Senators would outlaw unfair contract clauses

A broad coalition of 34 Senators is calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to outlaw the use of unfair pre-dispute arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts because they make it nearly impossible for victims to seek fair redress after they’ve been wronged.

Right now, CMS is taking steps to reform its requirements of long-term care facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

While the agency has proposed new protections for residents who live in those facilities, and for their families as well, it has not adequately addressed the problem of binding, pre-dispute arbitration clauses—where consumers waive their legal rights before any harm has actually occurred.

“The decision to admit yourself or a loved one to a long-term care facility can be difficult,” wrote the lawmakers in a letter to CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. “All too often, only after a resident has suffered an injury or death, do families truly understand the impact of the arbitration agreement they have already signed…we strongly urge CMS to fully protect residents and their families by banning pre-dispute arbitration clauses in long-term care facility contracts.”

You can read a copy of the Senators’ letter to CMS here.

It was also signed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), along with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill,), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Martin Heinrich (D-N. Mex.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Earlier this year, a group of more than 50 members of Congress called on the nation’s top consumer agency to eliminate forced arbitration agreements in consumer financial contracts for credit cards, private student loans, and payday loans.

Other legislation, called the Arbitration Fairness Act, was introduced to restore the rights of consumers, workers, and small businesses to seek justice through the courts.

Some lawmakers have also previously introduced measures to ban mandatory arbitration clauses in cell phone and mobile data service contracts and in college enrollment contracts.


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