment right to a jury trial, while forcing them to negotiate unfair settlements outside the court system. Victims and their loved ones would no longer have access to a judge and jury of their peers to decide fair financial compensation for horrific acts of nursing home abuse and negligence that cause injury and death.
Senator Franken’s letter, also signed by 30 Senators from varying states, asks CMS Adminstrator Seema Verma to “Consider the story of Roberta Powers, as reported by the New York Times, who suffered from dementia and diabetes and lived in a nursing home in Birmingham, Alabama. Roberta’s daughter Rochelle went to visit her mother one day and found Roberta vomiting and sick with abdominal pain. Rochelle immediately alerted the nursing staff and specifically noted the number of pills that Roberta had in her hand. A few days later, Roberta’s son Larry came to check on his mother only to find that she was unresponsive. Larry called 911, and Roberta was taken to the emergency room. She died the next day. An autopsy revealed that Roberta’s blood contained more than 20 times the recommended dosage of her diabetes medication. When Roberta’s family sought to hold the nursing home accountable in court for failing to supervise the administration of medication to a resident with dementia, the facility pointed to the forced arbitration clause in Roberta’s admission papers, forced the case out of court and into arbitration, and the family was awarded nothing.”
Roberta Powers story is just one of many who faced an untimely death because of a nursing home’s failure to properly dispense or monitor medication. For each story of medication error, there is also one detailing other types of abuse and neglect, such as injury and death from falls and bedsores. The reality is grim and as nursing home resident advocates, we are grateful to Senator Franken and his colleagues, including our own Illinois Senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, for calling attention to the egregious harm that binding arbitration in nursing homes causes.